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Magento Scaling Guide: Strategies for Handling Traffic Spikes 

Updated on June 3, 2024

10 Min Read
scaling magento store

Disclaimer: This is a guest blog submitted by Lora Raykova.

There’s nothing better than scores of people visiting your website. Until it crashes.

For Magento store owners, an unexpected downtime of mere minutes disrupts the entire business, throwing all teams into a frenzy to contain the catastrophe without suffering a big hit to their revenue.

In fact, large ecommerce businesses stand to lose a whopping $9,000 per minute of downtime, and that’s without factoring in the aftereffects. To put it in perspective, the average website experiences about 3 hours of outage per month. But can you prepare your Magento website to avoid this scenario altogether?

The short answer is yes, and by following our Magento Scaling step-by-step guide, you can future-proof your ecommerce business for unprecedented traffic floods.

Let’s get started…

What Causes Sudden Spikes in Website Traffic?

spike in traffic GA4

Various factors, such as viral content, marketing campaigns, seasonal events, and SEO efforts, can influence sudden spikes in website traffic for Magento websites.

In your analytics, Magento traffic hike will show up as spikes, which are easily identified when we look at larger periods of time, like a year ago. However, daily monitoring and benchmarking are essential to handle sudden bursts of traffic in a timely manner.

In rare cases, high traffic inflow can stem from technical glitches leading to an artificial increase in visitor numbers, as well as security threats like DDoS attacks that aim to overwhelm your website’s server.

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Can a Website Crash Due to High Traffic?

Without the proper infrastructure configuration, all websites, including Magento stores, can potentially crash due to high traffic. A large volume of concurrent user requests quickly consumes your bandwidth resources, like
RAM, CPU, storage, and hosting capacity.

The immediate results include sluggish load times, user input errors, and website inaccessibility, evident by HTTP response status codes for server errors like:

google 500 error

Several factors specific to Magento websites can contribute to performance issues and potential crashes during periods of increased traffic:

  • Resource Exhaustion: Magento is a feature-rich e-commerce platform, and processing excessive demands can drain your resources, causing your e-store to slow down or even crash.
  • Database Load: Magento relies heavily on a database for product information, customer data, and other functionalities. A surge in traffic can strain the database, leading to performance bottlenecks and potential crashes.
  • Inefficient Code or Extensions: Poorly optimized code or incompatible extensions can exacerbate performance issues during high-traffic periods, leading to slower response times or website crashes.
  • Server Configuration: Inadequate server configuration, insufficient server resources, or hosting on shared servers may contribute to website instability during traffic spikes.
  • Full Page Caching Issues: While caching is essential for performance optimization, improper configuration or issues with full-page caching in Magento can result in increased server loads and potential crashes.

The Impact of Server Crashes on Your Website

Server crashes on Magento stores are detrimental to user experience and business operations.

On average, it takes about seven hours for a business to resume normal operations, but around 18% of IT managers say it takes 11 to 24 hours, or sometimes even longer.

Data Center outages costing over $1m (The Register 2022)

Data Center outages costing over $1m (The Register 2022)

With Magento store owners facing major revenue losses of ~$9,000 per minute, restoring normal operations is vital for the business’s survival.

Apart from the hefty price ecommerce businesses pay for downtime, lost access to your website also leads to substantial missed sales opportunities, decreased customer satisfaction, and damage to your online reputation.

Your site speed and performance already play a key role in how visitors evaluate your business. With little over 2 seconds to impress first-time users, a website that can’t be reached is an instant letdown, making user retention nearly impossible.

Additionally, frequent server crashes can negatively impact your site’s Core Web Vitals and result in decreased search engine rankings as per Google’s requirements. Shifting back to the internal consequences, Magento store owners also face the risk of major data loss (i.e., customer data, order information, etc.) and inventory management issues resulting in shipping delays.

Building the Foundations of Your Scalable Magento Store

Establishing a scalable Magento store includes understanding Magento’s server guidelines, staying updated on recommended configurations, and choosing a high-quality hosting provider that prioritizes scalability and security.

Understand Magento’s Server Guidelines

As of February 2024, Magento 2.4.6 has specific requirements that must be met to ensure optimal performance and compatibility:

1. PHP Version

Magento is compatible with several versions of PHP, including 5.6.x and 5.5.x (with x being 22 or greater).

It includes PHP 8.1 and 8.2. Here are some required PHP settings you must consider:

  • Memory Limit: Set memory_limit to a minimum of 2GB so your Magento store can work with complex operations and large datasets in a streamlined manner.
  • Max Execution Time: Increase max_execution_time for time-consuming tasks to ensure Magento completes critical operations like product imports and data reindexing without delays.
  • Upload Max File Size: Adjust upload_max_filesize to accommodate file sizes (e.g., product images) for smooth handling of product images and downloadables and an enhanced shopping experience.

