Web Hosting Industry Overview

Dec 5, 2007 - 4:33 pm 1 by
Filed Under PubCon 2007

A web site cannot exist without hosting. This is an area that is often poorly researched by site owners. This session reviewed current issues with the web hosting industry and touched upon on hot topics including shared hosting, shared IPs, DNS issues, up time, speed, reliability, dedicated servers, server farms, redundancy, back up options, email options and other added value services.

Brett Tabke - Moderator By George Roberts – Interjuncture Corp – produces anti spam tools, info technology since 1995 Ben Fisher - TechPad Agency – SEO and hosting since 1994

George: Which hosting is right for me?

Shared hosting – this is an account for one or more domain names. Cluster of servers divided up among different hosting customers and gives everyone a little slice. It is usually inexpensive and pretty easy to get the site up and running. The downside is that you are sharing resources. If the hosting company is overselling services, you may have bad performance, or there may be security or spamming issues within all customers.

(Ben – Shared hosting is great for when you are starting out, or if you don’t need a lot of resources. As the site gets more popular and develops, it also becomes more of a target and it grows out of shared hosting. From an SEO perspective, the drawback is they are shared on one IP address – listed in spam house or if blacklisted it can affect your website.)

Virtual Private Servers (VPS) – this is similar to shared hosting – it is dividing resources, but gives you a mini server inside the server so you have control over the operating system. It has a lower cost than dedicated servers but also less resources. You may also only get a certain amount of memory.

Ben – I think VPS is more for the technical savvy. If you know what you are doing and want to have control, VPS is more viable and more cost effective than a full blown dedicated server.

Dedicated Servers – with a dedicated server, you purchase all hardware, build all infrastructures and pay a flat fee per month to host the server. If you have a hundred sites, you can throw them all onto one server. You can even put thousands of domains onto one server. The disadvantages are that with shared hosting, you need an on-site administrator and technical support. With a dedicated server, you are on your own; you need to implement appropriate security measures. If you have the time and the resources, it can be a good value.

Ben – Managed dedicated server – for people who want to spend time on business and not on technical side, will let someone in house take care of everything. Managed is really the way to go. The host will handle upgrades, drives going down, upgrading memory, if someone hacks into your site and uses your box, host will step in and fix. With a standard dedicated server you have to manage, it’s less expensive but everything is on you to fix and maintain.

With a managed server, talk to your hosting options, ask them what services that management includes: just monitoring, updates, admin hours per month, make sure you have clear idea what you are getting with your package.

The big daddy of hosting is co-location. This can go from a single server to a full rack to cages. If you have a few hundred servers, you can rent a cage from a data center, pay flat monthly fee. There are 3 components with co-location:

Space rent Bandwidth cost Power

Advantages are you can pretty much do anything you want. When working with dedicated servers, what you get is a billed out infrastructure with choices of different things. They own the hardware and you are renting. With co-location, you buy everything, switches, hardware, etc. Expensive in the long run but usually balanced out in flexibility and power.

Ben – with co-location, the issue is cost. You are paying for space, bandwidth and hardware. But it is a managed scenario. It’s usually for large corporations.

George - The next thing is controversial in the hosting industry. One of my pet peeves, trying to make people understand, is non-traditional hosting. A lot of people are providing hosting-like services such as online storage, Flickr image hosting, blog hosting sites, Blogger, Live Journal, Word Press, MSN Spaces, YouTube (very specialized hosting site for video). A lot of people have everything on Facebook or Myspace, these are not traditional specialized hosting services.

Ben – non-traditional hosting works because the majority of people don’t know the word “hosting”. It’s mostly for webmasters. The beauty is it makes the ability to communicate on the web very easy. The line between paid hosting and the community/blog is getting blurred. In the future, I think this is where it’s going. If you are building a social media site, you have a future in hosting!

George – dedicated hosting is not going away anytime soon. But those using shared hosting are using it for straightforward purposes: info on their business, photo gallery, blog etc. most of these things are replicated in a lot of these non-traditional hosting services that are out there! Most people say – I want to put up a blog so I need to do XYZ. It’s too much work, and most people don’t want to spend so much time…so a lot of the shared hosting is going to switch over to non-traditional hosting over the next few years.

