From Drizzle to Downpour: Mastering High Traffic Management for Websites
As someone who has worked at Buienradar, a popular weather website that generates millions of views every day, I’ve gained valuable insights into how to handle high-traffic websites. One key lesson I’ve learned is the importance of having a robust infrastructure in place to handle sudden spikes in traffic.
During inclement weather, traffic on Buienradar significantly increases, exceeding 50 million views in a single day on special occasions, while maintaining an average of 500 million views per month.
Spikes on Buienradar
As you can see in the above diagram, the number of requests can jump to almost double when there is bad weather. For example, 21st April 2023 was the day when there was lightning happening in the whole Netherlands and we observed spikes for all of our systems on that day and the next couple of days because the weather was bad for those days.
At Buienradar, we invested in powerful servers and optimized our code to ensure that our website could handle the huge volumes of traffic that came with major weather events. By prioritizing scalability and performance, we were able to ensure that our website could consistently deliver a great user experience to our millions of users.
This article will cover the top 10 strategies for managing high traffic on your website, along with a bonus tip at the end. These tips will help you keep your website running smoothly and ensure that visitors can access your content without experiencing slowdowns or other issues.
As your website grows and attracts more visitors, you may encounter challenges in managing the traffic. High traffic can be a good thing, but it can also cause your website to slow down, crash, or become unavailable to your visitors. In this article, we’ll discuss some techniques you can use to handle high traffic on your website.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers located in different parts of the world that work together to deliver your website’s content to users. When a user accesses your website, the CDN will determine the location of the user and serve the content from the server that is closest to them. This reduces the distance the content travels, making your website faster and more responsive.
A CDN can also help protect your website from DDoS attacks, as it can distribute the traffic across multiple servers, making it difficult for attackers to overwhelm a single server.
You can also use a CDN to cache your website’s content, which can further improve its performance by reducing the amount of processing required to deliver the content.
Optimize Your Website’s Performance
One of the most effective ways to handle high traffic on your website is to optimize your website’s performance. This includes optimizing your website’s images, compressing your website’s files, and minifying your website’s code. By reducing the size of your website’s files, you can reduce the amount of data that needs to be transferred between your server and visitors’ devices, making your website faster and more responsive.
In addition, you can also use techniques like lazy loading and asynchronous loading to further improve your website’s performance.
Lazy loading involves loading images and other content only when they are needed, which can help reduce the amount of data that needs to be loaded initially.
Asynchronous loading involves loading content in parallel, which can help reduce the time it takes for the page to fully load.
Scale Your Website’s Infrastructure
Scaling your website’s infrastructure involves adding more resources to your website as the traffic increases. This can include adding more servers, increasing the capacity of your existing servers, and using load balancers to distribute the traffic across multiple servers. By scaling your website’s infrastructure, you can ensure that your website remains responsive and available to your visitors, even during times of high traffic.
In addition, you can also use auto-scaling to automatically add or remove resources based on the current traffic levels or some smart manual scaling that can be scheduled.
Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure offer auto-scaling services that can help you scale your website’s infrastructure dynamically.
Caching involves storing frequently accessed data in memory or on disk so that it can be quickly retrieved when needed. By implementing caching on your website, you can reduce the amount of processing and data transfer required to deliver your website’s content, making your website faster and more responsive.
There are different types of caching that you can use, such as server-side caching, client-side caching, and CDN caching.
Server-side caching involves caching content on the server, while client-side caching involves caching content on the visitor’s device.
CDN caching involves caching content on the CDN’s servers, which can help reduce the time it takes to deliver the content to visitors.
Use a Dedicated Server or Cloud Hosting
Using a dedicated server or cloud hosting can help you handle high traffic on your website by providing you with more resources and greater flexibility. A dedicated server is a physical server that is dedicated to your website, while cloud hosting involves hosting your website on a virtual server that can be easily scaled up or down as needed.
In addition, using a dedicated server or cloud hosting can also help you reduce costs, as you only pay for the resources you use.
Cloud hosting also offers other benefits, such as scalability, redundancy, and high availability.
Optimize Your Database
A poorly optimized database can slow down your website’s performance. You can optimize your database by using indexes, removing unnecessary data, and optimizing your queries.
In addition, you can also use techniques like sharding and replication to improve your database’s performance.
Sharding involves splitting your database into smaller parts, while replication involves creating copies of your database to distribute the load.
Powerful resilience is essential when handling high-traffic websites, especially when your website relies on external calls to third-party APIs, databases, and other services. In order to ensure that your website does not break when third-party API calls fail, it’s important to implement techniques such as retry policies, circuit breakers, rate limiting, and more.
Retry policies automatically retry failed requests, reducing the number of failed requests due to intermittent errors or network connectivity issues.
Circuit breakers are used to prevent an entire system from going down in the event of a failure by setting thresholds for the number of failed requests.
Rate limiting is used to restrict the amount of traffic that can be sent to a particular service in a given amount of time.
By implementing these techniques, you can greatly improve the resilience and reliability of your high-traffic website.
Use a Distributed DNS Service
A distributed DNS service can help you handle high traffic by distributing the load across multiple DNS servers and this can also help to improve your website’s availability by reducing the risk of a single point of failure.
For example, having one server in North Europe and another in West Europe.
Use a Load Balancer
A load balancer can distribute traffic across multiple servers, ensuring that no single server is overloaded.
Load balancers can be hardware-based or software-based, and can distribute traffic based on different algorithms, such as round-robin, least connections, and IP hash.
A message queue is a type of software that allows messages to be passed between different parts of a system, in a reliable and scalable way.
When a user performs an action on your website, such as placing an order or submitting a form, this can create a large number of requests to your server. In order to handle these requests efficiently, you can use a message queue to store the requests temporarily and process them in the background.
Using a message queue can help to improve the performance of your website, by allowing requests to be processed asynchronously, and reducing the load on your server. It can also help to ensure that requests are processed in the correct order and that no requests are lost or dropped.
Popular message queue systems include RabbitMQ, Apache Kafka, Azure service bus and Amazon SQS, etc. These systems can be integrated with your website using APIs or other tools and can be configured to suit the specific needs of your website and traffic volume.
Bonus point: Powerful observability
This one is often missed and we get too busy improving our infrastructure and prioritizing features, we often do not put enough attention to providing powerful observability to our applications.
By powerful observability, I mean better logging, better metrics, a bunch of important SLOs, a better alert system, etc.
Some best practices include:
- A centralized logging system that allows you to search, filter, and analyze logs from all of your application components in one place
- By tracking key performance indicators such as response time, throughput, and error rate, you can identify issues before they become major problems
- By defining SLOs, you can measure how well your application is meeting its service level objectives and take action when necessary
- By implementing alerting, you can be notified when an issue occurs, and take action before it affects your users
In conclusion, handling high traffic on your website requires careful planning and the use of effective techniques.
I have explained the top 11 techniques that helped us to create our systems that can handle millions of users without breaking a sweat. I hope it will help you as well.
Buienradar is a Dutch website and app that provides weather information and forecasts for the Netherlands and neighboring countries. It is known for its accurate and up-to-date information on rainfall, using real-time radar data, satellite imagery, and weather models. Buienradar offers interactive maps and tools for tracking weather patterns and forecasts and also provides weather-related products and services for businesses and organizations.
Overall, Buienradar is a valuable resource for anyone in the Netherlands who wants to stay up-to-date on the latest weather conditions and forecasts.
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