Help! My Website is Outgrowing my Dedicated Server!

Some people may think that their website is so small and insignificant that it will never become as big, or as popular, as a site like YouTube or MySpace. With the Slashdot and Digg effects, even the smallest of blogs could become extremely popular (or just receive tons of unexpected traffic) overnight. But even then, most people don't expect their site to become as big as some of the more popular sites and, as such, don't plan for it.

Most of the web-hosting servers on the Internet right now are likely to be all-in-one deals, meaning a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) configuration or a Microsoft IIS-based server. For your increasingly popular social networking site and even not-so-popular personal blog to be able to handle the full force of the Internet, your site needs to be scalable. Sometimes our clients ask me if they will need to upgrade their server to handle increased traffic or to support a new feature they are adding. Sometimes this is a feasible option, such as when the client is hosting their website on a single Pentium 4 3.0GHz server. For others it is not, such as when they are hosting on the best server we have available. In some cases the only way -- or the best way -- to go is with a multiple server solution. So, here are a few things to consider when building your website and choosing your dedicated server solution.

The best option for building a scalable server solution is to design a cluster configuration, which could have multiple standalone servers performing individual duties, or even multiple servers performing the same duty. For example, a single server to handle SQL databases, a single server to handle the web server processes and a single server to handle all the mail traffic could easily take some of the load off of your single-server solution.

To further improve the solution, the single-task servers can be configured for load balancing and replication, meaning that two or more servers will share the same task, same configuration, and same data hosted within. They will either be placed behind a load-balancer, which delegates which server will handle which requests for the machine accessing it, have the data replicated between the two servers, or both. The load-balancing option will basically make the server solution seem to function as one server. The replication option can work with or without a load-balancer, depending on the configuration of the site and whether or not the visitor can change its content. This configuration merely copies all data from one server to another and the servers themselves are either configured in a round-robin DNS, or behind a load-balancer, to make the solution more efficient. This isn't only for web servers either. It can be applied to file servers, e-mail servers and database servers, as well. For increased reliability, you can get a RAID card installed in your servers to secure your data and speed up your disk access times.

So, next time your site is running a little sluggish, or when you are just considering the future of your company's CMS, consider a multiple server scalable solution. It will keep your site up and running with lightning-fast access times and stable servers.