When startups first build their network and server infrastructure, there’s a tendency to focus on immediate need, not future growth. Early-stage startups are under incredible pressure to build a product. If the quickest way to to get a viable product to market requires shortcuts, then so be it.
Although understandable, there are risks to kicking the scaling problem down the road. As traffic increases, poorly planned infrastructure can become a liability. Often the result is poor response times and downtime, which can hurt the product’s reputation and growth. A product — and a business — can fail completely because infrastructure and software decisions made in the early days make easy scaling on a reasonable timeframe impossible.
With that in mind, lets take a look at how early — and established — companies can think about infrastructure deployment in way that will help future growth.
Leverage Historical Data
All web operations have data available that can make better decisions — analytics, server logs, performance monitoring logs, and so on. Smart businesses know which information is available to them and incorporate the insights it provides into scaling plans.
A new startup won’t have much in the way of data available to them, but they can make sure that data generated during the development and early production phases of their product is properly managed, analyzed, and used for planning.
Manage Infrastructure For Peak Traffic, Not Average Traffic
This is a difficult one: web companies walk a fine line between investing too much capital in infrastructure, risking wastage, and investing too little to accommodate peak traffic.
Wherever the data puts that line for a particular business, it’s essential that they plan for peak loads and build redundancy into their infrastructure to account for them. Sailing too close to the wind where infrastructure utilization is concerned can result in a terrible experience for users and damage a product’s reputation.
Iit’s not necessary to spend every available cent on infrastructure to account for theoretical load peaks, but it is important to provide adequate redundancy along with an ability to scale, which brings us to our next point.
Build Scalability Into Your Infrastructure Choices
Modern clustering and bare metal cloud technology has, in large part, solved the problem of scaling physical infrastructure. It’s easier than ever before to design a system where scaling involves the addition of low-cost servers. Smart businesses invest in scalable solutions at the beginning of their product development cycle so that scaling doesn’t become a bottleneck to business development.
Load Test Before Deploying To Production Servers
There are two main approaches to improving infrastructure and application performance, you can add more servers or you can optimize to make the best use of existing infrastructure. Load and performance testing is a crucial part of the optimization process. Many performance issues are caused by badly behaved code and software components, and the only way to really find out if code will perform well in the wild is comprehensive load testing.
These are high-level descriptions of the approaches company’s should take to performance optimization and scaling, but they encompass a philosophy for infrastructure and application deployment that is useful for online businesses of all size — use data for smart decision-making, plan for redundancy, design systems and choose technologies that are inherently scalable, and optimize to make the most of existing infrastructure.
Image: Flickr/Karen Roe