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Going with Dedicated Server

advice needed



6:32 am on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Well, I'm giving a dedicated server another shot. The last company we tried was VERY sketchy! (so Iím still using a shared server)

I'm going to use the dedicated server company that comes up most often on webmaster world. But I have a question.

I really want a second hard drive in the machine to have a duplicate of the data on the main drive. I inquired about a RAID 1 setup and it costs an addition $100/mo. (2 SCSI drives RAID 1)which is quite a bit of money. On the other hand, they mentioned I could add a second IDE drive for $25/mo. and could use a script or some sort of software RAID. This sounds very attractive for budget reasons, but I have NO clue where to look for such software and install/setup.
1) Is it even worth doing or should I not even consider it and just go with the hardware RAID 1 setup?

My second question is about a firewall. I understand they are very important pieces of hardware to have - but again - budget. They want an additional $170/mo. for a Cisco PIX 501 firewall. Can someone help me on this one? If I were to shut down all ports on the server except http,https,ssh2,and SMTP(mail) - would the server still not be very secure? I understand that there still are risks....but I'm trying to figure out how great the risks are.

In case it's helpful, I'm looking at a server with Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES3.0 with Red Hat's automated OS patching.


6:58 am on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi AprilS,

I can chime in on the RAID issue. It's not worth it to go the software route, it will bog down your cpu.


9:21 pm on Jun 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

TheLBC - Thanks for that reply. Does anyone else have any advice on this subject?


9:15 am on Jun 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Actually I would say just the opposite... software raid these days can actually often out-perform hardware raid. CPUs are so fast these days that doing RAID is not much of an effort - on the other hand, the chips they put on raid card are puny lower-power chips that haven't been getting faster in a hurry.

Furthermore, web servers tend to be IO bound rather than CPU bound - that is why memory can make such a huge performance difference. So you won't miss the CPU time, and it will improve your IO, giving over-all better performance.

That said, setting up software raid, especially remotely, isn't going to be easy for you.


2:53 pm on Jun 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I agree with ddent on this, given webservers generally do much more reads than writes, software mirroring should cause minimal overheads. Its only when loading lots of data onto a webserver that I notice any real diference between software and hardware raid. Just my 2c worth.


3:05 pm on Jun 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

As far as the firewall goes, do you really need a hardware firewall? Check out APF - it works great and it's free.


10:44 pm on Jun 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thank you for your replies!

I will definately look into APF - as it sounds like a decent software firewall (from breifly browsing around).

So far it sounds like a software raid isn't that bad. The majority of or I/O is reading - with most of our writing being done in MySQL during customer checkouts. Are software raids that difficult to setup? Does anyone recommend any? I'm curious how difficult they are. The company I'm looking at charges $100/mo. for a hardware RAID1 setup.... but then again, my time is very precious!


2:50 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I guess I could be out of the loop a little, or maybe my IT background makes me take these things for granted, but how much are you going to pay for a dedicated server per month?
To host your own server you only need to buy a $1500 server which will have RAID and then pay for a either a T1 or in many areas now you can get business class DSL or Cable, either of which should be enough to host most websites and include a single or multiple IP's.
Are you getting more than 1 million visitors a month?(Not hits, visitors.)
If one of these isn't enough speed for about $200 dollars more you can get a device which will provide load balancing over two of these type of internet connections. You might be supprised at the number of popular websites which are running over consumer class DSL or Cable connections.
The only other item you would need to add is of-site storage of daily back-ups and you have everything they would offer you, no?
Off-site backups for most sites are as simple as a DVD-RW drive and 15 DVD-RW disk stored anywhere but where you have your server. Look at the math over one year and I would be quite suprised if you spend more by hosting your own server rather than paying someone else to do everything I just mentioned.
Am I wrong?


7:20 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

mcpjon - you bring up a good point. I think the thing that concerns me about doing my own hosting is the internet connection. I think I could create a very nice server - I just don't know what type of connection we need to handle our traffic. We currently have about 90,000 unique visitors per month - but are expecting that to greatly increase (..hope). I know with a lot of big hosting companies they have redundant connections.

With my little office here we are connected with business cable internet. We get about 5,000 Kbps down and 400 Kbps up. It just doesn't seem like that would handle it (I don't know though). What would be required during high traffic times when you have 30-50 users on the site at the same time?

I can increase our business cable to 1MB up - but that costs $349/mo. here. At that cost it doesn't make much sense when I can get the server I need for $400/mo. which comes with very fast and redundant connections + redundant power supplies.

Anyone else have thoughts?


7:37 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I can see your worries, but I think you should be fine. Unless you have alot of high bandwidth files 400kbps should be fine. If you are using alot of movie files and and other high bandwidth files, then it's probable that your speed would be to slow, otherwise I would just host your own server.

