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Oct 8, 2012

Technology :: Can Your Website Handle A Traffic Surge?

This morning a new website,, was mentioned on the CNN television broadcast. Just launched yesterday, this website is an online resource which provides support and information to people suffering job losses and other recession-related problems.

Since I was sitting at my computer, I immediately went over to take a look and assess the website for myself. But upon visiting, I was unexpectedly met with an error which stated that the website was unavailable, and that the server resources might have been exceeded… What a Cuil-esque way to waste some amazing countrywide exposure!

So, what about your website? Can it handle a traffic surge?

2 Ways To Ensure Website Availability

The problem with traffic surges is that we never know what to expect. So how do you prepare for a sudden increase in traffic?

1. Choose a suitable hosting package
Most of us use basic shared web hosting plans which claim to offer unlimited resources. These hosting packages are great under normal circumstances. They are full of great features and are very inexpensive. But when you test the limits of your unlimited package, you will find that there is indeed a cap on the resources that you can use, which results in website unavailability or downtime.
To prevent this from happening, choose a plan that is suitable for your website. The web host can usually assist you in finding an appropriate package.

2. Optimize your website to use fewer resources
While choosing a hosting package (or server) which can fully sustain your website is one approach, some thrifty webmasters choose a more affordable approach. Instead of focusing on the capabilities of their host, they focus on the optimization of their websites.
The reason a website may become inaccessible is because it places an undue strain on the server in terms of (1) excessive database queries, (2) sudden increased bandwidth usage, or (3) high memory or CPU usage. However, by optimizing your website, you can reduce all of these three factors.

Optimization Methods
Some optimization methods include:
  1. Caching. If you have a database driven website, you can minimize calls to the database by caching (storing static versions of a dynamically-generated web page). You can also use code to force repeat visitors’ browsers to save images, javascript, stylesheets, and other files.
  2. Compression. Another way to get some savings is to compress pages so that they are smaller. We use GZIP.
  3. Limit Database Queries. If you must have regular database queries, try limiting them when possible or making them more efficient.
  4. Optimize Images. In terms of bandwidth usage, it can be easily minimized by limiting the number of images on a page and reducing their filesizes. For information on image optimization, see our article "6 Ways To Optimize An Image".

You never know what to expect with a traffic surge. But with these tips, your website will likely be able to survive a special mention on television, or a front-page Digg appearance, without becoming inaccessible.

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