Your Site Just Went Viral – Avoiding a DDoS Crash

It is the hope and dream of every website owner that someday your site will go viral and amass you the fame and fortune you have worked so hard to achieve. Take a moment, however, to picture this… Your site does indeed go viral. You suddenly have more traffic than you ever anticipated. Yet while you should be reaping the rewarding profit of this phenomena, your site suddenly goes down and isn’t available to the people trying to access it. You’re losing sales, and face, by the second. What happened? You have just experienced a DDoS crash at the worst time possible, and you don’t even have hackers to blame for it.

What is a DDoS Crash?

We have all heard of a DDoS attack, which occurs when malicious hackers target the server a site is on and work their magic to bring it down to its knees. A DDoS crash, on the other hand, has nothing to do with hackers. It has to do with a lack of planning and foresight.

It is important to understand that your site is hosted on a server and no matter what type of hosting plan or server your site is hosted on, that server and/or your plan have resource limitations. If you suddenly experience a spike in traffic that is so significant that the server or plan cannot keep up with the resulting resource demands, your site first experiences performance issues and then finally goes down for the count altogether. Unfortunately, if this happens shortly after your site goes viral, you’re going to be missing out on a lot of traffic and, therefore, quite a bit of profit.

Contrary to what some may believe, your site does not have to go completely offline to lose sales and customers. If you do manage to maintain uptime after your site goes viral but your site’s performance is affected by the influx of traffic, that too can spell disaster. One study estimated that 47 percent of website visitors give a site no more than two seconds to load. Worse yet, it is estimated that eight out of ten people will not return to a website that proved to have performance issues in the past. As you can see, poor performance can lead to just as much profit loss as complete and total downtime and the last thing you need after you go viral is for your site’s performance to take a dive.

So how do you ensure that you’re ready when your site suddenly goes viral?

Preparing for an Influx of Website Traffic

The first thing you want to do is make sure your site is built upon a scalable infrastructure that can handle even the most extreme traffic scenarios. During the building of your infrastructure, run performance profiling tests. These tests can give you a good idea of what is really going on with your site’s performance, such as which files might cause increased load times and which database queries may prove to be inefficient. This allows you to address the issues before they become serious problems.

In addition to creating and testing a solid infrastructure, you’ll want to check your site in real-time once it’s live and running. There are a number of load testing tools available to help you measure the impact of traffic changes on your site’s actual server. In addition, your website monitoring service can alert you when performance issues begin to arise and will give you a heads up when your site may be getting close to its capacity limits, giving you the time you need to expand your server resources.

Once you have your infrastructure, testing, and monitoring in place, take a good look at the content of your site. Static content, such as the “About Us” page or the “Terms and Conditions” page can go into a cache so that hits to those pages don’t tax your site’s resources, allowing those resources to be utilized for more dynamic requests. You can even cache certain search requests, further maximizing your server’s resources.

While looking at your site’s content, take a look at the images on your site. Make sure all images are optimized to utilize as little resources as possible. Without proper optimization, graphic-rich sites can put heavy loads on a server. Optimizing those graphics can go a long way toward preventing a DDoS crash should your site go viral.

Another strategy to use to alleviate stress on your server is to utilize content delivery networks. By utilizing these networks, your servers won’t be left to handle the loads of heavy traffic alone no matter how intense that traffic gets. This does tend to be one of the more expensive methods of saving server resources, however, so it is one of the last measures you may want to take to protect your site’s performance and uptime during traffic spikes.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

While it may take a bit of planning, time, and money to put the above measures into place, when your site remains up and performing well after the influx of traffic that goes along with viral fame, you will see the planning was well worth the effort and investment. Think of it as an insurance policy against the nightmare of losing untold amounts of profit and customers should your site crash or slow to a crawl when you finally do achieve the level of popularity and traffic that you dreamt about when launching your online business.