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App Scaling: How to Navigate the Challenges of Growth


15 min read

Almost 50% of potential users will leave your site or app if it takes longer than two seconds to load, and they are likely to not come back.

When the user base grows, your servers might struggle to keep up with the increased demand and high traffic. Your business could suffer if the current IT resources cannot help the sudden growth from 10,000 users one day to 100,000.

That’s when you need to consider the application scale methodics. This concept is about adapting and growing scalable applications to handle more users and traffic. This article covers the direct, practical methods of scaling, essential techniques to bolster your app’s infrastructure, and strategies to manage increased traffic without lag or downtime. It’s designed to help you scale your app to meet user demand seamlessly and sustain your application’s performance under pressure.

What is Application Scalability?

Application scalability allows your solution to grow alongside your business and handle many users simultaneously. The main priority of scaling is managing the behind-the-scenes components like databases and servers that users don’t typically see.

Proper app scaling means maintaining top-notch application performance that consistently runs smoothly, provides a seamless user experience, and adapts to growth without compromising performance.

The reasons to scale application.

Neglecting scaling, failing to improve infrastructure capabilities, and ignoring business challenges can lead to decreased application performance and instability.

When Should You Scale an Application?

Working on digital solutions, you may get lost in various processes, changes in functionality, marketing, and innovations, forgetting that your application may not withstand the most critical aspect — the workload. If you are a business owner, CEO, VP, operational director, or team member, understanding when to scale application for optimal performance should be your top priority.

Let’s break down the scenarios to understand the importance of scaling:

#1. Rapid increase in user base

If your app experiences a sudden user surge, mainly due to successful marketing or seasonal events, it’s time to scale. This guarantees that your infrastructure can handle the increased workload without affecting app productivity.

#2. Changing metrics and performance issues

Monitor performance indicators like response times, server load, and error rates. If you notice slowdowns or system downtimes, scaling can prevent performance failures and keep your users satisfied.

#3. Expanding into new markets

Scaling content delivery networks becomes crucial if you plan to launch your app in different parts of the world. Consider using Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to provide smooth operation across various countries.

#4. Proactive problem-solving

Don’t wait for issues to arise. Now, when your app performs well and users are happy, is the best time to focus on server reliability to avoid future problems and ensure smooth development.

#5. Insufficient IT resources On-Premise

On-premises infrastructure is less adaptable to sudden surges of user traffic. In such a case, migrating data to cloud-native architectures and microservices is critical. It allows you to save costs and optimize application performance. With cloud-based scalability solutions, you can set up auto-scaling, so that the needed IT resources are added or removed on-demand. I’ll talk more about this in detail later on.

Expert tips for seamless application scaling.

On-Premises Servers vs. Cloud Solutions: What is Better for Scalability?

When creating a new application, one of the first things to consider is where to host it. This decision affects many aspects: how well your app will work, how easily it can grow, and the overall high quality user experience and satisfaction.

Hosting is like choosing a location for a physical store — you want it to be secure, easy to access, and not too expensive.

On-premises servers and cloud-based infrastructure are two main options for hosting an application. Both have pros and cons and understanding them can help you make the right choice that fits your business needs and budget.

Below is the definition of both and when they’re typically used:

  • On-Premises Servers. These are physical hardware setups that companies use to run their applications. They’re usually found in on-site data centers or rented server spaces. Businesses that prefer on-premises servers often have predictable workloads, stable traffic, and specific security needs that require direct control over their infrastructure.
  • Cloud infrastructure. This concept refers to the usage of virtual servers managed by third-party cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Instead of owning physical servers, businesses opt to rent space on these servers to host their applications and data. Unlike on-premises servers where the client has direct physical access, with cloud infrastructure, the client operates in a virtual environment overseen by the cloud provider.

One key benefit of cloud infrastructure is its scalability. Cloud providers offer flexible resources accessible online, allowing businesses to adjust computing needs quickly. This advantage is especially useful for businesses with changing workloads, rapid growth, or global operations. Additionally, cloud providers offer pre-built scaling solutions, reducing the need for manual configuration and technical expertise.

Limitations & Opportunities of On-Premises Servers vs. Cloud-Based Solutions

When you grasp how much your application can benefit from improved scaling and uptime with a cloud server, you’ll see why switching to this type of data storage is the way to go. Refer to the table below for a clearer overview of the benefits and limitations.

