For most companies, high web traffic is a dream, but when it is too much, your website can crash. Then you are the victim of your own success and can lose a lot of money. So what can you do to avoid a website crash? And why does too much traffic crash a website?
Why does too much traffic crash a website?
A website crash is frustrating especially on events like the Black Friday or when you create a successful viral campaign. But how does this happen?
The root problem is that the traffic level you get is too high for the website infrastructure capacity over a given time frame. It means that too many systems requests by a user visiting your website exceed the processing capacity of your site. When this happens, the website performance will slow down, and for some users or all crash entirely.
Some requests are more demanding than others which is why it is important to understand not only the amount of traffic but also the patterns of request. When you only see your capacity in terms of concurrent users on your website, it only indirectly signals the problem of the site infrastructure.
It is similar to a supermarket where many shoppers are in different areas of the market. Some are at the checkout counter where there are only a few cashiers. But they are enough that the line keeps moving and shoppers are happy.
Imagine when everybody in the supermarket wants to go to the checkout counter at the same time. The number of shoppers didn´t change. But the cashiers suddenly get overwhelmed and the customers get frustrated.
This analogy shows that high online traffic puts pressure on weak links, which serve as limiting factors on the website capacity. When you get a high number of visitors in a short time frame to a specific product page, for example, your site will more likely crash. It is easier to handle more users that are spread out than when all visit the same link.
Your website has to handle a lot of different requests like loading images and browser scrips, handling search functions, and syncing customer information with databases, calculating and updating prices, and remaining stocks.
Each step a customer makes will add up to the site’s infrastructure, and eventually, your processing power is fully extended and additional requests can not be handled.
The website visitors experience slowdowns and it will eventually crash entirely and returns HTTP error pages. While a CDN will minimize the load on static pages it will not always solve the problem. Master databases and payment gateways have limited scalability, which makes dynamic pages like checkouts extremely database intensive. So shoppers see your product but maybe are unable to pay.
What also can happen is that your inventory system has too many requests and you accidentally oversell. Other third-party plugins like payment systems are weak links that will fall fist and get out of your control.
This altogether will bring your entire website to crash down.
What are the scenarios high traffic can crash your website?
A crash of your website or app can happen due to the following high traffic scenarios:
1. Unexpected traffic
When you are not prepared for the traffic, you get due to viral Social Media posts, primetime features, or overly successful marketing campaigns where you get unexpected traffic rise.
2. Major sale events
Events like the Black Friday and Cyber Monday have specific dates, which is no surprise that the traffic level will be a lot higher than on a normal day. But even if you know the exact day, it isn´t easy to predict the time when your traffic will be the highest.
3. Product Launches and release collection
If you, for instance, launch a long-awaited product or make brand collaborations or offer a limited edition, it can lead to a big traffic increase. When there is a limited amount of product available for a short time, it can lead to intense traffic spikes that can´t predict.
These are the hardest scenario to deal with, especially if you release a new product where visitors before launch is on your website waiting. This can possibly crash your site before the sale even begins.
How can you avoid website crashes?
While website crashes happen some can be avoided. There are few ways on how you can minimize the risk of high online traffic leads to website failure.
Too many database requests are one of the biggest problems that lead to website crashes. It is important that you identify heavy database requests and limit the number, complexity, and size of those requests. There are many different solutions you can use to optimize your website performance:
- Compressing images makes your website faster and is also important to rank higher in search engines. What also helps is to integrate Lazy Loading via Plugin or Code, so media will only be loaded when needed.
- Using lesser plugins when possible. Often a plugin runs at the background on sites where you don´t need it. Too avoids this, you can filter your plugins with the help of Plugin Load Filter for WordPress. If you have another website builder do your research or contact your provider if you can filter plugins. Also, make sure that the plugins you are using have good coding quality and are updated as this also can lead to crashes and longer load times.
- Optimize your theme to make your website faster. You should choose a WordPress theme that is well coded and well structured and overall user friendly. After all your theme will be the first users see when they visit your website.
- Install a caching Plugin it will store pre-built content for a short period, so that repeated request doesn´t have to go through the whole page build process.
- Integrating a content distribution network (CDN) helps to load files and respond to browser request faster. A CDN is especially useful for a global audience because the data comes from the nearest server location. It makes the website load faster and can reduce bandwidth costs and improves your site security.
- Upgrade your Web Hosting service. If you get more views, you need more web space to handle the request, which you get when you change Web Hosting package or provider. A recommend managed hosting provider would be Cloudways where can choose between big cloud plan like google cloud and amazon web services you also get a Cloudways CDN included.
- Run speed test to further optimize your website. You get a lot of insight on how you can improve your website performance do this; you can use platforms like Google Page Speed Insights or GTmetrix.
2. Downgrade user experience
Identify processes on your website that aren´t critical for your site, and you can either remove them before you expect hight traffic or scale them back. For instance, if you use an advanced live search function that is CPU heavy, you change to a simpler search function to free up databases for important processes.
3. Run load tests
One of the best preparations you can do for web traffic peaks is to do a load test. You send an increasing level of traffic to your site and this under controlled conditions. This will help you to understand how your site will perform when a large number of real users visit your site. It gives you insights on what errors you need to fix to be better prepared for the big sale.
Ensure that every buying process is working before you do a load test. Contact your hosting provider before you run this test because many providers consider unauthorized load tests as a violation of terms of services.
4. Managing your traffic.
You can create a virtual waiting room or online queue, so your website doesn´t crash. With an online queue, you can manage your traffic and prevent your website and third-party integration like payment gateways getting out of your control.
What also helps if you give early access for email subscribers as an example.
No matter what you offer, it is better to prepare for high traffic then loose profit when your website crashes.