Crashing Websites

Podcast Crashing Websites

In this episode, Chelsea and James discuss what to do when a website crashes and how you can prevent the issue.


In this episode, we’re gonna be talking about what to do when your website crashes from too much traffic.
So much James today, and we’re going to be going through potentially quite a good problem to have, because it shows that your website is popular, but what to do when your website crashes from too much traffic. So James, why does this happen?
Well, it’s been a, it’s actually quite a topical thing. We’ve actually experienced this a few times recently, with the increase in E commerce during the COVID pandemic, we’ve had a few clients who in the past probably wouldn’t have come across this problem, but have suddenly sort of been forced into this arena where the E commerce technical hosting setup that it had really wasn’t going to cover the scope of how much traffic that we’re getting in normally happens when a client does a big promotion on either social media, or the times we’ve seen it most common are actually when a client’s product has been featured on a TV programme or other media outlet. And this kind of situation sometimes just takes them by surprise. So for example, we had a client last week, where even though their own company wasn’t really featured on this TV programme, a product that they sold was. And then when people were searching for the product, because our clients website was coming up at the top of Google, suddenly, they had an awful lot of traffic hit their website at one minute. Now, this is not something that the client could have predicted, because they didn’t necessarily know this was going to happen. But their site then started to experience some hosting issues of keeping online with that amount of extra traffic on it. And also, we have a few other clients where periodically, they do sort of seasonal sales. And on those sales, sort of they gear up their marketing to a certain time an event so that at that time when the sales released, everybody then descends upon the website all in one go. And that again, could pose a challenge, because the system that they have to host their website on has to cope with that. But then for the rest of the year, it doesn’t necessarily have a problem a sort of just takes over the normal amount of traffic. So it’s quite interesting sort of we see different ways of this, this comes about, but when it does happen, it can cause quite a problem really.
So with the with the problems and that people face, how would you? How would you plan for an increase in traffic, if it’s something that’s the sustainable marketing campaign, like the sales that you’ve mentioned,
a lot of it depends on the hosting infrastructure that the client is running the website on. So give me an idea, it’s actually quite difficult to get a hosting that can dynamically scale just on the off chance that it happens. So there has to be some element of expectation here. And the best way of doing it is to sort of make an informed judgement about roughly how many people might be on the website at any one time. Because reality, for example, so say a website had 2000 visitors on it in a day, that that really wouldn’t affect keeping the website up. But if they have 2000 visitors on it in one second, that’s where the problems come. So it’s all around sort of traffic peaks at certain times of the day. And say, for example, you’ve got 2000 people that stay on the website for five minutes. And in that time, additional people are trying to get onto the website, that’s where sites go down, because it’s just cannot handle serving the website to that many people or at the same time. So there’s no easy solution to it apart from to almost throw money at a better hosting solution to sort of boost up the core power of it. So basic shared website hosting, which is relatively cheap really won’t cut it, if this is the kind of thing that’s going to happen for that business. And there’s also other solutions that you can put in place such as website queuing systems. So everyone’s probably seen it. And it happened quite a lot. Actually, during the pandemic, places like b&q, who operated a website queueing system, and where they had even a big business like that has this same problem where the server hardware that our websites on really has a capacity to it and and the only way to mitigate the problem is to limit how many people are able to come through to the website at any one time. So that has been that sort of one technique to doing it. But when you kind of have to make an informed guess at the numbers and if it’s something that the clients done before, so it’s a campaign that’s been run previously and some analytics data about how many people approximately went on the website that can give a really good informed decision about how we how much to spec up their hosting with There are some tools available as well online that you can pay for which simulate these kind of situations. So we recently ran some tests on a client site where we ramped up traffic, up to sort about 1000 user mark to see what would happen to the website and at what point it would start to fall over. And there’s various tools that you can pay for online, which essentially simulate real people going on to the website for a certain duration. And just so you can sort of test the resilience of the server hosting that you’re on. But I mean, when you slightly to the beginning, it can be a really good problem to have. Because obviously, if that many people are going to the website and E commerce, you’re very likely to be transacting a lot of money in that situation. And you’re also very likely to be able to justify having additional costs in server hardware. Because if it’s going to be happening regularly, then it’s probably a sizable ecommerce business. And if not, then there’s something fundamentally wrong and you can’t really keep paying for it for nothing. And so yes, a is a is a challenge that certain clients have some don’t. But it’s something that we are trying to predict. Now as we’re seeing a sort of a resurgent peak here in November 2020, at Commerce, and sort of trying to work with clients to get some visibility on what their marketing pipeline and activity campaigns are going to be so that we can try and preempt these problems before they happen. And from our point of view, the worst thing is when we don’t know they’re going to happen, because the client either doesn’t know or doesn’t tell us. And so we can’t put anything in place in advance to try and sort of solve it before it happens.
