Hosting Rich Media: Delivering and Scaling Seamlessly
What happens when all of that market research and graphic design work pays off and you create a successful campaign that is driving lots of traffic to your site or business? There are two scenarios: 1) traffic spikes cripple your online infrastructure causing your campaign to fail and your business to suffer embarrassment. Or 2) the campaign seamlessly absorbs all traffic and you come out smelling like a rose. To improve your chances for success it is important to understand your potential audience, maintain perspective and plan for scalability by working with partners that enable growth instead of inhibiting it.
With the advent and promotion of virtualization and cloud technology many decision makers are asking for more information to determine if either of these options makes sense for their businesses. Sometimes they help, sometimes they don't. Cloud services tout instant scalability but may be limited with regard to the technology that can be deployed on them. Server virtualization can provide true server images with the complete functionality of a physical server, but they might not offer an instant increase in performance. Sometimes a hybrid approach makes sense. This would include dedicated servers running the main application infrastructure and a flexible cloud-based front end to handle massive traffic spikes. A completely physical infrastructure can also meet your needs, but you have to do the math in advance to determine your expected peak performance requirements. Each business has its own technical, financial and industry requirements, so talk to an expert to help determine the best fit for your business.
Once you decide on a hardware layout, how do you know what to scale? Will the system handle that for you transparently, or is user intervention required? Proper monitoring tools need to be in place that can identify the specific component that is creating your bottleneck. Hardware monitoring, software monitoring, network monitoring - these are all vital components that help technicians quickly identify the specific areas to focus on. The last thing you want to do is throw the wrong solution at a problem and create a larger one.
Content Delivery Networks
While worthy of an article of their own let's briefly address the content delivery network (CDN). A CDN is a business that handles the delivery of your content for you. They have multiple Points of Presence (PoPs) across the US and usually the rest of the world. By placing your content physically closer to your end-users they may experience performance benefits. But, in many cases this level of performance or delivery is not necessary. Depending on your needs you may be able to deliver content from your own location or a hosting partner single data center with no negative impact to your customers.
How each CDN actually delivers content is what sets them apart from one another. Some own their own network between the PoPs, while others rely on the public Internet for delivery. Some require code modification. Others rely on DNS changes. They each have their own billing methodologies (storage, bandwidth, file requests, DNS queries, etc.). Working with a partner is often the best way to leverage these technologies.
Owners of rich media content need to consider many factors when launching a project or business. There are many technical and business considerations that need to be addressed before the first document is created or server is deployed. Can you do this yourself or do you need help? What capabilities do you require? What can you outsource? Do you know your cost of downtime? How do you get your content out there and how do you make sure it remains available even when experiencing fast growth? In most cases a reputable hosting partner can answer your questions and bring up others that you may not even know to ask. In any case, asking questions early can help your project be successful, technically and financially.
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