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WordPress Load Balancing — What Is It, How It Works and How to Set It Up?

Updated on June 13, 2024

12 Min Read
WordPress Load Balancing

Let me guess—you’re here because your WordPress site is getting more traffic than your server can handle.

If that’s the case, you need a load balancer to distribute network traffic across multiple backend servers. And hosts like Cloudways Autonomous use advanced load balancing to ensure high availability, fast speeds, and stability for WordPress sites.

This blog covers everything you need to know about load balancing: its benefits, how it works, and the challenges users face during implementation. We’ll also discuss how to set it up manually and with Cloudways Autonomous.

So, let’s dive in.

How Load Balancing Works?

How Load Balancing Works

A load balancer acts as a middleman between your WordPress site and incoming traffic, directing traffic to different servers.

When traffic increases, the load balancer dynamically routes more incoming requests to the available servers, effectively distributing the load. This ensures that each server receives an appropriate traffic share, preventing overload.

Load balancers come in two main types: hardware and software.

Hardware load balancers are physical devices positioned between your server and the internet. Although they tend to be more expensive, they often deliver superior performance.

Software load balancers, on the other hand, are applications running on a server that acts as a proxy between the internet and your WordPress site. They are generally less costly but may be more challenging to configure.

Effortless Load Balancing & Autoscaling with Cloudways Autonomous

Enjoy seamless load balancing and Kubernetes-powered autoscaling to handle traffic surges, ensuring your WordPress site remains fast and secure.

Why Would You Need Load Balancing?

Load balancing is needed when you want to improve your website’s load times and ensure optimal performance and user satisfaction. Distributing traffic efficiently across multiple servers can lead to faster load times and more reliable website performance.

For instance, if your e-commerce site is running a limited-time promotion, load balancing helps handle the increased traffic without slowing down or crashing, enabling smooth transactions for customers.

Benefits of Load Balancing

Load balancing provides numerous advantages by effectively managing traffic between application servers and users. These benefits include:

1. Enhanced Availability

Load balancing ensures continuous availability by seamlessly redirecting traffic from failing or under-maintenance servers to operational ones. This approach prevents downtime, allowing server upgrades and maintenance to be conducted without interrupting application access.

2. Improved Scalability

By distributing incoming traffic across multiple servers, the load balancer prevents any single server from becoming overwhelmed, thus optimizing system performance under varying traffic loads. It dynamically adjusts the number of active servers in response to traffic fluctuations, facilitating efficient resource allocation and enabling seamless scalability.

3. Optimized Performance

Load balancing mechanisms evenly distribute workloads across servers to enhance application responsiveness and reliability. Additionally, the system minimizes latency by directing user requests to the nearest server, ensuring swift and efficient data transmission.

4. Efficient Failure Management

In case of server failures, load balancers automatically reroute traffic to operational servers and backup resources. For instance, during a network outage affecting a critical resource like a mail server, the load balancer redirects traffic to unaffected servers, thereby maintaining service continuity and minimizing disruptions.

When Should You Implement Load Balancing?

Imagine you run a popular eCommerce store. Initially, with a small number of shoppers, your single server handles all transactions effortlessly.

However, as your customer base grows and you offer more products, the server begins to struggle with the increased load, resulting in slow page loads, failed checkouts, and occasional crashes. This negatively impacts the shopping experience and frustrates your customers.

Here are telltale signs of when you should implement load balancing:

  • Increased Traffic: When your server can no longer handle the growing number of shoppers and requests, leading to performance issues.
  • Performance Degradation: When customers experience noticeable slow page loads and delayed responses, especially during peak shopping times.
  • Frequent Outages: When server crashes become common due to overload, disrupting the shopping experience.
  • Scalability Needs: When you need to ensure your platform can accommodate a growing customer base without significant reengineering.
  • High Availability Requirements: When you need to maintain a seamless shopping experience, even if individual servers fail.

