Web Hosting is one of those things that you never really think about until it goes wrong. Websites just get put on the web don’t they? There’s nothing else to do or think about once the development is done? Well, not quite.
Running a web server is quite a time consuming and costly activity, but a lot of this can be passed on to one of the many hosting companies who provide managed shared hosting very cheaply.
Shared hosting is Web hosting in which the service provider serves pages for multiple Web sites, each having its own Internet domain name, from a single Web server. Most Web hosting companies provide shared hosting.
There are lots of these companies around – a quick search on the web brings up names like 123-reg, 1and1, Fasthosts and Heart Internet amongst others. For websites that aren’t that important they’re absolutely fine, but for your business we think that something better is needed. That’s why we’ve purchased a dedicated server with one of the countries best hosting companies, UK Fast.
The need for speed
One of the main drawbacks of shared hosting is that your site is on the same server as a couple of thousand others. If a few of them get busy and take up a larger share of the total server resources then the whole server slows down. Shared hosting is all about volume, as that’s the only way that the hosts can make it profitable, so if a fast site is important to you then shared hosting probably won’t deliver.
With a dedicated server it’s all ours, so we control exactly what goes on it and what resources we apply to it. We’ve specified the hardware that we want in it to give us the best performance possible, and we’ve absolute 100% full control over it. In short, it’s fast. Very fast in fact!
There are potential security problems on a shared host, as there’s no way of knowing what your ‘neighbours’ are up to. They could have been subject to an attack and a hacker may have found their way in, which potentially puts your site(s) at risk too.
Dedicated servers are subject to the same attacks as shared servers, but as we’re in control of it there is a lot we can do to minimise risks. Additionally, we’ve purchased a hardware firewall – a specialised network box that provides a protected barrier against attack.
Shared servers tend to run hot! There are lots of sites on these servers, and they’ll be operating at around 95% of capacity. This tends to make them less reliable than dedicated servers, as if they start to run out of memory then that’s when sites start coming off line.
Our new server is of a much higher specification relative to the number of sites we host. Each site has far more resources available than it would have on a shared platform, and the network never runs at higher than 50% capacity.
We’ve also doubled up our server drives and have them configured in a RAID 1 (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) array. Basically this means that a second disk drive mirrors the first, and if either of the drives fails then it’s not a problem, the remaining healthy drive takes over. The faulty drive is replaced and the RAID array rebuilt with no down time.
Our new server backs up it’s data every night, and keeps a full seven days worth incrementally. Importantly, this backup is in a completely different data centre to the server – it has to be in case there’s a fire or other catastrophic event take place.
We also have websites backup individually to a cloud hosting platform, again completely independent of the server and the main server backup. So, that’s the server in one location, the server backup in another, and then website backups in yet another.
Last of all we’ve considered emails. Email accounts are now also on a different server to the websites, so if there was ever a problem with your website your email remains unaffected.
No single point of failure
The reason we’ve done all of this is to give customers fast websites which are always available, protection from being hacked by offering flexible restore options, and spreading the services through many locations rather than just one. We’ve seen over the last month a large hosting provider suffer a power outage at their data centre. The outage only lasted nine minutes, but the resulting chaos took two weeks to clear up, because their backup generators failed to shut the servers down safely.
Many customers found that because they had everything with that single provider they were left helpless. They couldn’t send or receive emails, they couldn’t put a notice up on their websites (because they couldn’t access them), they couldn’t access their backups (because they were on the same server) and they couldn’t move the domain to another host to get back up and running again (because the domain name was registered with the same company).
You get what you pay for!
The way we have organised our hosting now addresses all of these potential issues, but of course there’s a cost implication. Essentially, you get what you pay for. Having hardware firewalls and off site remote server backups is rather expensive, but we genuinely believe that it’s the way it has to be, and the benefits far outweigh the nominal additional charges.
We’ll be contacting all of our customers in due course to explain this in a bit more detail, so they can understand why we’re suggesting they come on board. If it’s important that your business is constantly and reliably available online then the cheap options just don’t cut it any more.