With the explosion of cloud based hosting it has never been easier to put more servers behind your ecommerce website. If you’re thinking you have missed out on the cloud revolution because you have already invested in dedicated hardware, don’t worry. Look into a hybrid solution.
What is hybrid hosting?
Hybrid hosting gives you the best of both worlds: the security and performance characteristics of traditional hosting, with the flexibility and of the cloud. Hybrid hosting allows you to keep your business critical functions, such as a secure checkout and your database on dedicated hardware while allowing you to add more capacity to the servers that handle browsing customers.
Why use it?
In our experience the main use case for hybrid hosting is to smooth out unexpected spikes in website visits. These are usually caused by a sale, a special offer or a celebrity accidentally photographed in that dress you sell.
In these situations your site can experience many times the traffic and server load than is normal and unless you are ready can bring your site to its knees. A good hybrid solution would allow you to quickly compliment your existing infrastructure with extra capacity. Extra servers can also be added at certain times of the day to handle jobs such as regular product imports and report generation.
Many of our customers use Rackspace as their hosting provider. Rackspace Hybrid Cloud allows your cloud servers to communicate with your existing hardware, as if they were in the same rack.
Hybrid hosting checklist
Before you can use a hybrid solution you need to check a number of things.
- Do you have the right equipment?
For example, Rackspace requires that you are using one of the approved Rackspace load balancers or firewalls.
- How are you going to handle secure traffic?
When increasing the number of front-end servers it’s often required that you terminate HTTPS traffic in a central place (e.g. a load balancer). This often requires a new SSL certificate.
- How are you going to load balance your web traffic to the new servers?
Rackspace offer load balancing solutions, or you can choose a software solution, such as Varnish.
- How are you going to register your new servers with the load balancer?
This is often a tricky area and needs careful thought, especially if your cloud servers are going to be stopped and started frequently.
- Which URLs do you want to remain on your dedicated hardware?
Normally we recommend that the checkout and customer-specific areas of the website be handled by dedicated hardware.
- Which server are you going to use for your scheduled (cron) administration tasks?
- Do you have any 3rd party solutions that require access to files on disk?
If you do, this can be a very problematic area as it reduces your ability to span multiple servers.
- Is Magento ready?
Before Magento can be used in a multi-server environment there are a number of options that must be configured. One example is to use a shared cache and session storage.
- How are you going to share your media?
Solutions include shared network directories, scheduled syncing of files and CDNs.
Our experience shows us that while the setup and configuration of a hybrid hosting solution can be tricky it offers a very flexible, and low cost solution to peaks in demand and could have helped several retailers when faced with unexpected peaks this Christmas trading period.
If you’d like more information about our experience with Hybrid Cloud, get in touch.