Coding with Jesse

Does your web server scale down?

A laptop computer sleeping in the moonlight

Are you paying for servers sitting idle in the middle of the night?

When we talk about scaling a web server, we often focus on scaling up. Can your server handle a spike in traffic? As your business grows, can your database handle the growth?

There's less focus on scaling down. It makes sense, because most businesses are focused on growth. Not too many are looking to shrink. But if you're not careful, your server costs might go up and never come back down.

No web traffic is completely consistent. It grows during the day when people are awake. It shrinks at night when people sleep. It spikes with a popular marketing campaign. It retracts after a marketing campaign winds down.

A simple approach to scaling is to turn up the dial when a server gets overwhelmed. Upgrade to a server with a more powerful CPU. Increase the memory available. Unfortunately, this approach only moves in one direction.

A better solution is to have a dial that can turn both up and down. The way to achieve this is through a pool of servers and a load balancer. When traffic increases, start up new servers. When traffic decreases, terminate the excess capacity. Keep all your servers as busy as possible.

For lower volume sites, serverless deployments handle this beautifully. When nobody is using the server, you don't pay anything. When there's a spike, it can scale up to handle it.

At some point, it becomes cheaper and faster to run your own servers. If you do, you'll want an autoscaling pool and a load balancer. It might only have a small server in it most of the time. You'll need to define some rules so that it scales up when it gets overwhelmed. When things calm down, make sure it scales back down to one server.

You'll sleep better at night knowing that your servers and costs are resting too.

Published on June 12nd, 2024. © Jesse Skinner

About the author

Jesse Skinner

Hi, I'm Jesse Skinner. I'm a web development coach & consultant. I teach web development teams how to scale up their server infrastructure, improve automated testing and monitoring, reduce costs, and modernize their legacy systems. I focus on empowering teams through customized training and coaching.

Feel free to email me. I'm eager to hear about your challenges and see how I can make your life easier.