Server Specs – We Need Your Help

Hey all,

My name is Tim and I am currently the guy supplying our friend Hemant with a server for his website. Problem is, his website is HUGE, and we need to look at upgrading him.

He says that some of you are pretty tech savvy (which I don’t doubt, with close to 5,000 daily visitors on average) so I’d like your thoughts on this. The current server doesn’t matter, as we’re going to upgrade him no matter what. Things just aren’t working that great. Also, keep in mind that we will not be going to any over-seller of hosting (eg. Bluehost, 1and1, Dreamhost, etc….) I want to get Hemant only the best when it comes to hosting his server.

At the hosting company we go through I have an opportunity to get him a pretty customizable dedicated server. It’s pretty expensive, with the different quotes below, so we want to try to go cheaper but not risk having to upgrade it later on (that requires downtime in most cases). So, take a look at what’s below, and give me your thoughts.

Quote 1A -


CPU1: Intel Xeon 5310 Clovertown (Quad Core)

CPU2: Intel Xeon 5310 Clovertown (Quad Core)

Total CPU Cores: Eight (8)

System RAM: 8192MB (8GB) DDR2 ECC Registered System RAM

Primary Hard Disk: 73GB Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) 15,000 RPM High-Performance Hard Disk

Second Hard Disk: 250GB SATA-II 7,200 RPM Hard Disk (nightly backup disk)

Data Transfer: 2000GB Premium Monthly Bandwidth (100Mbps uplinked port)

——————-

Quote 2 -

CPU1: Intel Xeon 5310 Clovertown (Quad Core)

CPU2: Intel Xeon 5310 Clovertown (Quad Core)

Total CPU Cores: Eight (8)

System RAM: 6144MB (6GB) DDR2 ECC Registered System RAM

Primary Hard Disk: 73GB Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) 15,000 RPM High-Performance Hard Disk

Second Hard Disk: 250GB SATA-II 7,200 RPM Hard Disk (nightly backup disk)

Data Transfer: 2000GB Premium Monthly Bandwidth (100Mbps uplinked port)

—————

Quote 3 – CHEAPEST (will no work; needs at least 6 GB Ram for smooth running)

CPU: Intel Xeon 3060 Woodcrest (Dual Core)
Total CPU Cores: Two (2)

System RAM: 2048MB (2GB) DDR2 ECC Registered System RAM

Primary Hard Disk: 250GB SATA-II 7,200 RPM Hard Disk

Secondary Hard Disk: 250GB SATA-II 7,200 RPM Hard Disk (nightly backup disk)

Data Transfer: 2000GB Premium Monthly Bandwidth (100Mbps uplinked port)

—————-

We can also have any variation of the above three quotes.

Of course, if you know of a better provider with cheaper prices let us know.

  • Alan

    I’m shocked that you need a dedicated server in the first place, let alone such a brawny specimen. I’m the lead web developer for a major non-profit, and we run the better part of our web portfolio on a single VPS from LiquidWeb. We negotiated a price of around $50/month.

    Anyway, can you give us a better idea of what your current configuration is like, as well as your average monthly bandwidth? Peak server loads couldn’t hurt either.

    If you post your email address I’ll get in touch with you. If not, either way, I’ve been ecstatic with LiquidWeb since we migrated to their servers.

  • Johan

    This seems like huge overkill. We ran a 20,000+ user torrent site on a server with specs similar to the last one, without any problems.
    Are you sure you are memcaching things, using xcache and so on?

  • http://anotherguy.us AnotherGuy

    Yeah, we’re definitely caching everything we can.

    Send me an email at timothy.stiffler@anotherguy.us for more answers to your questions.

  • http://anotherguy.us AnotherGuy

    I’ll just add the specs here:

    Currently uses almost 300 MB in server space.
    69,000 MB in bandwidth

    Server loads have peaked at over 40% often over the last few days.

  • ungullible

    I echo the overkill sentiment. Those systems seem huge for a blog. Can you provide specs on the user load and configuration you expect?

    FWIW, I manage a php+mysql forum that can easily top 100 simultaneous users during the day and it is hosted on a virtual server with 1GB RAM and 400GB bandwidth for only $70/mo. I could use a little more RAM to speed up the more complex SQL queries, but otherwise its great. Our host is http://www.slicehost.com and I couldn’t be more pleased with them.

