When building or modernizing a web application, you should consider every key factor that will impact its success. Scalability is one of the first on the list.
Even if your product is at the early development lifecycle stage, you should be forward-thinking. Web apps often experience rapid growth, and shortly after the launch, requests per minute (RPM) may significantly increase. Your application should be ready to withstand these changes and meet high expectations.
That’s why web application scalability is essential. Being able to cope with a growing customer flow and the expanded audience will take your business to a new level. Otherwise, there is a huge risk of constant failures and decreased performance quality.
However, efficient web scaling is quite a complex task that requires considerable time, money, and resource investments. Moreover, many are unaware of the best web product scaling methods and the challenges they could face in progress.
So how to scale your web application to make it robust and future-proof? In this post, you will find the answers to this question and even more.
We at Acropolium have gained rich expertise regarding SaaS development, cloud solutions, and web applications modernization. Drawing on our team’s experience, we will introduce the key challenges, efficient solutions, and benefits of application scaling.
The Most Common Problems with the Scalability of Web Applications
The complexity and cost of scaling a web application depend on many factors. Accordingly, the efficiency of the chosen methods may also vary. But whether you need to improve an existing app’s performance or create a large-scale app from scratch, it’s obviously not a piece of cake.
The potential issues may come up from any side, so you should be ready to address them right away. Here is a list of the most common challenges one may face along the way and the most efficient ways to address these issues.
Database inefficiency. A powerful and resistant database is a must-have when scaling a web app. The issues may arise because of choosing the wrong database engine. Another risk is in providing several databases to cope with queries’ growth. The most reliable solution to this problem is to use replication and sharding methods. Replication ensures that data is handled on multiple databases simultaneously. In turn, sharding will allow you to segment data and not to handle it in one place.
Server issues. Server overloads are majorly caused by increased RPM and the number of connected users. If your server fails, it may result in poor performance and quality of your system. You can turn to vertical scaling, horizontal scaling or combine these methods to strengthen your server.
Code failures. Clean code and consistent architecture are the basics of your website’s scalability. Any issues regarding your app’s frontend or backend may result in disaster. Not to let this happen, you need to make sure your tech partners constantly check the code quality, test the product, and maintain relevant documentation.
Lack of automation. Traditional on-premises solutions may lead to various mistakes related to your app’s scalability and maintenance. Manual errors are nearly inevitable. In contrast, turning to cloud solutions will automate certain processes, allowing you to scale your web application up or down, depending on your needs.
Poor traffic distribution. Inefficient server management often causes problems with traffic distribution and balance. Sharing traffic between multiple servers could be complex. That’s why it’s recommended to use a few traffic balancers to reduce the risks if one of them fails.
Load problems. Although high website traffic proves your app’s success, it may also cause certain problems. Querying millions of simultaneous visitors is quite challenging. So one of the key goals of a scalable web application is to build a robust system able to handle such traffic. In most cases, caches are the most effective solution to such issues. They help reduce database queries and improve the loading speed.
How to successfully scale your web app
Successful app scaling depends on many different factors. It’s a complex process that concerns the majority of your app’s elements, including databases, modern architecture, code quality, loading speed, servers, etc.
Although there are many effective solutions to improve your website’s capacity, not all of them will suit your very case. Certain scalability tactics might be a perfect match in one situation and a waste of time in another.
To choose the right approach, you need to prioritize your app’s specifics and address the performance issues it’s currently experiencing. Outdated code, unreliable databases, insufficient loading speed, etc., require implementing certain scaling methods.
Here are the most efficient and popular ways to improve your application’s scalability.
According to Statista, most respondents (55%) claim better scalability to be the main driver of cloud-based security solutions.
Cloud computing is a reliable solution that enables efficient server scaling.
Full or partial migration will address many issues related to scalability, offering secure data storage and overall improvement of your system’s performance.
However, here comes an important decision to make. You can choose either a horizontal or vertical scaling approach, depending on your current needs and the web app’s nature.