AspectOn-Premises ServersCloud-Based Solutions
Fixed CapacityRequires upfront estimation and investment in fixed capacityOffers dynamic scalability and allows resource adjustment based on demand
Maintenance OverheadNeeds ongoing hardware maintenance and managementIncludes managed services for maintenance, security, and optimization
FlexibilityLimited scalability and adaptability without significant investmentProvides scalability options for any project needs
Cost-EffectivenessMuch more expensive as you purchase and maintain IT hardware and software components by yourselfGuarantees cost-effectiveness as you rent IT resources without the need to configure anything by yourself
Global AvailabilityExpanding globally means setting up many physical servers, which is costly and complexOffers hosting in various data centers, letting you choose the best region or multiple regions to function according to your requirements

Why Choose Cloud Solutions instead of On-Premises Servers for Scaling?

As I mentioned previously, cloud scalability solutions shine when it comes to scaling applications since they can handle sudden increases in users or traffic. Unlike on-premises servers that require physical upgrades and consistent in-person monitoring and checking, cloud platforms allow you to delegate maintenance tasks to the scalability cloud solutions provider and easily scale up or down as needed.

It makes them perfect for managing seasonal spikes, accommodating business growth, or optimizing resource usage without major upfront investments.

In the next section, I present a detailed guide on what opportunities cloud scaling provides to help your business grow flawlessly.

Different Types of Scaling Your Application in the Cloud

Imagine you have a favorite video game. When you first started playing, there were only a few players online. But as the game became popular, more and more players joined, making it harder for your computer to keep up. Many people use it every day, which is great! But it also means that your servers need to handle more traffic. This is where cloud scaling comes into play.

There are different ways to scale your game in the cloud:

  • Vertical scaling. This approach basically allows you to upgrade the computer to handle more players. You add more power (like RAM (Random Access Memory) or CPU (Central Processing Unit)) to the same computer to make it faster and more capable.
  • Horizontal scaling. Instead of upgrading one computer, you add more computers to share the workload. It’s like having multiple players (computers) in your game instead of just one.
  • Diagonal scaling. This is a mix of both vertical and horizontal scaling. You make your existing computers more powerful (vertical), and if that’s not enough, you add more computers (horizontal) to handle even more players.

Types of scalability in cloud computing.

How Cloud Servers Help Save Up Operational Costs?

Businesses that transition to cloud-based solutions often experience a substantial 84% reduction in costs, thanks to the pay-as-you-go model.

There’s no need to invest heavily upfront in hardware or maintenance when migrating to and scaling with cloud solutions. Read below why these cost-saving advantages transform the businesses looking to scale and how they help reduce operational expenses:

Cost Savings with Cloud App Scaling

  • Pay-as-you-go model. This model allows you to pay only for the resources you need to use at the moment. For instance, if your website suddenly gets a lot of visitors, you can instantly get more computer power to handle the traffic. This could mean getting more servers, storage space, or even software applications as needed. When the demand decreases, you can scale down and pay only for what you’re using at that moment
  • Reduced infrastructure costs. Cloud servers eliminate the need for physical hardware, which saves on upfront infrastructure costs like purchasing servers, networking equipment, cooling systems, and dedicated physical space to house them.
  • No maintenance costs. You don’t need to worry about maintenance costs such as hardware repairs, upgrades, or replacements. The cloud provider handles all maintenance tasks and reduces the operational expenses.
  • Scalable pricing plans. Cloud providers have flexible and affordable pricing plans where you can scale resources up or down based on your needs. Scalability in cloud computing means you’re not overpaying for unused resources and can adjust them during peak times or seasonal fluctuations. For example, on Black Friday, you may need 150 servers to function for your app; thus, you pay for 150 servers that day. On an average day, when the traffic is lower, you need only 45 servers, so you only pay for 45 and can adjust this number at any minute.

Optimization and Performance with Cloud Solutions

  • Automatic scaling. Cloud platforms offer auto-scaling capabilities, where resources automatically scale up or down based on demand. This ensures optimal performance during traffic spikes without manual intervention, improving user experience and minimizing downtime.
  • Resource optimization. Cloud solutions allow you to optimize resources by allocating them efficiently. You can allocate more resources to critical tasks and scale down non-essential services, reducing wastage and maximizing resource utilization.
  • Global availability. Cloud providers have data centers all over the globe, which allows deployment of your application closer to your users for faster response times and better performance globally.