2. Memory Limit

Adequate memory allocation is required to ensure a seamless and efficient process. When upgrading Magento applications and extensions, it’s recommended that the system have a minimum of 2GB of RAM. This ensures the upgrade process proceeds smoothly.

Implementing a swap file becomes crucial in systems with less than 2GB of RAM. This step prevents potential upgrade failures by increasing available memory resources and mitigating the risk of insufficient memory.

3. Web Servers

For seamless integration of the latest mainline version, your web server must meet specific prerequisites. Magento 2 supports two primary web servers: Apache and Nginx.

Apache users must have either version 2.2, 2.4, or a later version installed to ensure the effective functioning of their Magento 2 installation. If you are utilizing Nginx, it is essential to run version 1.8 or later for optimal stability and functionality of your Magento platform.

4. Database

In Magento version 2.0, MySQL 5.6 serves as the minimum requirement for the database structure, driven by MySQL’s widespread use as an open-source database in web applications.

Magento exhibits compatibility with MariaDB and Percona, enhancing its adaptability across a diverse array of database systems. This flexibility empowers developers to select the database system that aligns best with their specific needs.

In the recent release of Magento 2.4.7, the database requirements have evolved, now necessitating MySQL 8.0 or later or MariaDB 10.4 or later. This adjustment underscores Magento’s commitment to staying abreast of the latest database technologies, ensuring heightened performance and security.

Magento Version Database Requirement
Magento 2.4.x MySQL 8.0
MariaDB 10.6
Magento 2.3.x MySQL 5.6, 5.7
Magento 2.2.x MySQL 5.6, 5.7
Magento 2.1.x MySQL 5.6
(For Magento 2.1.2 and higher, use MySQL 5.7)
Magento 2.0.x MySQL 5.6

5. SSL/HTTPS

The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) stands as a vital security layer, establishing a secure connection between a web server and your web browser. This encrypted link guarantees the confidentiality and integrity of data exchanged between the server and browsers. To integrate SSL into your Magento 2 store, specific prerequisites must be fulfilled:

  • A valid SSL certificate is essential for enabling HTTPS.
  • Remember that self-signed SSL certificates are not supported.
  • Transport Layer Security (TLS) is a mandatory requirement.

Some additional requirements include:

  • Composer 2.2 or a later version is required.
  • Elasticsearch 7.9 or a more recent version is mandatory for use in Magento 2.4.x for search functionality.

⚠️Important: Elasticsearch versions 2.x, 5.x, and 6.x are no longer supported by Magento.

6. Caching

Full-page caching and other caching strategies help reduce server load and enhance page load times.

  • OPcache: Enable PHP OPcache to improve the execution speed of PHP scripts. This helps in reducing the time it takes to load pages.
  • Redis or Varnish: Consider implementing Redis for session storage and caching or Varnish for HTTP acceleration to further elevate performance.

Always refer to the official technical documentation for up-to-date information.

Choose a High-Quality Hosting Provider

Selecting the right hosting provider is a critical decision. As a Magento store owner, your first priority is to find a hosting service that specializes in Magento hosting or offers optimized solutions for ecommerce platforms. Consider factors such as server infrastructure, server location, uptime guarantees, and scalability.

Also, proximity to your audience, reliable uptime, and the ability to scale resources as needed to ensure your website remains responsive even in peak shopping periods.

Managed cloud hosting Cloudways

Managed cloud hosting like Cloudways, among all options, is highlighted for its scalability, security, and cost efficiency, offering a comprehensive solution that supports the potential growth of your store.

With features built specifically for ecommerce success, ecommerce hosting, like SSD hosting, PHP 8, built-in caches, dedicated Firewalls, application isolation, database security, and 24/7 expert support, Magento store owners can confidently launch large-scale campaigns and make every visit count.

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8 Strategies for Handling High Traffic Spikes

By implementing these strategies, you ensure your Magento store will maintain high performance and fast user experiences during high-traffic situations.

Techniques include optimizing server configurations, caching mechanisms, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), scalability measures like load balancing and distributed server setups, and security protocols. By following these comprehensive steps, you can build a reliable and scalable environment that minimizes the risk of store downtime.

1. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A CDN distributes your website’s static content across a network of servers worldwide, reducing latency and speeding up content delivery.

It’s a powerful way for Magento websites to reduce page load times, enhance user experience globally, and mitigate server load during high-traffic periods. Once you choose a reputable CDN provider, configure it using Magento-specific extensions for seamless integration.

After you connect to the service, access your Magento Admin Panel and navigate to System > Configuration > General > Web. Update the Base Skin URL, Base Media URL, and Base JavaScript URL fields with your CDN domain.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Additionally, go to System > Cache Management and enable Full Page Cache.

go to System Cache Management and enable Full Page Cache

Then, flush the Magento cache to ensure that the changes take effect. To test the CDN configuration, visit your Magento store and inspect page elements (images, CSS, JavaScript) to verify that they are loading from the CDN.