If your server fails to withstand the growing number of simultaneous clients’ requests, sooner or later, it will make your web app work slower, experience errors, or even crash. You will need to increase RPM and CPU to save your audience and keep your application alive. Vertical scaling is aimed to increase RPM and CPU metrics. This method is often used to make immediate changes and save the day.
However, vertical scaling is rather a temporary solution than a future-proof one. Adding resources or even moving to a more reliable server won’t prevent you from multi-level challenges. Any server has its limits, and you might face a similar problem in some time. To cope with it, you will need to implement drastic architectural changes.
Read also: Best cloud providers to consider.
If you’re looking for a more persistent solution, horizontal scaling is often more preferable. It involves expanding the number of servers to increase reliability and provide extra fallback options in case of an emergency. Moreover, multiple servers enable scaling an app with no limits.
Such an approach is much cheaper than handling your single hardware on your own. Turning to ready-made solutions provided by AWS, Azure, etc., provides you with a simplified form of server maintenance. Certain processes can be automated to eliminate the complexity of multiple server management.
When choosing the horizontal approach, consider autoscaling as an alternative to traditional on-premises solutions. It will relieve you of the need to decide when and how to scale your app up or down. Instead of time-consuming manual processes, autoscaling copes with implementing the necessary horizontal scaling to adjust the servers’ performance.
Another beneficial option is to use load balancers for efficient traffic distribution. Setting several load balancers with access to servers’ IPs will improve routing traffic between clients and servers.
Read also: How to reduce cloud costs.
Database management is an integral component of scaling web applications. If you choose a horizontal approach, your database engine should be efficient enough to handle numerous queries. A complex system of multiple servers requires a separate database smoothly integrated into your app’s architecture. You can provide reliable database management with the help of replication or sharding approaches.
Replication involves a central database and a few additional ones that store the copied data. Any request accomplished on the central database will be instantly replicated to the subordinate databases via a network. The key advantages of database replication are reliability, robust recovery, and improved read performance.
In turn, the sharding method involves data distribution across numerous smaller databases. Pieces of separated data are stored in multiple nodes, which significantly increases your app’s capacity and reduces the burdens caused by a single storage location.
To make your system even more reliable, you can combine replication and sharding solutions. In this manner, you will split data into segments and then replicate each to improve database performance.
Along with the growing number of queries, the database engine is at risk of overload. No matter how powerful your database solution is, you should find a way to reduce this pressure for successful web application scalability. Caching is the most common and effective way to cope with this problem.
Caching technique allows storing frequently requested data in a separate temporary memory that constantly updates. It allows the main database to process and operate data faster as most parts are immediately redirected to caches.
For example, when users enter the application, the request is forwarded to the cache first. The database will have to accept this query only if the cache doesn’t contain the particular user’s information. Thus, the main database workload is reduced, working more efficiently.
Content Delivery Network
Content Delivery Network (CDN) also takes advantage of the cache tires. However, this solution exists for a different purpose. It’s supposed to improve your web app’s frontend scalability, delivering content faster and with a reduced loading speed.
CDN works as a server network that distributes content in multiple geographical locations. With the help of this technology, the end-users’ requests are processed by the nearest server. This is particularly important if your web application contains a lot of heavy content, such as images, videos, audio files, etc. CDN makes routing content processes more streamlined, satisfying users and improving your platform’s performance.
You can use CDN solutions offered by service providers such as Amazon Web Services CloudFront, Cloudflare, etc.
No advanced solutions will make sense when building a scalable app if your code isn’t clean and well-functioning. All stages of web app development, including the tech stack, product architecture, UX design, and deployment, directly impact your application’s capacity to scale.
That’s why it’s extremely important to provide constant quality checks and multiple QA testing sessions at all stages of such software development. Improve algorithms, take advantage of appropriate design patterns, and ensure you won’t end up with a spaghetti code instead of a large-scalable application.
