I find hosting a confusing area, so I’m sure other less less technical people will really struggle to understand some of the problems that you can encounter.
I started off hosting this site on a small shared hosting server… but as traffic grew, I found problems with shared hosting.
The biggest problem was that shared hosting is that you share all the computers resources with other websites.
This shouldn’t be an issue, except for the way most hosting servers split their resources.
Eg lets say the server is a 3000 Mhz, quad core processor (ie a totaly of 3000 X 4 = 12000 Mhz (12Ghz)
Now, if the server has 60 websites on it, then each website is effectively running on server that runs at 200Mhz.
So, as traffic builds, you start hitting all sorts of limits.
So, after guessing that my site will gradually increase traffic, but probably won’t have an exponential increase in traffic, I started looking at dedicated hosting (ie 1 computer per website), but that was too expensive considering the type of site that I had.
I then heard about clustered servers. These sounded like the the best of both worlds (and the way I initially thought servers worked): resources get allocated to your website as needed.
Ie during quiet times, your website uses minimal resources, which are then allocated to other websites. If your website suddenly needs more resources, they are allocated.
Obviously there needs to be limits, so that websites don’t abuse resources.
Despite some negative comments, I eventually settled on netfirms.com as my new website host, and I went with the “advantage” plan (ie, middle of the road… not the cheapest, but not the most expensive.
After a few months, I realised that there are some limits that are not mentioned on the website, that can affect a reasonable busy website like mine (average of 1800 page requests per day… which varies between 1100 and 3000 pages per day).
The first I noticed was that the control panel was not a standard CPanel found with most linux hosts. It took some getting used-to, and applications like wordpress were not at the most current version (usually many version “behind”).
Secondly, while making filesystem and domain-related changes, nothing seemed to happen. So I fired off a support request. A few hours later, I noticed my changes took effect… ah, so some changes take a long time to make their way through the system… that ok, now that I know what to expect…
But what happened to the support request?
A few days later, I got a terse reply, saying something like: oh, you seem to have fixed it yourself…
I also had trouble moving my forum to netfirms. Although they tried to help (in their slow way), I eventually had to give up, and remove the Computer Aid forum (no big loss, as it didn’t get much traffic anyway), but it shouldn’t have happened.
Thirdly, during the first 12 months after changing to netfirms, I would occasionally get computer-aid (and even netfirms) disappearing off the internet, and usually everything would go back to normal after 5 – 20 minutes…
Recently, it seems Netfirms have moved to a bigger datacentre… I wonder if they shouldn’t have done this sooner?
Nevertheless, I have noticed that my website occasionally displays the following error message: “CGI concurrency limit of 10 exceeded”.
Now I start to wonder: the “advantage” plan includes amazing limits like: 2,000 Gb of monthly bandwidth, 25-Gb of disk space, 30 mysql databases… but most of that is actually meaningless if a website can only have 10 CGI database connections at a time.
Of course if I want to increase the limit, I need to move up to the next plan.
If I knew that the limit existed, then at least I could have planned a move to a bigger plan… but I don’t like finding out about hidden limits… particularly when I find out because of errors on the website.
Since I have another 12 months to go with netfirms, I’ll use the time to research hosting companies, with the new knowledge that I also need to keep an eye on CGI concurrency.
I like the idea of VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting, so I’ll look at that closely.
If I can’t find something suitable, then I might bite the bullet, and go with a dedicated server… but I still think its overkill for a site like computer-aid.