Note: This article is written keeping power webmasters in mind, having more than 10,000 visitors to their websites a day.
During past one week we, at ProPakistani, faced plenty of hosting issues.
We had downtimes; and plenty of them actually, where I felt in middle of no-where to decide anything on hosting. All this happened even I had experience of managing servers for over two years.
Only an online entrepreneur can understand the pain of downtimes and when there are repeated ones, we desperately need an answer to this question: Which hosting company is best in this world?
Before I answer to this question, we need to find out: What type of hosting do you really need?
Type of hosting available are:
- Shared Hosting
- Unmanaged VPS
- Unmanaged Dedicated Server
- Unmanaged Cloud Computing
- Managed VPS
- Managed Dedicated Server
- Managed Cloud Computing
Shared hosting is obviously out of question for big websites. Let’s look at other available options.
In unmanaged hosting, be it VPS, Dedicated server or cloud, you are given a blank layer with just operating system installed on it, not even apache, MySQL or PHP. You are at your own from here to get it configured the way you want.
You should go for unmanaged hosting only if you are system admin, and have good experience of managing web servers. Keep in mind that knowing PHP script, understanding what DNS is and knowing some linux commands doesn’t entitle you as a system admin.
You can never optimize a web-server in any case if you haven’t worked with an ISP or an off-shore hosting firm. I agree that there are tutorials available for everything, but the thing is that a live network with proven experience can’t beat the knowledge gained from tutorials.
Unmanaged hosting comes at lower costs but with a compromise on managing it yourself.
In managed hosting, web host (if it’s a good one) is going to be responsible for all the odds happening to your online business. You can sleep tight and let your web host to worry about your websites and the downtimes.
If you are pro blogger and want to put all your energies in your core-work, go for managed hosting. It may cost you some extra bucks – but it gonna save you from pains of downtime.
Here’s a reason for why I would prefer managed hosting over unmanaged one:
- As you may know, ProPakistani was hosted on SliceHost with an un-managed VPS. It was going all good, with zero second of downtime in two years, until one day (in last week of December 2010) I upgraded my OS (sudo aptitude full-upgrade). This command upgrades kernel files and all the applications installed on the server.
- Upgrade caused a serious conflict between eAccelerator (an acceleration engine) and the Apache’s latest version (web server). I was not a system admin and hence didn’t knew of possible conflict earlier.
- This conflict halted WP-Super-Cache to work properly, leaving nothing good but sudden spike in server load and ultimately the crashes every other minute.
- Our server was earlier configured by Sohaib Athar, who was not available this time to un-install eAccelerator to make server work properly.
- As it was an un-managed server, so web host couldn’t do much except for giving out some useful tips.
This one scenario, where you did nothing wrong but simply upgraded your kernel and applications through a prescribed manner, can end up ugly.
One more thing, with our unmanaged server system RAM used to hit 3GB level during peak hours. But with managed hosting and optimized server our memory usage hasn’t crossed 1 GB level so far.
Initial Optimization with managed hosting:
Here is a thing you need to understand: In managed hosting, your web host is not going to do anything – until you ask them to do. You must tell them tasks until you are satisfied.
A good webhost will configure following things to optimize your managed server:
- Tell them to optimize Apache, PHP and MySQL or any other application, specifically for the type of website you gonna host. For instance: a wordpress application has lots of Select Table query for MySQL as compared to Write Table queries. They will configure your MySQL accordingly for best performance.
- They will disable un-used tools, mods and applications.
- They will harden your server by installing firewalls, making your server DDoS, spam and hack proof.
Best thing I like about managed hosting is that host gonna reboot your server in case of any downtimes – and this is done automatically. For the purpose they keep on checking the status of services, and if anything collapses server is rebooted automatically.
Cloud computing is next level of hosting, which promises you the scalability on demand. For instance, you are running a news website which gets 500,000 hits a day. But on one good day, you break some news which gets top rank on google – there are good chances for a traffic spike with 500,000 hits every minute, in this case cloud hosting is what you should go for.
The good thing about cloud computing is that you only pay for the amount of resources you use. For instance, you get 100,000 hits in a month – then you will have to pay for the processing power and bandwidth used to serve 100,000 visitors. On other hands, very next month you serve 1 million visitors – you will be charged 10 times of the previous month.
In simple words: Pay for services that have used.
Just as an example, the day Salman Taseer got killed, due to huge traffic Geo, Jang and Dawn websites went down but Express Tribune didn’t. Reason: Geo, Jang and Dawn are hosted on dedicated servers which couldn’t hold the traffic spike, while Express Tribune is powered by Amazon’s EC2 cloud.
Issues with Cloud Hosting: You must keep this thing in mind that managing a cloud hosting isn’t a piece of cake. You either get a managed cloud solution, or hire a company for shifting your website to cloud computing.
Recommendations, based on your Traffic:
Having said all this, here are my recommendations for VPS, Dedicated Server and Cloud – based on your traffic:
- 10,000 hits a day or less: Go for managed VPS with 1 GB ram
- 10,000 hits a day or less: Go for unmanaged VPS with 2 GB ram
- More than 10,000 and less than 30,000 hits a day: Go for managed hosting with 2 GB ram
- More than 10,000 and less than 30,000 hits a day: Go for unmanaged hosting with 4 GB ram
- More than 30,000 and less than 70,000 hits a day: Go for managed hosting with 4 GB ram, 8 GB ideal
- More than 100,000 hits a day: Go for managed hosting with 16 GB ram
- Go for Cloud computing if you want to get it all with a single solution.
Note: These recommendations are made for those getting traffic on hundreds of pages from search engines. Those with digg traffic, on a single page, can go for lesser RAM – with wp-super-cache locked down.
Okay, now you must have known the answer of What Type of Hosting you need. It’s time to move to next question, what webhost should I go for?
Selecting a Web Host
Now here’s the point: All webhosts are good as far as they are up. Webhosts are considered down only if network goes down, or in case of hardware failure. So check out their downtimes and hardware failure record.
Just to mention: if there is an application glitch on your particular server and your website goes down, this won’t be credited to web host downtime.
Downtime: To check downtimes of a web host during previous couple of years, visit this website: http://www.webhostingstuff.com/
Support: Ask your friends, read forums, webhosting review websites to know what others are saying about a particular webhost.
Tools: If you are going for un-managed hosting, check out tools they are offering (for free) with the servers. These tools (such as ISP manager in case of VPS.net) can be very handy in controlling and maintaining your server.
Price: Probably the most important thing you need to consider before deciding your webhost.
Recommended Web Hosts:
- Managed Hosting: WiredTree.com, KnownHost
- Unmanaged hosting: Slicehost, Linode
- Cloud: EC2, Rackspace
This is it for now. I am sure there would be questions in your mind, which were not answered above. Feel free to ask them or if you got any further tips, go ahead and share them with us.