By deploying multiple server instances and using a load balancer to distribute customer traffic, you can ensure smooth transactions, reduce page load times, and prevent server overloads.

How to Set Up Load Balancing on a WordPress Site (2 Methods)

For the sake of this blog, we’re going to look at two approaches to load balance a WordPress site:

Let’s start with the manual approach.

Method #1: How to Set Up WordPress Load Balancing (Manual Approach)

Follow the steps below to implement load balancing manually. We’ll use DigitalOcean to create and configure cloud infrastructure for load balancing. However, keep in mind that the steps require technical knowledge.

Note: Move to this part of the guide if the manual approach seems too technical.

Step 1: Creating WordPress Droplets

First, create a DigitalOcean cloud account if you don’t already have one. We’ll use the DigitalOcean console to set up two WordPress droplets. In DigitalOcean’s terminology, “droplets” are simple, scalable virtual machines.

  • Head to your DigitalOcean console using the URL. You will then land on your first project, which is the default project:

Head to your DigitalOcean console

  • Select the dropdown and click Droplets:

Select the dropdown and click Droplets

  • Choose your desired region and data center. We’ve picked the following configurations:
  • Region → Frankfurt
  • VPC Network → Default

Choose your desired region and datacenter

  • Search for WordPress in the marketplace:

Search for WordPress in the marketplace

(This WordPress image includes all the necessary software and packages, including Apache and MySQL)

  • Choose your droplet’s type and pick your desired CPU settings. Here’s what we’ve chosen:
  • Droplet Type → Basic
  • CPU Options → You can use any CPU type for this, but in this blog, we have used the basic plan ($12/mo)

Choose your droplet's type and pick your desired CPU settings

  • Choose the Authentication Method and set up a Password.

Choose the Authentication Method and set up a Password

Hostname → wordpress-1 and wordpress-2

  • To speed up the process, you can increase the number of Droplets to 2, allowing them to be created and start simultaneously in a single step.

increase the number of Droplets to 2

  • Click “Create Droplet” to create your droplets, and they will be ready in under 60 seconds.

Click “Create Droplet” to create your droplets

  • Once the Droplets are created, you can access and view their details from your project’s dashboard.

Once the Droplets are created, you can access and view their details from your project's dashboard

Step 2: Setting Up WordPress Droplets

  • Accessing the Public IP addresses of these WordPress Droplets will not open our WordPress website yet and will show this page instead:

Setting Up WordPress Droplets

(This security measure has been put in place to protect the initial configuration of WordPress, where the administrative user is set up.)

  • You must first connect to the Droplet via SSH to remove the placeholder web page. Once you connect, it’s important to complete the WordPress configuration promptly.
  • We’ll use DigitalOcean’s built-in browser command line interface to connect via SSH. To proceed with that, simply click on your droplet’s name:

use DigitalOcean's built-in browser command line interface to connect via SSH

  • Head to “Access” and click “Launch Droplet Console.”

Head to Access and click Launch Droplet Console

  • You’ll see a new window with the command line interface that you can use to connect to SSH.

You'll see a new window with the command line interface that you can use to connect to SSH

Once you are connected, there are two ways you can configure your wordpress installation:

  1. From the command line interface
  2. From the WordPress installation wizard

For this blog, we’ll proceed with option 2 as it is simpler.

  • To proceed, simply close your browser’s command line and access your droplet’s Public IP address again. Accessing the IP will take you to the WordPress installation wizard:

WordPress installation wizard

  • Fill in the details and click on Install WordPress:

Fill in the details and click on Install WordPress

  • Next, log in using the credentials you just installed your WordPress with:

log in using the credentials you just installed your WordPress with

login to wordpress dashboard

  • That’s it. Your first WordPress website is set up and running:

your first WordPress website is set up and running

  • Follow the same steps for your second WordPress Droplet as well.
  • Once both websites are configured, you will have two WordPress websites accessible via their respective Public IPs.

second WordPress websites

Step 3: Creating and Setting Up Load Balancer

Now, let’s proceed to set up and configure DigitalOcean’s load balancer.

