Tips For Choosing A Managed Hosting Provider – Part Four: Scalability And Handling Traffic Spikes

Planning to get lots of exposure for your product or company?

You need to ensure that your site can handle the traffic during The Oprah Effect or when your company’s CEO is on CNN; when your promotion is featured on Groupon; or when your latest blog gets to the front page of Reddit.

First, consider how important scalability is to you. Ask yourself: what is my site’s peak traffic in an hour, a day or a month?

Scalability is not easy to measure. That’s because it’s not only dependent on your hosting provider, but also on your website code (e.g., code optimization techniques being used) and your website’s content (e.g., how media-heavy your site is). If there is a memory leak in your code, then even the best hosting provider will not be able to scale your site at prime time.

Tip: Find out how many visitors or page hits your provider can handle

In general, we can safely assume that most clients of any hosting provider will not write crappy code. So when you find out the average number of visitors per month for each site a provider hosts, you will get a ballpark idea of how much traffic the hosting provider is handling.

Ask the provider:

  • How will they help you if you are expecting a huge spike (say a million visitors in few hours)?
  • Do they have any references of high traffic events that they have handled for other customers?
  • How many visitors (or web requests) per month do they handle on average?

Or you can easily calculate the latter, if you know answer to following two questions:

  1. How many visitors (or web requests) can the hosting provider withstand in a year?
  2. How many websites are they hosting?

Just divide part one by part two and you have a ballpark figure “X.” Now, this number “X” is an average — about 50 percent of websites handle more traffic than this. So if your website gets anywhere less than 10 to 15 times “X” in pageviews (or web requests), then it’s a good sign (provided your website is optimized).

Tip: Notify your provider of expected traffic surges

Remember: if you are expecting a spike due to an event, let your hosting provider know about it a week or so in advance. That way, they can prepare. Don’t just tell them a day before if you are expecting a million visitors!

For context, one of our Cloud Hosting solutions, Rackspace Cloud Sites, handles 500 billion web requests per year from approximately 400,000 websites. On average, each site has 125,000 web requests per month.

But when a site is highly optimized and the admin gives us a heads-up about heavy traffic due to a particular event , the solution has easily handled millions of visitors in few hours.

When you choose a hosting provider, there are also some “nuts-and-bolts” considerations you shouldn’t ignore. Next week, I’ll talk about making sure you have access to the apps you need, and as much or as  little server control as you want, at a price you can afford.

Be sure to check out previous tips for choosing a managed hosting provider.



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