Why you should always ask for the specifications of your server, your CMS system requirements, and your website’s capacity

Knowing the capacity of the server your site is hosted on and the requirements of the CMS might seem like something just for the techies, but it is really important at the management level as well.

Imagine coming up with the greatest marketing campaign of all time. It’s perfection and you know it’s going to bring 100x the normal traffic to your website. It launches 9AM on Saturday…

If you were running a bricks-and-mortar store you would put on extra staff, maybe get some of those velvet rope and brass pole things to manage the queues, and you’d get in early to make sure everything was ready.

Why wouldn’t you do the same with your website?

Assuming that your website will cope with anything you throw at it is dangerous. Find out from your provider what the capacity of your server is and how much “headroom” you have. Headroom is the measure of how much unused capacity you have and lets you know how much extra load you can put on your website before there’s a problem.

My web host says my hosting is elastic – what does this mean?

In an elastic environment, your server capacity should increase when your website is under increased load, adding additional capacity (normally in the form of additional servers) when they are needed. When things calm down, the size of your hosting springs back to normal – like elastic.

Elastic hosting is a great way to control hosting costs. You can’t claw back unused processor time – if you commission a large server and it then sits idle, that’s money down the drain. However, like anything technical – the more complicated it gets, the more moving parts there are, the more likely it is to break.

So, in an elastic hosting scenario, load testing is essential. You don’t want your elastic to snap at the wrong moment, leaving your digital pants on the floor.

Your web host may say that they have already tested their elastic hosting environment. If so, insist on some documentation for the tests so you have an understanding of the amount of load that was involved. 

Either that, or pull on the pants someone else has tested for you and assume they are OK…

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