  • Navigate to the dropdown and select Load Balancer using the link as before:

Navigate to the dropdown and select Load Balancer

For this approach, we have used the following load balancer configuration:

  • Load Balancer Type → Regional
  • Datacenter Region → Frankfurt

(Note: Since both of our droplets are in Frankfurt, we’ll select the same region for our Load Balancer)

load balancer configuration

  • VPC Network → Default
  • Scaling Configuration → Default

scaling configurations

  • Search for your earlier created droplet’s hostname to connect your droplets to the load balancer:

Search for your earlier created droplet's hostname to connect your droplets to the load balancer

Advanced Settings → Default

  • Set the name of your load balancer and create it. This will automatically connect your WordPress Droplets to your Load Balancer. Any request sent to the Load Balancer will be automatically load-balanced between the droplets.

Set the name of your load balancer and create it

Step 4: Testing

  • Once you have the Load Balancer’s IP, you can access it to test your websites.

Once you have the Load Balancer's IP, you can access it to test your websites

  • We can see the load balancer opened both websites differently on each request.

We can see the load balancer opened both websites differently on each request

second wordpress site load balancer implemented

  • Setting up WordPress Droplets and using a Load Balancer on top can be achieved, but it is complex to set up.

Now, let’s see how Cloudways Autonomous for WordPress makes load balancing a breeze.

Method #2: How to Set Up WordPress Load Balancing (Using Cloudways Autonomous)

Cloudways Autonomous is a fully managed web hosting solution for WordPress that automatically scales resources in real-time to meet your website’s traffic demands.

Powered by Kubernetes, it’s a superior solution to traffic management problems because of autoscaling. It employs load balancers to distribute traffic efficiently, maximizing website speed and performance.

As traffic fluctuates, hosting resources dynamically scale up or down, ensuring your WordPress or WooCommerce sites remain fast and responsive.

So, how do you enable WordPress load balancing using Cloudways Autonomous? Well, you don’t have to.

There is no toggle. No switch. It is enabled by default on Cloudways Autonomous.

Just choose a plan, spin up your WordPress or Woocommerce site, and point your domain.

Your site will then be hosted on an autoscaling infrastructure with autoscaling and load balancing built-in to handle even the most strenuous traffic.

With Autonomous, things are fully managed and set up.

This is how Cloudways Autonomous offers WordPress load balancing and autoscaling capabilities without any configurations.

How Does Load Balancing Work on Cloudways Autonomous?

Consider an eCommerce store during peak shopping periods, such as Black Friday, when many visitors access the site simultaneously. When a user visits the store, the request first goes to Cloudflare.

From Cloudflare, the request is forwarded to a primary cloud load balancer. This load balancer distributes incoming traffic across multiple WordPress pods (e.g., Pod 1, Pod 2, Pod N) to prevent any single pod from being overwhelmed. Each pod processes the request, retrieving data from Redis for caching, file storage for media files, and a centralized database for dynamic content.

How Does Load Balancing Work on Cloudways Autonomous

The response is then returned to the user via the load balancer and Cloudflare. For administrative tasks, an admin’s SSH connection request is routed through a secondary cloud load balancer dedicated to SSH traffic, directing it to an available SSH pod for secure management access.

This setup ensures high availability, reliability, and efficient performance for user traffic and administrative access, especially during peak shopping periods when traffic spikes significantly.

Note: Autonomous uses CF enterprise, which has enterprise WAF and DDoS mitigation.

Simplified WordPress Load Balancing with Cloudways Autonomous

No configurations needed! Enjoy built-in autoscaling and load balancing, fully managed to handle any traffic.

Challenges While Implementing Load Balancing

Here are some of the challenges of load-balancing implementation:

Securing and Encrypting Traffic

Securing and encrypting traffic in load balancing is essential to protect data and clients from threats like eavesdropping, tampering, and spoofing. However, these security measures can add overhead and latency, complicating the load-balancing process. Key issues include SSL/TLS termination points, certificate and key management, compliance with regulations, and the impact on load-balancing algorithms, health checks, and session persistence.