One more thing to think about...
How many web sites are you hosting? You need to be sure that you can get enough IP addresses.


8:16 pm on Jun 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Always go for a hardware firewall instead of a software one ... it just makes more sense. Yes it's more expensive, but you can set up NAT on hardware for additional security. Plus hardware-based firewalls can provide protection against IP spoofing whereas a software one can't.

Security by blocking ports should always be at the earliest point of entry on your network, not the final destination of the packet. If you can't afford a hardware solution like a Cisco PIX then go for the software, it's better than having nothing, but don't plan on a software firewall as a long term solution.


6:06 pm on Jun 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Well, this is sort of funny considering we were discussing hosting on "your own".

We had quite the rain storm yesterday and the power was out for 9 hours. This would translate into roughly 9 hours of lost sales!

Probably one of the first things that pops into many people's heads - "battery backup". Well, I have one, pretty hefty one too - but it failed! Turns out the batteries in those things are good for a year or two before you have to purchase a replacement battery to put in them....which I'm going to do, but even then, unless I spend a LOT of money - I'm only going to get about an hour of backup.

I don't know - I think hosting my own dedicated server is VERY attractive because I own the hardware and can upgrade and change out hardware as needed. However, by doing so I have to worry about:
- Power Outages (lost sales)
- Network Outages (lost sales)
- Not being able to take a vacation
- and probably a few more things I haven't thought of yet ;-)

If anyone has any thoughs regarding hosting my own dedicated server... with ease - I'm all ears.

From those of you who have dedicated servers with other companies - does this look like a good deal?
$400 per month
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES 3.0
- P4 2.8 Ghz
- 1 GB RAM
- 2 x 36GB SCSI Hard Drives
- RAID 1 Mirroring (hardware raid)
- 125 GB of Bandwidth per month

Currently, I'm looking at Rackspace and Interland for dedicated servers. They both are offering similar quotes to what I described above. I've never had a dedicated with either of these companies - they both seem to be recommended on webmasterworld. Thoughts?


8:48 am on Jul 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Just thought of another question before I sign a contract within the next couple of days.

Does anyone have any other points that should be considered when choosing a dedicated server (& hosting company)? words of wisdom?


10:08 am on Jul 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Only things to consider are the speed and quality of their technical support. Some of the hosting companies I have worked with - their technical support effectivly closes at about 3.30pm....

Just throwing another idea into the mix, why not purchase your own server, and co-lo it? Your likley to save money on this in the long term, and you can configure it to your hearts content. Plus they benifit from redundant networks and power supplies. We co-lo'ed one of our main servers (from shared hosting), spent the time making sure everything was good, and its run faultlessly for 6 months (still early days tho').

Do they give you control panels to aid in configuration, or is it down to you and a SSH client?

Quick note about self-hosting, on ADSL (in the UK) running multiple ADSL lines in, isn't going to gain you 2x the bandwidth, since both of those lines are connected to the same exchange.. (BT person once told me this, so YMMV!)


11:09 am on Jul 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

AprilS ..thats expensive for the spec they are offering


11:37 am on Jul 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

>thats expensive for the spec they are offering

You have to consider the support that at least one of them is also offering.

There are 2 really good hosts that are much cheaper, but they don't offer the support. If you have a mission critical site(s) then that support can pay for itself several times over within 30 minutes of potential downtime.

I have 2 dedicated servers with one of the hosts AprilS is considering (and pay more than her quote, at least for the remainder of this year's contract!), and several servers with the cheaper guys. You only need to pay for great technical support with one company to be able to use it at those that don't offer it;)

AprilS, from your "spec" I think I know where you are going, and you won't regret it for a second :)


12:07 pm on Jul 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Yes agreed on support ..but if its not critical and you can config yourself there are some good one out there ...

I can think of at least one other that I can't mention here (tos) that has very good support ..i know that from France whenever I needed to raise them they were there ..I only needed them for my stuff ..not because of problems their end ...

APrilS ..sticky me if you want their name ...case you don't already have it ..


6:36 pm on Jul 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The primary site we will be placing on the dedicated server is an ecommerce site - so downtime = lost sales.

I considered doing colo hosting our own server, there were a few options. For $150/mo we could get a 2U space plus a 10MB (burstable) connection that we would share with other users (businesses, gamers, etc). Or we can rent a space and pay for a dedicated connection - so $150/mo for the space + like $250/mo for a 512Kbps connection - $350/mo for a 1Mb connection etc. The 10MB burstable solution for $150/mo is very attractive, but with gamers on that connection - I'm not sure.


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