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What Is Load Balancing and What’s It Have To Do With Web Hosting?

Daren Low
April 23, 2024


Looking to improve your website’s performance, reliability, and fault tolerance? Then you’ll probably want to know more about load balancing.


Load balancing is an important concept in website hosting that helps ensure smooth traffic flow and speedy website performance. It’s a simple concept: by evenly distributing incoming traffic across multiple servers, load balancing helps prevent overload.


In this article, we’ll look at various methods of load balancing, its advantages and disadvantages, and practical implementation tips. Let’s go!



What is Load Balancing?


In a nutshell, load balancing is like having a traffic cop for your website.


Just like a cop directs traffic to different lanes to keep cars moving smoothly, load balancers are specialized software or hardware that distribute incoming website visitors across multiple servers.


load balancing directs website traffic

Load balancing directs website traffic to where it’s needed


This ensures that no single server gets overwhelmed with too much traffic. The result? Improved website performance and reliability!


Think of it as a way to share the workload and prevent any server from getting bogged down. Load balancers use clever algorithms to decide which server gets the next visitor. This can include taking turns, spreading the load evenly, or even keeping visitors coming back to the same server.



What Has Load Balancing Have To Do With Web Hosting?


Load balancing is a critical concept in web hosting!


Web hosts use it to prevent any single server from getting overwhelmed with too much traffic. All this results in faster load times, reliable performance, and preventing server failures.


It’s how they keep your websites online and that your visitors get a seamless experience – all things you definitely want!



Are Content Distribution Networks (CDN) Load Balancers?


Not quite! CDNs may USE internal load balancing techniques to ensure efficient content delivery. However, load balancing and CDNs serve different purposes.


A CDN is a network of servers distributed across different geographical locations. The primary purpose of a CDN is to optimize content delivery, reduce latency, and improve website performance.


Load balancing, on the other hand, is a technique used in web hosting to distribute incoming network traffic across multiple servers.


In short, load balancing focuses on distributing incoming network traffic across servers for optimal resource utilization, while CDNs focus on delivering content efficiently to end-users from servers located closer to them. Make sense?



Do I need to implement load balancing myself or does my web host do it?


Depending on the type of web host you have, load balancing may be handled directly by your web host, eliminating the need for you to implement it yourself. Other times – your host may offer load balancing as a service, but will make it accessible and easy to implement, even for beginners.


For shared hosting, WordPress hosting, or VPS hosting, your web host is typically responsible for managing the underlying infrastructure, including load balancing.


Your host ensures that incoming traffic is distributed evenly across the servers, preventing overloading.


Let’s look at some examples how that might play out:


  • Shared hosting
    In shared hosting, multiple websites are hosted on a single server, sharing its resources. Load balancing can help ensure fair distribution of resources among the websites on the shared server. This stops any one website from consuming excessive resources and affecting the performance of others.
  • VPS hosting
    VPS hosting, or Virtual Private Server hosting, involves partitioning a physical server into multiple virtual servers. Each virtual server operates independently with its own resources. Load balancing can distribute traffic across multiple virtual servers, preventing any single server from becoming overwhelmed.


However, it’s always a good practice to check with your web hosting provider and understand their load balancing policies and mechanisms.



What About Load Balancing In Cloud Hosting?


load balancing in web hosting

Most cloud hosts use in-built load balancing


For cloud hosting in particular, load balancing is often an integral part of the hosting service itself.


Many cloud providers have built-in load balancing mechanisms that automatically distribute incoming traffic across multiple web servers in their network. This ensures scalability, high availability, and optimal performance for your website.


Cloud load balancing allows you to easily distribute traffic across multiple virtual servers, making it scalable and highly available.


Some popular cloud hosting providers that offer load balancing services include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and others.



Example Methods Of Load Balancing Algorithms


Here are some ways load balancing might be computed or used.


  • Round-Robin
    Requests are evenly distributed in a circular fashion among multiple servers.
    Who it suits: Suitable for small to medium-sized websites or applications with evenly distributed workload and no specific requirements for session persistence or high availability.

