How important is your server hardware?
When it comes to choosing a web host and any of the packages such web hosts offer, most people don’t consider the hardware their websites are going to be hosted on. For the most part, it doesn’t really matter as primarily it’s down to the software that is running your site, that is the most important. But hardware can be equally important when all things are considered. You wouldn’t go into a computer shop and not care about what spec your system is would you? Hosting is no different. Let me elaborate.
Picking The Package
When most people search for a new web hosting service, they’re blinded by the price. They see a package for £5.00 a month which fits their needs. It has everything they need in terms of disk space, bandwidth allowance, add on domains and all the other features we look at when choosing a provider. But, what about the hardware it’s hosted on. How fast is it? What about the connection to the backbone, is it adequate? Would you be as happy paying £5 a month to host on a laptop connected to the Internet in someone’s bedroom as you would hosting in a state of the art data center with a high speed connection to the UK’s backbone? Of course you wouldn’t. This is why it pays to find out exactly what sort of provider you’ll be hosting with.
Now I must admit, I didn’t know too much about hosting hardware to begin with. Obviously I knew about memory and CPU speeds but it wasn’t until reading this post from HostPresto about their old server hardware that I started looking into it in more detail. Those guys were using a Dell Blade setup with quad 4 core Intel Xeon CPU’s which I thought was impressive but perhaps a little old given they’re such a large company. But nevertheless, it must have been doing the job. Now I know to most that such hardware spec doesn’t really matter, obviously we just care about the speeds right and not what hardware manufacturer our web hosts our using. Well, that isn’t entirely advisable. Obviously there are better manufacturers out there that are better for certain things than others. Look at your brands of kitchen appliances, some companies make better toasters than others, some make better fridges and so on. The same goes for computer hardware.
Matching Hardware to Suit Your Site
If you’re running a large site, something that receives in excess of 5,000 visitors per day for example, you’re going to need a dedicated server of sorts. Now if you’re choosing a dedicated server, you’re going to need to determine the spec of it and work out if that is going to be suitable to your overall needs. You’ll find that most companies who provide dedicated servers will allow you to specifically choose what you want in the box so to speak. This goes for everything from your CPU speed (and how many of them you want) right through to your disk space, memory and bandwidth allocation. You will then have to choose your operating system and website management software but we’ll save that for another post.
So how do we know exactly what we need if we’re not particularly tech-savvy. Sure we know how many visitors our websites get but how does that translate to hardware. Do we need a single processor/CPU to host our 5,000 visitors daily or do we need to go right up to a quad solution? Well hopefully, your new web host will be able to advise you on that but as a guide you can probably get away with hosting a single site on a single processor (4 core), 8gb ram and whatever disk space you require.
The VPS and Scalability
Luckily with the advent of managed VPS solutions and even the scalability of blade setups themselves, even if you do opt for a low spec solution to begin with you’ll have no issue scaling it up should it not be suitable to your needs or your site grows unexpectedly. For a VPS solution it’s nothing more than having your web hosting provider click a few buttons to increase your CPU/memory/disk space or bandwidth allocation as it’s all controlled via software. For physical servers such as the systems we mentioned above it may need a real person to go down to the data center and physically plug something in. But if you’re paying for the service your web hosting manager will have no problem doing this for you on your behalf.
So there we have it, hopefully this post will provide some insight into the importance of choosing the correct hardware when it comes to web hosting and illustrate that you shouldn’t get too hung up on solely the package specification and the software and features that come with it. There are a whole bunch of other things to consider all of which I consider to be highly important if you want a solution that will be robust, scalable and ultimately secure.