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Store Locator Plus® Update Improves Performance, Adds Features

Store Locator Plus® was updated today with a number of improvements over the 5.2 release.   Users will find that the Locations management screen is much faster when the screen options sets pagination length to more than 100 records.  The update also ensures that those users that set their location list to more than 512 locations can still use the Export options available in the Professional and Enterprise level of service, or that have the Power add on installed if using the WordPress plugins.

SaaS Performance Boost

While the 5.3 release of Store Locator Plus® includes a number of performance enhancements across-the-board, our SaaS service has received some additional updates that allow us to process location and map requests a little faster.   This is thanks to working with a controlled software stack where we know the exact version of WordPress, PHP, and all the libraries involved to squeeze as much performance as possible from the code.

Users should notice faster response when loading the map on a page, especially on sites with more than a few dozen locations being displayed.

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Store Locator Plus® Servers Upgraded

Cluster Teamwork

All of the Store Locator Plus® web properties are now living on an updated server cluster.   The new configuration, a load-balanced cluster, will provide zero-downtime maintenance window and faster performance under peak load;  These upgrades will be most noticeable for our SaaS users.

What Changed?

Our prior server configuration used a failover configuration.   In that type of configuration a web server handles 100% of the load and if it fails a second duplicate server that is in standby takes over.  This provides limited downtime with reduced costs; However, it also means there are routine service outages when the underlying software (Operating System, web services, web apps) are updated.

The current configuration, put into place over the weekend with zero downtime, uses a load balanced configuration.  In this configuration two-or-more servers mirror each other and are all online and answering web requests at the same time.  Requests are split between the servers with a goal of maintaining an average load of just under 50%.  This ensures that if one server fails the service stays up-and-running while a replacement server is automatically brought online to assist in web services.

The load balanced cluster also provides an added benefit of horizontal scalability. Failover style server could only be pushed up to a bigger server with more CPUs and RAM and faster network interfaces; a process that meant building ever-bigger servers with higher costs and longer maintenance window downtime.     The load balanced cluster configuration monitors server loads across the cluster and adds a new server automatically at set performance limits.   This ensures that there is a less-than-5-minute response time to adding capacity whenever there is a spike in usage.

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Google Maps Pricing Changes

Google Maps pricing changes have finally gone into effect after multiple instances of Google playing “kick the can down the road”.  The initial changes where supposed to go into effect on June 11th, 2018. Google gave everyone a break from scrambling to implement API keys after announcing that change less than a month before they intended to shut down free access to their maps — they extended the “drop dead” date to July 16th, 2018.

Google Maps pricing change announcement
Google Maps pricing change announcement

Today is July 16th, 2018 — free Google Maps access is a thing of the past.

What that means for Store Locator Plus™

If you are using the WordPress plugins you must now have a Google Maps API key and an attached billing account for that key or your maps will stop appearing on your site.   Users of the My Store Locator Plus™ fully managed locator service do not have to worry about this — we take care of all the licensing for you.

Luckily Google has provided everyone a credit for 2 months of free API access for your maps.   You will need to get an API key and create a Google billing account so they can charge you for their pay-as-you-go service.  Unlike in the past, both small sites and larger sites will start to incur fees under the new Google Maps pricing structure.

New Google Maps Pricing

Every plugin or service that implements Google Maps , which is most of the maps and locators you will find — especially on WordPress, will use the Google Maps JavaScript API.   This is what Google terms “Dynamic Maps” in their new pricing table.     Again, services that include the maps access as part of their monthly subscriptions , like My Store Locator Plus™, take care of these fees for you.

For users of the WordPress plugins you will need to look at the Google Pricing Matrix under “Dynamic Maps”.

  • The base fee is $0.007 for each call to the Google Maps API for the first 100,000 API calls.
  • The fee after 100,000 API calls is $0.0056 per call.

For a typical site where the map is displayed and lists a dozen-or-so locations the fee will roughly correlate to how many visitors the map page receives.    If you have 100 page views of your “locator page” every month you will have approximately 200 API calls for the geocoding request of the user’s location plus the map tiles loading.     100 page views will cost $1.40.

Geocoding location also incurs a fee under the new Google Maps pricing scheme.   If you import 1,000 locations with the Power add on import feature you will record 1,000 geocoding requests in addition to ongoing map views.    1,000 locations will incur a $7.00 charge from Google when they locations are imported.  Again, MySLP covers these fees for you.