Live Spaces is very simple! Something to keep an eye out for.

Side note - 20,000 unique visitors is serious traffic and that’s the point where you want to move to VPS or dedicated.

Shared hosting is the “carts/vendors” of the shopping mall. If you are an internet business, putting it in anyone else’s hands that you don’t know, you can go for years and never have a problem, and get complacent, but the first time something happens, you will wish to get off the shared hosting.

Q: What are default packages that the servers come with? A: Varies. Contact sales dept, should be able to do side by side comparison with different providers. I haven’t seen a standard package. Most of the companies are good at scaling prices commensurate with the services they provide. Everyone markets differently, if you are looking for something specific communicate what you are looking for. Ask questions, find out as much as you can before making your purchase.

Q: Can you elaborate on Grid computing environments? A: Ben: Amazon uses a grid – it’s a large cluster of servers configured with software that allows you to spawn computing resources on demand. Depending on how your application is developed, if the load gets to a certain point, it will move some of the computing over. I think it is a good technology and there’s a space, but you won’t see widespread use. It’s not really an everyday type product. Not quite at that point yet. Guy with Question: Servemap allows you to specify your exact requirement and will allow you to customize an environment inside a grid, just like a dedicated server, but it’s set up inside a grid environment. George: that may be a redundancy in hardware. There are a lot of different ways to do things, that’s not particularly mainstream, I agree they are nice technologies, but don’t think they are mainstream yet.

Q: what is the best strategy of parking a secondary site? A: Ben:I will have a main domain on an exclusive IP address. If it’s a parked domain or secondary it depends on if the site has content. If it’s just a keyword stuffed domain name and not relevant, it being on its own domain is questionable. Being on the same IP address raises another flag. If doing everything legit, no problem. You want as little similarity as possible – different Who Is records, different IP address, etc.

Side note: Test servers early on for their ability to recover data. Check with service provider to make sure they do back-ups. A lot of hosting companies don’t do backups, it’s up to the domain owner. It’s not necessarily a good thing or bad thing – you get what you pay for – usually they will schedule a backup but they won’t do it automatically.

Q: What is the average pricing and average size site for each type of host? A: George: Shared is $3.95 - $12.95, as high as $17.95/month. The cheapest ones are mass market hosting companies, looking for as many customers as possible, compete on disk space and bandwidth. More expensive players are more about the customer service because they know more. In a shared environment, you can have everything from a blog to a full blown ecommerce site. Going from this to the next level depends on traffic and how much you are making off the site. If it’s just a blog, shared hosting is fine. VPS - $30 - $79/month depending on resources you want allocated, hard drive space, memory…you can get lower-end dedicated services from $225 – $300, $400/month for more high end hardware. It’s approximately an additional $150/month for managed. Co-location is $100/month for a megabit of bandwidth per second up to $50k, $100k – depending on how much space you need. You are paying for bandwidth regardless of whether or not you use it...but you are getting it at a lower price per bandwidth with the more you order.

Q: Where would you have your DNS hosted, registrar or server? A: Registrar or 3rd party. Don’t put on server because if the server is down, DNS is down. If it’s resolving you are OK, but if domain name is not coming back…that’s no good!

Q: How do you protect yourself from Slashdot or Digg effect (should we be so lucky!!)? A: If you want to be that type of site owner that is going to be posting things that could take off, you need to be prepared in advance! Need to be on an infrastructure that will cushion the blow. Let your provider know you will be hosting something that may get a lot of traffic, they will help you move over to another server. If they don’t know about it they are not going to be happy. If you on a shared hosting, you will go down and take the entire server down with you! Go with a low end, managed dedicated server and let your host know - I am willing to pay for it just help me out. Another option is to redirect the URL that gets Slashdotted over to Google, they have free hosting, may not have your system, but you can throw something up there with your logo etc. temporarily. Realistically, Google can handle millions and millions of hits – and it’s free- so take advantage. The less data you have to send back, the less your server has to work.

Contributed by Sheara Wilensky, a Search Strategist for Promediacorp.


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