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The Challenges of Network Load Balancing in 2020

By: Devin Partida on October 13, 2020

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have switched to a work-from-home approach. This sudden shift in available IT infrastructure has led to several issues with system management. Many have turned to network load balancing to sustain mission-critical work, but this comes with its own challenges.

Load balancing distributes traffic across multiple servers or data centers to avoid overloading. Since 82% of surveyed companies have increased their cloud adoption amid the pandemic, improving network responsiveness is crucial. While load balancing can help in that regard, the massive migration toward the process raises some issues.

Network load balancing has many advantages, but it's not foolproof. Businesses interested in pursuing it should be aware of its challenges in 2020.

Scalability

One of the most enticing advantages of cloud computing is its scalability, especially considering its rapid adoption. Rather ironically, this area is also one of load balancing's most prominent weaknesses. Most balancers have a limited number of nodes to distribute processes too, limiting scalability.

For example, Windows NLB can balance loads across 32 servers, which seems considerable at first. While that may be plenty for some processes, it may not be enough to support an entire company's network traffic. Now that businesses are moving most, if not all, of their operations to the cloud, they have higher needs.

With limited available nodes, balancers will start to become less efficient with significant workloads. A large enough enterprise may need to use multiple load balancers as a result. That could impact cost and interoperability.

Maintaining Network Security

Security is another chief concern among businesses in the switch to remote work. Generally speaking, network load balancing improves security since it reduces the likelihood of a crash. Given their new strain, though, ensuring security could be a more challenging task.

As more businesses adopt new web-based applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP), they have more to secure. Smaller companies may not have the resources to handle both the balancing and security of these applications. Their IT departments may spread too thin by focusing on load-balancing techniques and missing security loopholes.

Many load balancers decrypt traffic before delivering a request, which presents a security concern. If the load balancer and web server are in separate data centers, it could leave information exposed as it travels between the two. The complexity of load balancers also leads to vulnerabilities like unsecured administrative interfaces due to inconsistent builds.

Storage Management Inefficiencies

As businesses rapidly transition into a cloud-based workflow, their storage needs likewise skyrocket. While the cloud itself can account for these swift changes in demand, not all network load balancers can. Some techniques may not be able to handle the data replication necessary.

Balancing replication across multiple data centers can lead to inefficiencies and problems with duplicate policies. Many cloud services use partial replication, which increases efficiency but requires more complex load-balancing techniques. This, in turn, may limit the viable tools available to businesses.

With increased complexity comes higher security risk as well. Companies trying to expand their cloud rapidly may encounter security or efficiency issues with network load balancing.

IT Applications Face Renewed Difficulty in 2020

None of this is to say that enterprises shouldn't pursue network load balancing. In light of today's unique circumstances, businesses should carefully select and implement new tools. Rushed adoption of load-balancing software could lead to issues in efficiency, security and accessibility.

Companies that wish to capitalize on load balancing should consider current challenges. When they know what to look for and address, they can find or create a solution that works for them. Managing company networks may be more challenging in 2020, but it's not impossible.

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