Clustering vs. Load Balancing—What’s the Difference?

Actual motorist traffic can be used as a metaphor for website traffic. Both require people to use paths—in the former sense, through physical roads, and in the latter sense, through connections among terminals. In both, the travel time may be affected by various factors, such as the number of people on the road, how many vehicles it can accommodate at once, and ongoing repairs, among others.

A small road becomes a bottleneck, crowding and frustrating people trying to pass through. Online, websites with limited hosting capacities function the way narrow roads do in real life. This is why companies have to come up with ways to unclog the bandwidth and make traveling through these sites more efficient.

For businesses, a quick way of delivering smooth load times to multiple customers is by configuring server farms using clustering or load balancing. This ensures that requests from visitors’ computers are met in a timely manner, and application security is maintained. There are differences between these types of hosting, which we will examine below.

Clustering

Clustered hosting uses multiple servers for a single website. This is useful especially for larger sites, which have different moving parts, like static pages, a blog, file transfers, e-mail systems, and even databases. In a clustered hosting environment, if one part of the website crashes or becomes non-functional, it will likely not affect the others. With clustering, the website need not go down due to a single point of failure.

Clustering distributes website visitors with the help of algorithms that function as stoplights for data. For example, when web traffic comes through a host cluster, a single server will act as a master controller that directs the traffic to the appropriate servers.

One upside to this is that hosting packages offered by providers may come with clustering capabilities. This means that it can be less expensive to host your website. This type of hosting is also user-friendly in that it does not require extensive knowledge of programming.

A disadvantage to it, though, is that clusters sometimes have downtimes, or scheduled maintenance sessions. Clustering also requires more hardware upgrades for websites that need larger data capabilities. At some point, if you rely completely on clustered hosting, you’ll need to evaluate when scaling up your response times is worth the extra cost.

Load Balancing

The load balancing process makes use of the concept of a cluster switch. What this means is that it distributes parallel tasks to computing units in a system. Proper load balancing ensures that a system is stable and can receive large amounts of traffic. This is essential for websites that have multiple visitors a day and perform various requests, like that of e-commerce stores.

Server load balancing is more flexible and sustainable than clustering. They can support heterogeneous servers and can provide support for longer hours than clustering. Load balancing is a type of failover or a way to ensure continued service despite a component’s failure. For example, a web server may be monitored through fetching pages. If an area becomes non-responsive, the load balancer ceases to send traffic to it. When it comes back online, the load balancer resumes sending data.

However, load balancing should be configured by an experienced professional. It’s also possible that if your existing architecture is not optimized for load balancing, it might have to be updated, and new hardware purchased. It’s also important to have someone manage the hardware and conduct server health checks.

Load Balancing by Resonate

Running your company’s website takes more than just providing a few gigabytes of space on the internet for your webpages. The more data your site needs to run, the better your infrastructure needs to be at managing your site’s traffic flow. If you are looking for load balancing, choose Resonate. We provide software load balancing solutions for organizations. Get in touch with us to see how we can help.

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