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In Web Hosting as in Auto Racing, Top Speeds Mean Nothing

12353294385_33b8c9ad3e_kThere’s an interesting parallel between the way people buy web hosting and the way they buy sports cars. Frequently, the sports car purchaser who doesn’t actually compete in races will buy their vehicle based on theoretical maximum performance capability, examining numbers like top speed, maximum horsepower and so forth to see how fast their dream car might theoretically go.

Of course, people who actually race for a living understand a critically important maxim: top speeds don’t win races, high average speeds do. That means it’s just as important to be able to speed around accidents and slow traffic as it is to power down the straightaways as fast as possible.

It’s the same with hosting. The size of a CPU, the amount of RAM, the network uplink speed — these are all important metrics, but everybody’s working with similar engines these days. You can get your specs and never see reliable performance at other host because your server still can’t swerve around the accidents and slower traffic without getting bogged down. Why? Because of something called IOPS. Read more

Web Hosting for Non-Technical People: Pricing Cloud Services

Author, marketing VP and notorious luddite

Author, marketing VP and notorious luddite

Last week we talked about the dangers of generalizing about website and app requirements when picking a cloud service provider. Here’s the big question we’re going to try to answer this week:

Is it even possible to compare prices between cloud hosting options?

An increasing number of large cloud service providers have been trying to address the problem of explaining just what their services cost by producing cost calculators like Amazon’s. There are a few problems with these calculators. Read more

Webhosting for Non-Technical People: the Dark World of DDoS Attacks

Author, marketing VP and notorious luddite

Author, marketing VP and notorious luddite

DDoS attacks sound like something out of one of those cheese-ball 1980s “hackers break into somebody’s computer and ignite a world war three” movies — you know, the ones that feature 400 baud modems and TRS-80s with cassette drives — but “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attacks are very real, and are a growing problem.

ServInt, like everybody else in the hosting industry, has seen an uptick in DDoS activities on its network over the last couple of years. And while DDoS hasn’t been a major problem for us, it’s something we’re working hard to stay ahead of — which is what brought it to my attention, and what got me to make the effort to understand DDoS attacks better.

What is a DDoS attack?

A DDoS attack occurs when hackers gain control of multiple computers (that’s what makes these attacks “distributed”) and force them to make some form of system resource-dependent request of a target computer or website. The volume at which these requests are made quickly overwhelms the computer that is being targeted, and eventually the site or computer ceases functioning.

This is not the place — and I am certainly not the author — to go into the specifics of how this all works. Here’s an article that does a good job summarizing the different kinds of DDoS attacks.

What’s more important to you and me is: how can all this affect ServInt customers, and what measures does ServInt take to address the problem? Read more

Why is My VPS Slow?

277945267_23c08b55b9Does your website load slowly?

Have you upgraded into a “professional” hosting package only to find that your new VPS lacks the performance you were promised?

Lackluster server performance has been a thorn in the side of VPS hosting customers for some time. Many buyers have learned to pay attention to server specs — getting as much RAM, as many CPU cores and as much disk space as possible for their money. But others have realized that spec shopping alone won’t guarantee performance.

But why not? Why can’t VPS customers simply buy a server with more RAM, CPU and disk and trust that they will get the boost in server performance they require?

The problem most often comes down to something called the “noisy neighbor.” Read more

The Perils of Shared Hosting

8962261926_d543bc1c3cThe web hosting market is a pretty saturated one. With software such as cPanel and WHM, it’s very easy to set up a server and begin offering shared hosting packages to people. For less than the average cost of a quick bite to eat, companies are promising unlimited disk space and bandwidth to anyone willing to become a customer.

The main reason why there are so many web hosting companies offering shared hosting is the profit margin. The more customers they can cram on a server, the more profit they can make. There are, however, numerous drawbacks to selecting a hosting company based on the price of the service. Like anything in life, you get what you pay for and a low cost hosting package can sometimes end up costing you more than just money.

Know your shared hosting neighbors

Shared hosting services often use a single IP address for all customers on a single machine. One of the biggest issues with this type of setup is that if one of your neighbors on the same server gets identified for spam, malware or anything similar, everyone on the same IP address can end up suffering along with them. Not only can this seriously affect your search engine ranking and appearance, but it can also cause some web filtering and malware protection services to inadvertently block you along with everyone else on the same server.

Is unlimited really unlimited? Read more

Stop Paying For Unused Resources in Cloud Hosting

If you’re not careful about how you purchase hosting “in the cloud,” you can end up paying a heavy price for the freedom of a scalable solution. ServInt’s Jelastic Java and PHP cloud service is different. It autoscales, allowing you to only pay for what you use. It also allows you to purchase cloud resources in bulk, to achieve maximum savings — and it allows you to set scaling resource maximums, to make sure you never bust your budget during a traffic surge. Here’s a video to show you how it all works:

Web Hosting for Non-Technical People: Designing a Website for Maximum Speed

Author, marketing VP and notorious luddite

Author, marketing VP and notorious luddite

The Internet is a seemingly miraculous place for small businesses. These days, there are all kinds of companies offering turn-key e-commerce site design and hosting solutions, all delivered — almost literally — at the push of a button. No design skill? No problem! No technical know-how? Who cares!

Of course, behind the scenes, things aren’t that simple. Many of these turn-key solution providers deliver bloated, inefficient, insecure back-end designs and over-sold shared hosting to house your site when you’re done. As a general rule, I advise my small business-owning friends to steer clear of the “design and host your e-commerce website for $9.99” companies, and do a little work on their own to build and host a site that works best for them.