Examples of Companies Using Cloud Computing and Scalability

1. Netflix

Netflix uses AWS for cloud scaling. This cloud computing scalability service allows it to handle massive traffic spikes during peak hours without service interruptions. This scalability has helped Netflix become a global streaming giant.

2. Airbnb

Airbnb uses cloud servers from AWS to scale its platform based on user demand. During peak travel seasons, Airbnb experiences a surge in user traffic, and cloud scaling ensures a seamless user experience without downtime.

3. Uber

Uber relies on Google Cloud Platform to scale its ride-hailing application. Cloud scaling enables Uber to handle millions of ride requests daily across multiple cities worldwide, demonstrating the scalability and reliability of cloud servers.

4. Shopify

Shopify, a leading e-commerce platform, also uses cloud servers for scalability issues. During peak shopping seasons like Black Friday, Shopify experiences high traffic volumes but maintains optimal performance and reliability due to cloud scaling strategies. Shopify primarily relies on Google Cloud Platform (GCP) as its cloud solution. However, Shopify also utilizes other cloud providers to ensure redundancy and reliability in its infrastructure.

Understanding the Cost of Building Scalable Web Applications

When it comes to building scalable web applications, one critical factor to consider is cost, particularly in terms of infrastructure and maintenance. Let’s examine different cost strategies based on the size of the company.

Small Businesses and Startups

For small businesses and startups, using scalable cloud services with flexible payment options is often cheaper than buying physical equipment. This way, you don’t need to spend a lot of money upfront, and you don’t have to hire and train a team to manage your systems.

Large Enterprises

Large companies often prefer to have control over their critical aspects, such as data security. As a result, they might decide to manage their own servers instead of using cloud services. Even though this choice may be more expensive initially, it can save up the costs in the long term, especially if they have specific security requirements. However, managing an in-house infrastructure requires a significant investment in terms of staff and expenses.

Many businesses nowadays opt for a combination of on-premise infrastructure and cloud services, known as a hybrid approach. Hence, very few organizations operate solely on-premise, with only government entities or major banks having the resources and regulatory requirements to maintain their infrastructure without using third-party providers.

Cutting Capital Expenses in Cloud App Development

The costs associated with building an application can be divided into two types: capital expenditure (CapEx) and operating expenses (OpEx).

  • CapEx means buying brand-new servers and software licenses to develop your app. It’s a one-time investment that will help you get started and build something valuable in the long run.
  • OpEx is the ongoing costs you incur while running and maintaining your app. This includes paying for cloud hosting services, regular app updates, and marketing campaigns to attract more players.

Here’s the part about cloud computing: you don’t have to worry about CapEx as much. Instead of buying expensive servers and software licenses upfront, you can use cloud services like AWS or Azure. With these services, you pay as you go, just like OpEx. 

So, cloud computing shifts a lot of the financial burden from CapEx to OpEx, making it easier for businesses to manage their budgets and scale up without substantial initial investments.

How to Create a Scalable Application?

Set Clear Scalability Goals

To begin, outline your goals for how your web application development should be going. Consider these key points:

  • Future user base: estimate the number of users you expect in the coming months or years. Think about both the number of users accessing your app at once and the overall user count over time.
  • Traffic: determine how much web traffic your app should handle. Take into account busy periods, like promotions or events, as well as regular usage trends.
  • Data growth: assess how your data storage needs will expand. This includes user-generated content, databases, media files, logs, and any other data your app stores.
  • Scalability plan: use all the insights gathered to plan for how your app will scale to meet increasing demands. This plan might involve changing your app’s architecture, upgrading technology, or adjusting resource allocation.

The situation may be the following:

Your website’s users doubling in a year, or you see more visitors during busy times like holidays. Your aim should be to make sure it can handle all possible changes without any problems. You need to organize all the data in the cloud to adjust resources automatically, improve your database, or upgrade your server if required.

Choose the Right Technologies

When picking how your system should be built, go for a design that can grow and handle more usage smoothly. Here are some options to think about:

№1. Microservices Architecture

If your application is complex, such as an e-commerce platform or a social media network, and needs to handle significant growth in users and transactions, then microservices architecture might be a good fit for you. 

For example:

An e-commerce platform like Amazon or eBay, which deals with millions of users and various functionalities like user accounts, product listings, payments, and order management, benefits from microservices for scalability and flexibility.

№2. Serverless Computing

One significant benefit of serverless computing is scalability, where resources adjust automatically based on demand. This means developers don’t need to handle server management tasks, saving time and costs.

