hosting part 1

By in develop, fundamentals, podcast on July 12, 2010
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there is a crazy amount of bandwidth and processors that are mostly idle making web hosting a commodity. but even though you can get a web host for a year for less than $10 you might be getting exactly what you paid for. that is, a service that’s worth about ten bucks. servers require somebody paying attention to them to stay running. you need to keep up with updates and patches otherwise your site won’t be reliable. but even if the technology is up to date there may be so many sites running on the same server that none of them perform very well. all it takes is one badly configured blog to mess up the works for everyone.

somebody wrote in before we recorded this asking, “don’t you guys also like free services?” sometimes. there are lots of ways to get on the web. and some of these services are free. just about every single service has a free version. google, flickr, yahoo, wordpress, blogger and dropbox to name a few have tools that will get you and your company talking for no charge. but at what cost? advertising might get inserted into your content that you don’t benefit from. or your data may be mined for information. you might not get access to stats or have limited stats. statistics is vital for your ego. you really want to know what things are popular. it helps you focus your efforts. and it’s nice to know where your views or listeners are coming from. the problem with free is that you are subject to the whims of the free service. if you get DMCA’d they will act for the complainer on your behalf. when you control your own domain it’s your choice on how to deal with your problem. free means that you are subject to advertising. this could dilute or confuse your brand. and the finally the service might not be that fast.

that said, free stuff does have the benefit of being EASY to set up. you don’t have to do anything other that pick a user name and a password. no nothing to update except for your words or pictures. but you really, really, really need to read the Terms of Service. sometimes the data you put there isn’t yours after you put it there! your blog might not be sellable and who owns the movie rights? you might hit a wall and then have to move stuff and migration might not be easy every.

the simplest services are are things like Mobile Me (formally dotMac). it’s simple to make a site, post pictures, share files and update a blog. but sometimes it can be a very dead end if you care about bandwidth, stats, spaz email addresses (aka aliases) or an email address forwards things like united@ or fedex@ to your main email address. you can’t run a specific server app that needs PHP or Ruby. other deal breakers might be the cost of storage or that it’s aimed for personal use. besides that other software seems more cool these days.

so the simple and the free are okay but you have to know that its not hard at all to have a real domain for not much money a month. and you don’t need to be “all that IT!” to do the care and feeding of your own site. it’s not that tough because there are tons of tutorials on everything. you will learn to search better because your new hobby will demand it. or course there are books on the subject. the Dummies book is just about as good as any of them.

domains are cheap. 10 bucks is about what they go for. you can find a domain for cheaper but once again, be sure to read the TOS to know who really owns the name. we aren’t fans of goDaddy. not because it’s a bad service but because of the insane amount of marketing they do with every page load. as a domain administrator doing work it’s just noise.

or use our check list. here’s the steps

    get a domain
    choose a server provider
    point the DNS to your server

      wait for a few hours as DNS isn’t always instant
      varies by domain type .tv takes a day while .com can update in like 12 seconds

    set up (don’t worry this is all GUI based!)

      web server

        which is just entering the domain you purchased
        usually this sets up all the services you might need!

      add email for all of your users.
      FTP user name and password (make sure it’s long)

    upload some HTML or PHP
    done!

there are essentially 4 kinds of hosting: shared, virtual private servers (VPS), cluster, and real hardware. there is nothing wrong with any of these services and one isn’t automatically better than another. but you really want to be careful what you buy into. it’s very easy to over buy services that are costly. don’t let your feeling of importance guide this decision. yes, your web presence is important but so is everyone else’s.

shared
your domain will be served from a server that might have thousands of domains on it. before you gasp consider that most of web pages served are static. these sites require very little computing power to run. the programs that serve a page like Apache or IIS have been optimized to make this possible.

cluster
a cluster is what some people are calling “cloud services”. this leverages hundreds of CPUs to do work and serve web pages. the thinking is that those extra CPUs will make uptime get some extra nines and everything will run fast(er). but like the shared services a cluster is doing work for tens of thousands of websites. all of the cluster services are very mature. some cluster servers do not have command line access. make sure what you are buying has that if you do work there.

virtual private servers (VPS)
VPS is perfect alternative to real hardware. using software an operating system runs as if it’s on it’s own box. what this does is allow specific configurations of “server software” in a way that won’t affect other instances running. the virtualization can control everything from CPU usage, bandwidth, and memory. a VPS can run on phat hardware that would be prohibitively expensive to run otherwise. if you consider an 8 processor RAID5 storage lots of RAM server you’ll find it to be very costly but worse is that you will have a mostly idle box. better to share that box with a few other people.

real hardware
there are few ways to buy into a server running on real hardware. you can lease a server paying a fixed fee for hardware and software. this is called Managed Hosting. for that fee you get a promise that your provider will monitor your box for hardware failure. the will also monitor the software running on the box and if something stops running they will act on instructions that you specify like restart Apache or reboot the server. you can also Co-Locate hardware that you own in a space that you lease. the space includes power and bandwidth but no additional services. it’s to you to monitor and it is always to you to care and feed your servers software.

I’ve listed all the hosting options in the order of their complexity and ease of day to day use. if you don’t want to manage a server in any way Share or Cluster services are the way to go. if you want the ability to do absolutely anything you want VPS or Real Hardware is the way to go. if you want want something that will easily scale up without thinking about it Clusters offer that promise. and if your just somebody learning about PHP, Python, mySQL and other web tools shared hosting offers call of that for cheap cheap.

looking for the lost part of this talk? it’s here. sorry, the sound sucks.

hosting services mentioned on the show:
Dreamhost
Rackspace Cloud
Apple Mobileme
Knownhost
MediaTemple