2. Cache Your Content

Caching stores frequently accessed data, reducing the need to re-generate it dynamically and speeding up page loading. This greatly reduces server load and helps cater to repeat visits and longer browsing sessions much more efficiently.

Beyond Magento’s built-in caching mechanisms from Varnish Cache, you can leverage more sophisticated caching technologies with all-in-one tools like NitroPack.

Not only will your ecommerce website benefit from device-aware and cookie-aware caching, advanced cache warmup, and smart cache invalidation, but you’ll also experience complete web performance optimization across code, media, and fonts.

3. Integrate a Load-Balancing Solution

Load balancing distributes incoming traffic across multiple servers, preventing overload on a single server. Naturally, this helps store owners achieve optimal resource utilization and enhances overall site availability. Meaning, no server crashes during traffic spikes.

Most often, load balancing will come as part of the hosting solution you choose. In this case, follow the instructions on setting it up for your Magento store. Remember to always flush the Magento cache before you start testing.

To run the test, simply:

  1. Ensure there’s a successful response: Use network tools or commands to ping the IP address or domain name of the load balancer from your Magento server.
  2. Verify that the distribution is even: Generate some test traffic to your Magento store and observe how the load balancer distributes the requests among the server instances.
  3. Monitor Magento logs for any errors or warnings related to communication with the load balancer.

4. Optimize Your Media Files and Other Content

E-commerce websites rely heavily on high-quality images and media to better present their products. Magento stores are no exception, and resource optimization can achieve major improvements in minimizing bandwidth usage and page load times. Images, videos, CSS, JavaScript, and fonts are the main culprits to inefficient site performance, and there are several ways you can go about it:

You can either choose dedicated web compression and minification tools or automate the entire process with an all-in-one site optimization solution.

5. Implement Enhanced Security Measures

52% of security vulnerabilities stem from human error inside the company, and apart from using security enhancement features from your hosting provider, you should also consider training your teams in basic cyber security.

Installing SSL certificates for HTTPS, conducting regular security audits (or at least monitoring through your hosting service), and promptly applying Magento security patches are other precautionary measures vital for your store’s uninterrupted success.

6. Request Increased Capacity Before Spikes With Your Hosting Provider

Preparing a large-scale marketing campaign, or you’re simply approaching a busy seasonal event? Coordinate this with your hosting provider to scale up server resources in anticipation of traffic spikes. This ensures server capacity can meet the demands during peak times, preventing website slowdowns and potential crashes due to increased network requests.

7. Monitor Your Website Traffic and Performance

Apart from Google Analytics and available tools via your hosting provider, investing in monitoring tools like Datadog or New Relic can provide insights into website performance, traffic patterns, and server health. This will enable you to identify performance bottlenecks in real-time, react faster, and enhance the overall website reliability.

8. Schedule Your Promotional Activities

A goal without a plan is just a wish, and this is especially true for Magento store owners. Organizing your promotional campaigns ahead of time aligns your teams and helps strategize for unexpected technical hiccups.

Coordinate marketing efforts with your website’s capacity and use content scheduling tools to distribute traffic evenly and avoid sudden spikes. And, remember, a promo event that fires during off-peak hours can be just as successful, especially when it’s a limited-time offer.

Conclusion

Bottom line, safeguarding your Magento store from the pitfalls of unexpected traffic spikes is critical for both technical stability and business success.

The potential fallout from server crashes extends beyond immediate revenue loss, affecting user satisfaction, brand reputation, and search engine rankings.

Choosing a high-quality hosting provider equipped with scalability features and robust security measures, implementing load balancing, optimizing media files, and integrating enhanced security measures contribute to creating a solid foundation for your Magento store.

Proactive coordination with hosting providers to anticipate traffic spikes, coupled with regular monitoring of website performance, ensures your Magento store remains responsive during peak periods.

By following these Magento Scaling strategies, you position your ecommerce business for sustained growth and enhanced user satisfaction. Even during high-traffic times.

Author Bio

Lora Raykova Lora has 7+ years of experience developing in-depth, specialized content for SaaS companies in the CEE region. She has sourced and collaborated with subject-matter experts on site speed optimization for WordPress, Core Web Vitals, and the future of web performance. “If you can’t explain it to a 7-year-old, you’ve not researched it well enough” is Lora’s guiding principle when publishing professional insight for complex technical topics.
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Abdul Rehman

Abdul is a tech-savvy, coffee-fueled, and creatively driven marketer who loves keeping up with the latest software updates and tech gadgets. He's also a skilled technical writer who can explain complex concepts simply for a broad audience. Abdul enjoys sharing his knowledge of the Cloud industry through user manuals, documentation, and blog posts.

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