For example:

With serverless setups, you avoid the hassle of managing backend servers. The provider handles provisioning, scaling, and maintenance, reducing the need for a dedicated DevOps team and cutting expenses.

Serverless architectures also allow quick deployment of code changes and updates. You can upload code snippets or functions without dealing with the entire backend infrastructure. This agility speeds up the launch of new features and enhancements.

№3. Containerization

Choose containerization for your software if you need consistent deployment, scaling, and isolation.

For example:

A software development company using Docker containers to package and deploy microservices can ensure consistent performance and easy scalability of independent services across different environments.

Additional Tips

  • Remember to systematically assess your project’s complexity, scalability needs, team expertise, and budget constraints. It will help you make the right decision towards the right scalable architecture model.
  • Choose databases that are known for handling large amounts of data. Examples include MongoDB, Cassandra, and Amazon DynamoDB. These databases can adjust their resources based on your application’s data processing needs, ensuring smooth performance even as your data grows.
Master app scaling to avoid growth growing pains.

Choosing the Best Cloud Provider

When you’re picking a cloud provider for your scalable web application, think about what your project really needs. There are three big players in the cloud market: AWS (Amazon Web Services), Azure (Microsoft Azure), and Google Cloud.

Each of them has its own strengths and weaknesses. To figure out which one’s right for you, you’ll definitely need to do your own research and understand what they offer. Here are some straightforward tips to help you make the best choice:

AWS (Amazon Web Services)

AWS stands out as the premier leader in the cloud infrastructure market, making it a perfect choice for handling large-scale projects with lots of users and data. It’s used by all kinds of businesses, from big companies to startups. 

For example, if you’re running an online store that sells products worldwide, AWS can give you the power to handle lots of customers at once and store all your data securely.

This service is also great for streaming platforms like video or music streaming because it helps deliver content smoothly to many people, as well as useful for businesses using BPA software because its robust scalability and reliability ensures efficient automation processes.

Azure (Microsoft Azure)

Azure is a good choice if your business already uses Microsoft software likeWindows Server, SQL Server, and Active Directory. It’s easy to integrate with Microsoft products, which can save you time and hassle. For instance, if your company relies on Microsoft tools for everything from email to data storage, Azure can provide a seamless experience and help you scale up smoothly.

Google Cloud

Google Cloud is known for its smart tools that can analyze data and make predictions. It’s perfect for businesses that want to use artificial intelligence or machine learning. For example, if you’re working on a project that needs to analyze huge amounts of data or create AI-powered features, Google Cloud has the tools you need to make it happen.

When you’re deciding, think about things like cost, how easy it is to grow your project, security features, and how well the cloud provider works with your existing tools.

Consulting with cloud experts or seeking recommendations from peers in your industry can also provide great insights into choosing the right cloud provider for your project.

Wrapping Up

As you’ve come to understand, scalability offers the chance to boost your business and adjust IT resources based on your specific requirements. It’s a great way to grow the application in tandem with your company, respond effectively to marketing campaigns, avoid unexpected crashes, and continually expand your user base.

Scalability targets both preventing problems for new businesses and optimizing processes if your app has already faced challenges. The best app scaling approach is moving to cloud servers, which can help distribute traffic smoothly and improve performance.

Contact DashDevs experts if you need help with developing a scalable software in the cloud or moving the existing software from on-premise to cloud.

The DeshDevs can be your perfect partner. Our team has already supported numerous businesses in scaling and will help you identify a tailored solution that aligns with your unique needs and objectives.

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Table of contents
What is application scaling?
Imagine a building that expands with your needs. Application scaling ensures your app smoothly handles growth in users, data, and processing demands without performance dips.
How to scale a mobile app?
For mobile app scaling, leverage cloud-based servers that easily grow (horizontal scaling). Pick a robust database (consider sharding for large data). Optimize app code for high traffic with caching and asynchronous tasks.
When to scale an application?
Slow loading times, crashes, and maxed-out servers are red flags for needing to scale your application. Significant user growth or increased business demands also signal the need to scale.
How to increase scalability?
Distribute workload with more servers (horizontal scaling) or boost existing server power (vertical scaling). Optimize code and leverage caching. Break down the app into independent services (microservices) for individual scaling.
Cloud scaling types?
Cloud offers horizontal scaling (adding more virtual machines) and vertical scaling (increasing resources of existing instances).
Cost of building a scalable web application?
Cost depends on complexity, cloud provider, and traffic. Building scalable from the start is generally more cost-effective.