Many users often have strong opinions about load balancing. Should you use it with your WordPress site, or is it overkill?
A load balanced WordPress site will have increased uptime and performance, as well as enhanced security. However, despite what you will hear some people claiming, it’s not always necessary.
In this article, we’ll discuss what load balancing is, how it works, and weigh up the benefits of using load balancing for WordPress.
How Load Balancing Works
Load balancing improves site performance by distributing traffic evenly across a network of devices. This ensures that no single resource is overloaded and prevents bottlenecks. When traffic increases, more resources can be added to the network to accommodate the extra load.
As traffic decreases, the extra assigned resources can be removed. For WordPress websites, load balancing can help distribute traffic evenly across a cluster of servers so that no single server is overloaded and your website remains accessible even during peak traffic periods.
There are two main types of load balancing: hardware-based and software-based. Hardware-based load balancers use dedicated hardware devices to distribute traffic among a group of servers. Software-based load balancers, on the other hand, use software running on a general-purpose server to perform much the same task.
However, there are quite a few misconceptions about load balancing for WordPress. Before we discuss whether load balancing is really necessary, let’s briefly cover the most common misconceptions.
Common Misconceptions Around Load Balancing
Many think that load balancing will automatically improve their site’s performance, but that’s not always the case. Here’s a look at some of the reasons why it may not always be the best choice.
One of the main downsides of load balancing is that it can increase the complexity of a system. When you add an extra layer of infrastructure to a system, it inevitably makes that system more complex and more difficult to manage. This can lead to increased costs and longer deployment times for new features or updates.
Single Point of Failure
Another potential downside of load balancing is that it can create a single point of failure. If the load balancer itself goes down, then all traffic will be routed to a single server which could quickly become overloaded.
To mitigate this risk, it’s important to have redundant load balancers in place so that there is always a backup available if one fails.
Finally, another potential downside of load balancing is that it can limit scalability. In some cases, the load balancer itself can become a bottleneck as traffic increases.
This can be alleviated by using a more powerful load balancer or by distributing traffic across multiple load balancers – but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re expecting a lot of growth in web traffic.
Many believe that load balancing will instantly improve performance, but that’s not always the case. The thing is, when you spread services across numerous servers, it actually increases latency on the network.
The information has to travel across several connections, which can have an adverse impact on performance. For load balancing to actually work effectively, your original server setup needs to be maxed out.
So, if the current server load is around 30%, and you have load balancing active, it’s actually likely to have a negative impact on response times due to network latency.
Furthermore, it’s important to understand that load balancing isn’t the same thing as auto scaling, which is when your server infrastructure scales according to the number of requests.
Instead, load balancing runs parallel to auto scaling (you’ll need both set up to see the benefits). It’s important to align expectations here because if you think that installing a load balancer will allow your server infrastructure to scale automatically, that’s not going to happen.
Benefits of Load Balancing
Before we focus on whether you should start using a load balancer, let’s first outline the benefits of using one.
Maintain Performance During Peak Traffic
Some people believe that only websites with millions of daily visitors need to worry about load balancing. However, this simply isn’t true. Any website that experiences spikes in traffic can benefit from load balancing.
For example, a small website might only receive a few hundred visitors per day on average but could experience a sudden influx of traffic due to a viral news article or social media post. In such cases, load balancing can help ensure that the website doesn’t crash under sudden strain.
It’s Quite Versatile
While it’s true that load balancing is often used to balance traffic between multiple servers, there are other uses for load balancing as well.
For example, some organizations use load balancers to route traffic between different types of devices (such as computers and mobile devices), different geographical locations (using different data centers), or even different network segments (such as different Wi-Fi networks).
When Should You Implement Load Balancing?
There are a few key scenarios where load balancing makes sense. If you’re expecting a spike in traffic – say, because of a sale or a new product launch – then load balancing can help ensure that your site can handle the increased demand without going down.
Similarly, if you have a global audience, load balancing can help ensure that users around the world have a good experience by connecting them to the server that’s closest to them.
Finally, if you have multiple servers running different components of your site or application (like a database, application server, and web server), then load balancing can help ensure that traffic is distributed evenly across all of your servers.
Is Load Balancing Always a Good Thing?
As mentioned above, load balancing isn’t always a good thing. In most situations, you could simply scale your infrastructure horizontally. For instance, porting your database on a separate server might help.
Similarly, if you serve images on your site, you should consider using a CDN. As long as you can reduce the load from your web server by allocating components that require more resources, you won’t need to worry about load balancing.
Are you planning on using load balancing? Or do you have any queries? Let us know, and join the conversation by commenting below! 💬