When building a plan on how to scale your app, you should pay extra attention to choosing the right architecture pattern. It has a great impact on an application’s scalability. The preliminary choice depends on the product’s nature, goals, market and industry demands, etc.
Here are the most common architecture types suitable for large-scalable apps.
- Layered architecture. The pattern consists of multiple data layers. Apps with such an architecture may be hard to scale as they don’t involve multiple servers and databases.
- Event-driven architecture. This pattern depends on certain events (state changes) that trigger the data shifts and interactions.
- Microkernel (plug-in) architecture. Such architecture involves a minimal core operating system that you can enrich by adding more functions. It ensures a clear distinction between basic and additional features.
- Microservices architecture. This kind of architecture consists of multiple modules that don’t depend on each other. So you can develop, deploy, and change certain elements of the app without changing the entire application.
Does your business really need the scalability of a web application?
As you see, reaching web application scalability is quite a complex task that requires significant time and resource investments. So before starting such a challenging project, you need to decide if your product really needs the ability to scale.
First of all, determine whether your web app is expected to experience large user traffic and increased load. If your website has a few hundred users and their number isn’t likely to grow in the foreseeable future, a large-scale solution may be an unnecessary waste of time and money.
Also, the decision to scale will be hasty for those who’re running startups at an early stage of their lifecycles. In such cases, your main goal is to bring your product to the market and verify its capacity. After a while, your web application has all chances to hit the target and expand the audience. Then, you may consider scaling as a real prospect for your company’s business growth.
However, application scalability is often not a prospect but an immediate need.
Here is the list of situations where scaling will open up new opportunities for your web platform or simply solve its current problems.
- Your system experiences high loads.
- Your web application is outdated, and you consider migrating to the cloud.
- You want to save time and cost with the ready-made server, database, and APIs solutions.
- The app is required to comply with certain regulations.
- Your website’s workload should be regulated and balanced, serving end-users around the globe equally well.
If any of these statements are true in your case, scaling may be the best or even the only effective way out.
The following case study may help you better understand when web application scalability is beneficial for business and how to implement an efficient solution.
Acropolium’s Case Study
In this project, our company needed to provide our client with optimization of a huge enterprise construction management software. The product consisted of numerous modules and features based on various technologies. Our goal was to modernize certain software parts, use new frontend and backend technologies, make the product scalable, and add more features.
The key challenge we faced was to overcome miscommunication that emerged due to significant time zone differences between the teams working on the project. Constant specifications changes could have resulted in problems with timeline and budget planning.
Our solutions were discussed and provided in collaboration with the client’s in-house development team. They delivered user stories and functional specifications so that we could start working on a logging system, a summary of changes, data of changes, and a comparison mechanism between pre- and post-changed states.
As a result, we scaled the system and increased its working speed by 60%. We also migrated the main modules to new technologies, provided efficient documentation of all sub-systems, modernized the frontend side, and optimized the project management system.
Start Your Journey to a Large Scale Future
To sum up, you can use various approaches to scale a web application. Turning to cloud computing solutions, leading efficient database management, and taking advantage of caching techniques are just some of the steps you may take to empower and expand your system’s capabilities.
With constant innovations and new robust technologies, you will have a wide range of options on how to scale your web application. The cloud-based approaches are even more cost-efficient than on-premises ones. At the same time, the solutions they offer are future-proof and reliable. With multiple servers, secure databases, and scaling automation, you can find the most effective way to build a powerful and durable system.
Looking for an experienced tech partner to help you choose the right way to scale your web application?
We at Acropolium could be a perfect match. Our team members are experts in finding scalable solutions. We’ve managed numerous projects regarding processes automation and full system modernization. The products we build are easy to scale on cloud architecture, depending on your business growth.
So if you have any questions or ideas concerning your web app’s scalability, feel free to drop us a line and get our expert consultation. Let’s start the journey to your app’s large-scale future together!