  • Least Connections:
    Requests are routed to the server with the fewest active connections, ensuring load distribution based on server workload.
    Who it suits: Useful when server capacities are not uniform and some servers have more resources available than others, preventing overloading of any single server.
  • Source IP Affinity (Sticky Sessions)
    Requests from the same IP address are directed to the same server, maintaining session persistence.
    Who it suits: Useful when session persistence is required, such as in e-commerce websites, ensuring continuity of user’s session.
  • Weighted Round-Robin
    Requests are distributed based on assigned weights to each server, allowing fine-grained control over load distribution based on server capabilities.
    Who it suits: Useful when server capacities are not uniform and different servers have varying resources available.
  • URL-Based Routing
    Requests are routed to different servers based on URL or domain name requested, allowing for specific routing rules based on content of the request.
    Who it suits: Useful when different parts of a website or application have varying resource requirements or when specific routing rules based on URL or domain name are needed.


Each load balancing method has its own pros and cons, and the choice depends on the specific requirements of your website or application.


It’s important to consider factors such as server capacities, workload distribution, session persistence, and content-specific routing rules when deciding whether to implement load balancing yourself or rely on your web host to do it for you.



What Are The Pros and Cons of Load Balancing?


Like everything else, load balancing has its pros and cons. Let’s take a quick look:


Pros of load balancing:


  • Improved website performance
    Load balancing distributes traffic evenly, preventing any single server from getting overloaded. This can lead to faster response times and better user experience.
  • Increased reliability
    With load balancing, if one server fails, the traffic is automatically routed to other healthy servers. This can ensure high availability and minimal downtime.
  • Fault tolerance
    Load balancing helps to distribute traffic across multiple servers. All this reduces the risk of a single point of failure and improving the overall resilience of the system.


Cons of load balancing:


  • Increased complexity
    Implementing and managing load balancing requires extra configuration and monitoring, which can be complex and time-consuming.
  • Potential for single point of failure
    If the load balancer itself becomes unavailable, it can become a single point of failure, affecting the entire system.
  • Increased cost
    Load balancing may require additional hardware, software, and maintenance costs, depending on the method and tools used.



Who is Load Balancing Actually Useful For?


Load balancing can benefit a wide range of websites and applications, regardless of their size or complexity:


  • E-commerce websites
    E-commerce websites typically experience high traffic loads, especially during peak shopping seasons. Load balancing can help distribute incoming requests across multiple servers, preventing any single server from being overwhelmed, maintaining your website uptime, ensuring a smooth shopping experience for customers.

    ecommerce turn over high traffic

    eCommerce sites like HomeDepot turn over high traffic.

  • Content-heavy websites
    Sites that serve a large amount of media-rich content such as images, videos, and other multimedia files may experience high bandwidth demands. Load balancing can help distribute the content requests across multiple servers, preventing bottlenecks and ensuring faster content delivery to users.
  • Web applications with variable workloads
    Some web applications experience variable workloads throughout the day or week. For example, a news website like CNN may experience higher traffic during specific times of the day when news articles are published. Load balancing can help dynamically distribute the incoming requests to different servers based on their capacity. This ensures optimal performance during peak times and efficient resource usage during low-traffic periods.
  • High-availability requirements
    Websites or applications that require high availability, where downtime can result in significant loss of revenue or user trust. By distributing incoming requests across multiple servers, load balancing can ensure that if one server fails, the requests are automatically routed to healthy servers.
  • Websites with global users
    Websites with users located in different regions of the world may experience latency due to the physical distance between users and the hosting servers. Load balancing can help by routing requests to the geographically closest server, reducing latency and improving user experience.
  • Scalable websites or applications
    Sites that need to scale horizontally, i.e., add or remove servers based on the changing workload, can benefit from load balancing.


In summary, load balancing is useful for websites and apps with high traffic loads, serve content-heavy websites, have variable workloads, require high availability, have a global user base, or need to scale horizontally. A lot!



In Short – Load Balancing Has A Lot To Offer!


Load balancing is a key concept in website hosting that ensures smooth traffic flow, improved website performance, and increased reliability. All that good stuff!


While load balancing may seem complex, there are user-friendly tools and services available, especially in cloud hosting environments, that make it accessible to beginners. Happy load balancing!



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