I’m not saying every small business owner should code their own site from scratch. That would be silly. What I am saying is that — whether you build your site from scratch, or from a popular CMS like WordPress, or whether you hire somebody to build your site for you — you should make sure your site is designed as simply and intelligently (on the front and the back end) as you can. Why?  Read more

“Going Big” With a Website, Part 3: Databases that Scale

tech bench guest postEditor’s Note: This week, we complete our guest series with Larry Ullman’s third installment in his discussion about scaling a website. If you’re just joining us, be sure to check out Part 1: Infrastructure that Scales and Part 2: Code that Scales.

As a web developer, writer, and public speaker, I often interact with people of various skill levels, talents, and interests. This is one of the joys of my career: I’m fortunate enough to bear witness to the thoughts and experiences of other programmers, “idea” people, and just plain dreamers.

One of the common topics that comes up, or that I am directly asked about, is how one “goes big” with a website. In this three-part series, I explain everything I believe and know (or think I know) when it comes to this subject. In Part 1, I covered the myths of going big, what infrastructure you’ll eventually need, and how one should start developing a new project. In Part 2, I discussed how one writes code that can scale well should your site “go big”. And here, in Part 3, I turn to designing databases that can handle the traffic of a “big” site.

Selecting a Database Application

The first step you’ll need to take (from a database perspective) when designing any new site is choosing the right database application. MySQL has been the de facto king in this arena for some time, at least for beginners and in the open source community. This is largely still the case, even though:

- PostgreSQL is a fine alternative
- There are variations on MySQL, such as MariaDB
- Many excellent non-relational applications exist, like MongoDB
- There are non-database storage solutions such as Hadoop

Of the many goals I have for this series, getting into a debate as to the best database application to use is not one of them. Rightly or wrongly, there are other factors that go into the decision, including with which applications you are familiar, have access to, and so forth. For the sake of the rest of this article, I’m going to focus solely on MySQL, for two reasons:

  1. It’s an extremely common choice.
  2. It’s known to have scalability issues that some of the others (e.g., MongoDB) deliberately do not.

Tuning and Indexing a Database Read more

“Going Big” With a Website, Part 2: Code that Scales

tech bench guest postEditor’s Note: This week, we continue our guest series with Larry Ullman‘s second installment in his discussion about scaling a website. If you’re just joining us, be sure to check out Part 1: Infrastructure that Scales.

As a web developer, writer, and public speaker, I often interact with people of various skill levels, talents, and interests. This is one of the joys of my career: I’m fortunate enough to bear witness to the thoughts and experiences of other programmers, “idea” people, and just plain dreamers.

One of the common topics that comes up, or that I am directly asked about, is how one “goes big” with a web site. In this three-part series, I explain everything I believe and know (or think I know) when it comes to this subject. In Part 1, I covered the myths of going big, what infrastructure you’ll eventually need, and how one should start developing a new project. In this, Part 2, I discuss how one writes code that can scale well should your site “go big”. Finally, in Part 3, I’ll turn to designing databases that can handle the traffic of a “big” site.

If I were to summarize how to program a site for a potentially “big” scale, the summary would come down to two words: optimal and flexible.

Writing Optimal Code

The term “optimal” means that the site should perform as well as possible. This should seem obvious, of course, but it bears repeating. Entire books could be written on coding optimally, but a few rules of thumb include: Read more

“Going Big” With a Website, Part 1: Infrastructure that Scales

tech bench guest postEditor’s Note: Once again, it’s time to address a common question that is beyond the scope of even our managed support — how to design a website that scales well. To address this popular topic, we’ve asked web developer, writer and ServInt customer, Larry Ullman, to share his thoughts.

As a web developer, writer, and public speaker, I often interact with people of various skill levels, talents, and interests. This is one of the joys of my career: I’m fortunate enough to bear witness to the thoughts and experiences of other programmers, “idea” people, and just plain dreamers.

One of the common topics that comes up, or that I am directly asked about, is how one “goes big” with a website. A reader will email me, as she intends to create the next Facebook, and wants to know how many servers to buy and of what type. I appreciate the enthusiasm, but these interactions send shivers down my spine.

The frequency with which these kinds of questions comes up suggests there’s a lack of good knowledge as to how one “goes big” with a website. In this three-part series, I will explain everything I believe and know (or think I know) when it comes to this subject. Here in Part 1, I cover the myths of going big, what infrastructure you’ll eventually need, and how one should start developing a new project. In Part 2, I will discuss how one writes code that can scale well should your site “go big”. And in Part 3, I’ll turn to designing databases that can handle the traffic of a “big” site.

The Myths of Going Big

One of the most common, and most potentially ruinous, statements I see beginning web developers make is:

I have this great idea for a website, and it’s going to be huge, so I need to start with the infrastructure that can support a huge site.

I’ve seen this far too many times, often with people who only have an idea: no site, no development skills, sometimes not even the domain name yet!

Now, to be clear, dreaming is fine. And pursuing a project because you have a great idea is certainly justifiable. But the reason sentences like the above frighten me is that they’re expensive. Putting the cart before the horse is one way businesses fail and people lose lots of money. The resources required by a busy site–hardware, networks, and staffing–are especially expensive. These are resources you shouldn’t spend money on until you absolutely have to, or almost so.

This brings me to what I consider to be the two biggest myths of going big: Read more

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