|I have a budget of $300 per month for hosting etc.|
and I am not satisfied about where I am spending it now!
First off, an explanation-
We have a small manufacturing company, making our own product and selling it across North America. The warehousing and shipping is done from Tucson, AZ and the sales people are scattered around the US and Canada and we interact with VOIP phones and email all day long.
We are currently using an open source customer relationship managing software script (CRM) that resides on its own dedicated server. That costs us $174 per month and seems to crash on a bi-weekly basis, even though only 6 people in the company have access to it. The software is PHP/MySQL based and according to the website for it, it has a minimal server load. I am amazed that only 6 users can “overload” the server, but the hosting company claims there is nothing wrong with it. I told them exactly what we intended to use the server for and we rented their suggested server. I am not satisfied with the dedicated host, even though it was reviewed well in different forums and the staff seemed nice enough on the initial phone interview. They claimed that Fantastico and Cpanel and some other software was included in the price and then when I signed up said that it wasn’t. Sheer overload with other things to do has stopped me from changing the server, since the CRM software is mission critical to us.
We have another virtual server that has the public company site on it as well as 30 other very minor sites of friends and very small niche enthusiast sites. I would doubt if there was more than 10,000 visitors per month of all our sites combined. We pay $12 per month for that virtual server. That server is also the mail server we use for the company and is another thorn in my side. It has been down for two days and the company that runs it seems to be Missing In Action. The server has not gone down for the previous 18 months that I know of, although the email does slow down noticeably on a regular basis. We used to have the CRM software on the server, but it was taking as long as 2 minutes to generate the pages on a refresh – hence the move to the dedicated server.
We have one other virtual server that costs $10 per month and has some hobby sites on it and some other half-baked ecommerce attempts that never really produced much in the way of income – maybe $500/month in Adsense revenue at best.
We sell about 90% of our product wholesale and use the CRM software to track all of our interaction with our customers, and to send the orders to the office for processing. We use email constantly for inter office communication as well as with our wholesale customers. And of course, if the public website goes down we lose the retail!
We need a server that always works for the CRM and email – I don’t have much skill in managing a server either! – and I was considering moving the critical business tasks (CRM and email) to a name brand option like Yahoo! Small Business solutions ($300 per month) or one of the other high profile companies that advertise a lot. Yahoo is appealing because they are likely to stay in business and they have a built in affiliate marketing setup. I also know that the email will work. I do not know if I will be able to run the CRM software on their server setup. I know that I will only be able to run the one site on it, but since that is the one that keeps 6 of us employed it is the important one.
Using the CRM software company’s option of $39.95 per user per month ($240 for us) and using the Yahoo email upgrade ($60 per year) to be our email, since they will let it appear to come from your domain name. This doesn’t solve the hosting problem of the main site however.
I am open to other suggestions from anyone else. I don’t have the skill to run my own server (although I have used cpanel to set up the domains and email accounts etc.), nor the time to learn how. I barely have enough time to look at our PPC programs more than once a week or so. I am looking to outsource most of my headaches with keeping the computers running.
If you have specific links or other information that would violate the TOS please feel free to sticky me.
You may want to dig a bit deeper into those crashes, and try and identify the exact cause of your 'server" crashes.
It could be crashing due to a host of reasons, including faulty hardware, fauly/unpatched software, configuration errors (including the operating server and various services), and buggy application software (CRM app, etc.) installed on your server.
Your system resource requirements do not seem to be overly complex or demanding so I don't think throwing more money (renting a bigger server, etc.) at this problem would fix anything.
So, I suggest you work with your host, and possibly get help from your CRM vendor. Many open source packages have paid support options offered by either the vendor or various third parties. You may also find help from others using that CRM App. Is there a forum dedicated to your CRP package? Most open source apps have one, so I would not be surprised if there is one that is frequented by others using that CRM App.
For $300/month you can get a great deal on a dedicated server and not have anyone else's junk on it. You can put your scripts and run a mail server so you don't have to have a Yahoo mail account - it looks very unprofessional for a business to have a yahoo, gmail,hotmail,aol, etc. email.
You might have to pay someone to set it up for you, but you or someone else needs to learn how to deal with basic maintenance.
Also, since you are a "real" business, a manufacturer, why are you bothering with AdSense and the like? You don't want to advertise other people's businesses - you want to grow yours.
We are using a stand alone server - it just crashes a lot. I am going to have a talk with them next week because I checked the logs and we are only doing 2000 page views a day. Something has to be very wrong with the setup.
As for the adsense, that was on our hobby sites - doesn't everyone have a hobby?- and not on the main business site.
The main business site has no links out of it and traffic to it comes from Overture, Adwords and our dealers.
My frustration comes from our need for a bulletproof system that keeps working - and I am not good enough with a server to understand the issues at hand.
That is why I considered the Yahoo solution. The money is not as important to me as the need for the systems to keep working. With the business account at yahoo, your email has the format of email@example.com and not a normal yahoo address.
I guess I am looking for feedback from people familiar with our situation and needs. We arent big enough to have an IT department (besides me) and we are using the systems constantly so we need something as reliabele as possible. Every transaction in the company has some interaction with our email or CRM system, so it is vital to the company's health. In the beginning we tried to get by with whatever server was available, and now we are in a position to pay for a more supported service.
I am hoping for a solution with some redundancy built in, so that if one server acts up, my whole company doesnt shut down.
My headache with the big advertising server companies (just look in any business magazine) is that they act like a used car salesperson and often wont tell you the cost of their offering until you call.
You *should* be able to run all of the services that are described on one dual processor ibm/compaq/dell.
What you may be experiencing is the linux version of dll hell. Just because php and mysql are installed does not mean that you have the exact magic configuration and versions that will allow it to be reliable.
A good option may be to retain the services of an expert in the particular crm that you are using to do a complete setup for you. And then leave it alone!
As a point of reference, one of my win2k servers has been up since 2001, rebooted 3 times in 2003. Otherwise, no downtime at all.
You will not be able to have auto redundancy on the budget that you are quoting as it is a complete order of magnitude greater in complexity.
Get another domain, push your CRM software on another dedicated server, point your new domain to the server, try it for afew days, switch your DNS over.
So at least the main one is running while you are clearing the initial setup problems with the new server.
I agree that a bigger server isn't the answer. With 6 people using the software at the same time, you shouldn't have an issue.
I would email the CRM company. Did you lease or purchase the software? What type of support do they offer? What type of errors are you getting when the server "crashes"?
The CRM is open source - so it cost us nothing - and the company behind it offers a support pack of four hours per month for $445, or two hours for $95
I guess a call to them is in order as well - I expect that those of you who said it is a setup problem are probably right, and the support contract is probably money well spent.
I had a conversation with a Yahoo support tech and he said that the websites are on a shared server in a server farm. By server farm, does anyone think that this was implying multiple server redundancy?
Thanks to all that have replied.
no, a server farm is just a huge room with tons of servers. No redundancy unless you pay the big bucks for it.
gpilling, I did a lot of shopping for hosting before finally finding a company that really delivers.
I don't get one single cent from referring them, so please keep that in mind.
One site I created is on their service for just $9.95 a month, with no limit on bandwidth.
Another site I have with them is my own, a database-driven site using SQL Server, and a whole number of other goodies. It costs me just $40 or so a month. This month, I expect to see roughly 20 GB of transfer. No extra cost.
I can call tech support during business hours. After business hours, I still have 24/7 email support, usually within the hour.
If traffic to my site is where I think and hope it will be by the end of the year, I'm going to need a dedicated server. They'll charge me about $500 a month.