When it comes to load times, seconds count. As do milliseconds. You and your competitors both know it. A 100ms latency may sound fast—until you multiply it by the 80 items on your landing page, resulting in an eight-second load time. Considering that one in three users will abandon your site if it hasn’t loaded within seven seconds, even a 100ms latency is no longer good enough.
You can easily expand your footprint and host with multiple datacenters, but does that really improve the situation? The answer is yes, but you have to monitor to know just how much. Watching data stream in and out of one host server is different from interacting with a dispersed network of datacenters and dynamic DNS. Your tools need to be up to the task. Here’s what you need to know.
Optimizing data delivery
Multiple data centers and dynamic DNS comes with a number of built-in benefits. Putting your data in more places moves it closer to a greater number of users. The closer the server is to users, the faster user requests make their trip to the server and back. The increased speed is especially noticeable with international users. In addition, datacenters increase redundancy to protect against outages, so if a storm takes out your Utah datacenter, your customers in China don’t suffer.
That said, in order to give your data the best possible chance of loading quickly, some hands-on work is required.
- Optimize the data itself. Doing front-end optimization on your data will cut down delivery times substantially. If you can reduce the size of your data by 10-, 20- or 30%, you will save the proportionally in delivery time.
- Make sure each datacenter gets put to optimal use. This is where load balancers come in. They serve as the front door to your site while being invisible to users. The load balancer decides which datacenter is fastest for the user, whether by location or network speed, and pulls data from there. All the user sees is that they get faster load times. But because load balancers are the front door, downtime can be catastrophic if you only have one. You will want to pair load balancers not only to protect against outages but also to increase efficiency even further.
- Recognize the downsides of hosting on multiple datacenters. Amidst all the benefits, one downside is that any added service is another point of possible problems or failure. Take this into account when calculating costs, because added administration and security take time. Also, the increased performance does not always justify the cost involved.
The only way to know if the advantages in speed and redundancy outweigh the costs is to monitor. Hopefully you have stats from before you switched to using multiple datacenters so you can compare, but if not, start monitoring anyway. Decide which criteria make it worth the cost for your business, whether it is decreased latency, easy scalability or any number of other things and then find a service that provides what you need.
Ease of use is one of the overarching needs most users identify but, especially with multiple datacenters, you will want the ability to drill down to root causes. These days, access on the move as well as from the office is a must. Find a solution that monitors with actual browsers when possible, so you are not just looking at what the software thinks is happening. And if you have users worldwide, be sure your service offers worldwide monitoring.
But I use dynamic DNS!
Questions often come up around dynamic DNS. It seems like it would be hard to track performance for a site that does not have a static address, but there is an easy solution. Using a service that offers a permanent address to front your dynamic addressing, such as noip.com, allows the same monitoring as a site with a permanent address.
While there are benefits to a permanent IP address, dynamic addressing offers an affordable solution for SMBs and others. It costs less, administration is simple and setup is easy—and you can still monitor effectively.
There are some things to keep in mind with dynamic DNS. As mentioned above, by adding another service into your network you have introduced another possible point of failure. Any added link in the chain needs to be both monitored and taken into account when any problems arise. There are few things worse than spending hours troubleshooting a problem on your network only to find that the problem is actually on someone else’s network.
Add value, not complexity
While a few downsides need to be considered, the upsides of hosting your site on multiple datacenters often makes it worthwhile. Monitoring these upsides is easier than it seems. Start monitoring now and see if the stats you get warrant an upgrade. In the language of load times, every second saved is a dollar earned.