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Should I use NLB or a third-part load balancer?

I am trying to decide whether to use Windows 2000's Network Load Balancing (NLB) for my three Web servers or whether to use a third-party load balancer, as we have been doing with NT. Is there any advantage to paying extra for the third-party load balancer? A vendor is trying to tell us that Microsoft's NLB doesn't work well, and that even MS recommends not using it. Yet, other sources (not a vendor trying to sell us something) indicate that the NLB works just fine. Our Web site gets only a couple thousand hits a day at the most -- very low traffic. Any advice would be appreciated.

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For that low a level of traffic, Microsoft's own built-in NLB is probably more than good enough. Most of the problems described are usually only in extremely high-traffic, high-stress environments. A site that gets a few thousand hits a day probably doesn't even need NLB at all. I currently administer a site that does about 20-30 GB of bandwidth in traffic a day from a single 100-megabit network interface. People often think that NLB is a Band-Aid for other problems, such as poorly-designed sites that bog down the incoming request queue. In short, try it -- you may find it's not even all that urgently needed.

This was first published in March 2003

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