Cloudways Autonomous addresses these challenges by using Cloudflare Enterprise (CF ENT). This eliminates the need to install and maintain SSL/TLS certificates on your infrastructure, as CF ENT manages all aspects of SSL security, including automatic renewals.

This offloading simplifies the process, reduces overhead, and ensures robust data protection without compromising load-balancing efficiency.

While users can opt for their own CF plan, it can be costly. CF Enterprise is expensive, and even Pro ($20) or Business ($200) plans add up. Autonomous offers this for free.

Handling Failures and Health Checks

Handling failures and conducting health checks are significant challenges in load balancing. Failures can occur at any level, requiring mechanisms to detect and remove failed servers and restore them upon recovery. Health checks involve periodic probes to monitor server status and performance, needing careful configuration to ensure accuracy and efficiency.

With Cloudways Autonomous, all failures, health checks, and errors are managed through its infrastructure. Leveraging Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Cloudways Autonomous ensures continuous monitoring and management by dedicated teams who handle serious alerts and health issues around the clock. This comprehensive management relieves customers of these responsibilities, ensuring reliable and efficient load balancing.

Scaling and Updating

Scaling and updating your system is a critical challenge in load balancing. These processes are necessary to meet changing demands and enhance performance but can disrupt the system, causing downtime or errors.

With Cloudways Autonomous, our engineering team handles all updates and maintenance, ensuring smooth and uninterrupted scaling. Scaling is automated based on predefined thresholds, allowing seamless adaptation to changing demands without customer intervention and ensuring efficient and reliable load balancing.

Cost

Managing load balancers in high-traffic environments can indeed be costly, involving expenses for hardware, software licensing, and managed services from cloud providers.

We understand the financial strain this can place on businesses. That’s why Cloudways Autonomous manages many costs, including GCP subscriptions, Cloudflare Enterprise, and all other operational expenses. This alleviates the financial burden on our users, allowing them to efficiently balance high traffic without incurring excessive costs.

Conclusion

A single server has limited capacity, and as a website experiences a surge in traffic, such as during a sale, it may slow down or become unavailable.

This is where a Load Balancer comes in. It distributes the load of visitors and their requests across multiple instances.

However, simply adding a load balancer won’t instantly improve performance due to potential network latency when services are spread across servers.

This is why load balancing needs to run in parallel with auto-scaling.

Cloudways Autonomous uses load balancers and auto-scaling. It integrates Cloudflare’s enterprise-level edge cache and CDN and includes the premium Redis Object Cache Pro plugin for WordPress.

The result is a fast and responsive WordPress or WooCommerce site.

Q1. Is nginx a load balancer?

Yes, Nginx, a popular web server software, can be configured as a powerful and efficient load balancer to enhance your server’s resource availability and performance.

Q2. What is load balancing in the front end?

Load balancing in the front end refers to distributing incoming network traffic across multiple servers to ensure no single server becomes overwhelmed. This enhances a website’s performance, reliability, and scalability by ensuring that user requests are handled efficiently and evenly, providing a smooth and responsive user experience.

Q3. What is a load-balancing website?

A load-balancing website uses a technique to distribute network traffic evenly across a pool of resources that support an application. This is essential for modern applications that must handle millions of simultaneous users, ensuring fast and reliable delivery of text, videos, images, and other data to each user.

Q4. How to load balance a WordPress site?

To load balance a WordPress site, you can either manually set up droplets and a load balancer on DigitalOcean or use Cloudways Autonomous. The manual approach involves creating WordPress droplets, setting them up via SSH, and configuring a load balancer to distribute traffic. Cloudways Autonomous, on the other hand, automatically scales resources in real-time, utilizing Cloudflare for CDN and DDoS protection and a global load balancer to distribute traffic across WordPress pods, ensuring high availability and performance.

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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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