That leads me on to my next question. So I have an e commerce website. And some reason one of my products was featured in a magazine, but I knew nothing about it. And now my website’s down, and no one can buy anything, what are you going to do to fix it,
the only thing you can do is let is give it time, let it pass. Yeah, usually, traffic drops off within sort of five to 10 minutes of the peak happening. We tend to see it when we look at the data after these events, that you get a very, very quick surge at a certain time. And then very, very rapidly, they drop off as they either go through the checkout process or sort of leave the website altogether. As they drop off, it then frees up the resources on the server to be able to sort of serve more sessions and to more people. But yeah, unfortunately, when that also happens, it quite often locks it up from us as an admin as well, because it’s using every ounce of resource on that particular hosting plan. And so we sometimes can’t even get into it when that’s happening. And the only solution to it is just to wait it out really.
And another quick question, I have a view, I’ve heard the term concurrent user, what does that mean?
So concurrent users are how many people are on the website at the same time. When people look at their website stats, they’ll sort of say, Oh, we’ve had a name 10,000 users this month. But when you really break that down and divide it into days and hours and minutes, it tends to not really be more than one or two a minute. That doesn’t really affect web hosting, that’s absolutely fine. Most even basic shared web hosting will probably take up to 50 or 60 minutes. But concurrent users in the scope of what we’re talking about, which is when your website’s crashing, is when there’s literally so many users trying to access the site, the server can’t cope with having to serve the website to that many people. So just a slightly tacky explanation for it. But every time you go to a website, and if you if you imagine every web page has got a selection of images and text, and it’s pulling information from its database, and things like that, and your visit to that website could potentially create one to 200 requests that that server has to do to deliver that page to you. So if you multiply that up and say you’ve got 1000 people on the website, yeah, you’re talking about sort of 20,000 plus requests in that one second that you’re asking that server to do to deliver it to that many people. And it just gets to a point where you’re no matter how much power you’ve got in that hardware, there’s always a finite limit to it. And there are some solutions out there, such as Amazon Web Services, which can have some dynamically growing sort of options, where it detects that this is going to happen. And then it automatically provisions new servers and scales them up. But to be honest, in the realm of the small business, e commerce the cost of that is typically quite unaffordable. And it’s what people like Amazon would be running their, their systems on. And even they go down from time to time as you know, but in the small business arena that you know, ecommerce websites that are turning over to the modest amounts of money in the sort of 10s and hundreds have 1000s of pounds, it doesn’t necessarily justify the cost to be on that kind of package. So it’s just a case of finding reliable stable web hosting that covers you for 99% of the time. And then that 1% of the time, that’s that traffic peak, it can, it can sort of just have to deal with it as best they can. But like I said earlier, there are some other mitigating things you can put in, which is things like sort of better caching of the of the website so that he doesn’t have to call those requests from the server so much. Things like the queuing system, which quite a lot of services offer now that you can tack onto the front of your site. And you can set that that kind of system to allow only certain numbers of traffic through. And so if you know that you’ve tested your site up to say 100 concurrent users, you can stay right I don’t want to let any more than 80 through so that the people that do get onto the website have a good experience, and everyone else is just put into a waiting list to be let through as and when that the other people drop off. So this under some ways you can do it on sort of a cheaper, more affordable, affordable way to do it that doesn’t involve changing your hosting. But if it’s going to be a problem that happens all the time, then then really looking into better more dedicated hosting is the answer.
What are some signifiers, and people should start looking at to think about the levels of traffic and changing servers.
And normally, clients start to experience slowdown issues way before this happens. So if their general traffic volumes have been increasing, because they’re just doing more business, what we tend to see is more issues, being raised with our support team, and you’ll start to see intermittent problems with the side loading. It might just be slower than it was normally and these are all telltale signs that now is that possibly the time to start looking into upgrading before it becomes a problem. And it’s just been one of those things where, yeah, if you can address it early, it may never become a problem. But if it’s one of those things that gets ignored, because it just looks like a cost or it looks like a sort of big load of hassle to move the website to another platform, that then you can guarantee that it’s going to become a real hassle when it actually goes down because of this issue.
That’s great. Thank you very much for sharing that with us, James. If you’ve got any questions about servers and traffic rates on your website, just get in touch with us at Hello at sea

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