  • http://anotherguy.us AnotherGuy

    I just sent in a request to see if the guys at Rochen can have a server with these hardware specs:

    CPU1: Intel Xeon 5310 Clovertown (Quad Core)

    Total CPU Cores: Four (4)

    System RAM: 6144MB (6GB) DDR2 ECC Registered System RAM

    Primary Hard Disk: 73GB Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) 15,000 RPM High-Performance Hard Disk

    Data Transfer: 500GB Premium Monthly Bandwidth (100Mbps uplinked port)

    Your thoughts?

  • http://anotherguy.us AnotherGuy

    ungullible,

    I just added the specs right before you commented.

    Currently, we’re on a Managed Virtual Server with about the same specs as the one you’re showing. I’m charging Hemant $30 a month right now to keep his site up and running, but I also have a few other sites on the server that don’t get as many hits (like my blog).

    There really aren’t many problems right now with the site besides the fact that it’s going slow. I’d like to have things going real smoother for Hemant, and put him in a position so that he’ll never have to upgrade again to a better server, and risk downtime while doing so.

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com/ Dan Florien

    Agreed on overkill. Dedicated servers are for people with 100,000 visitors a day. But in this day and age, who would want all that maintenance? Not me. Dedicated servers are for people who just like tech work and paying more.

    If I felt I really needed all that power, I’d go to MOSSO instead of paying for a dedicated server. $100/mo and it’s cloud computing.

    But personally, I’d probably just use Media Temple’s Grid-Service. $20/mo for cloud computing, so it handles spikes. If you needed more, you could go to their Dedicated-Virtual.

  • alphager

    Install WP-Supercache.
    Seriously, i am running several high-load financial applications in machines with less than half of the CPU & RAM!

  • http://anotherguy.us AnotherGuy

    Wp-Supercache is installed
    We’re turning on APCache right now… which may solve some issues with the server.

    Dedicated servers are also for people who don’t want their sites to fail…ever. :)

  • http://atheistblogger.com Adrian Hayter

    What Operating System are the servers running? It can make a huge difference. Linux servers are generally faster and more efficient since any GUIs are turned off.

  • Charles

    I’m Nthing the overkill statement.

    I work at a server manufacturer; I write web applications. There is absolutely no way whatsoever that this site *needs* dedicated hardware, unless I’m totally off on my guesses about traffic. So let’s establish them.

    How many daily pageviews? Not hits, not unique visitors, pageviews. Script executions is what I’m going for.

    You should also consider a VPS in place of actual dedicated hardware. There are plenty of VPS hosts out there that offer no-more-than-X-instances-per-server setups, which gets you horsepower without needing to worry too much about shared resources. It’s a much cheaper option than dedicated hardware. I personally use Rimu Hosting for my sites — the “semi-dedicated” plan is limited to 7 per physical server. Admittedly, I’m biased, as the owner is a former coworker of mine elsewhere. ;)

  • http://anotherguy.us AnotherGuy

    We’re already on a VPS (or an Managed Virtual Server as my host calls it) that has the following:

    200 GB of bandwidth
    15 GB storage
    1 GB ram (1.5 GB burstable)

    And as you can see, there’s a bit of slowness going on.

    Running linux, btw

  • http://anotherguy.us AnotherGuy

    Yesterday we got 16,610 pageviews.

  • http://atheistblogger.com Adrian Hayter

    I still don’t reckon it is the server that is the problem. Are you sure wp-cache (or whatever) is running properly? I’m pretty sure it usually adds a html comment to the bottom of pages, and I can’t see one in the source for this page, or indeed any other page I view.

    Caching has saved sites from both slashdot and digg effects before, so I don’t see how it could be failing for this site unless it wasn’t working properly. That would be the first thing I’d check.

  • Aj

    Seems like overkill, I don’t think the traffic justifies it. I’d check to see if a particular plugin/feature is eating up cycles/memory.

  • AM

    RAID.

    Trust me. You need to mirror your disks. You’ll be happy you did later when (not if) a disk dies.

  • cipher

    Slightly off-topic:

    Since the change-over, my name and email are no longer remembered. Also, formatting buttons are gone, and it no longer allows me to edit my comment after posting.

    (If this is an example of natural selection, no wonder the Christians don’t like it!)

  • cipher

    And it takes a LOT longer to post a comment – and I had to add this as a second comment b/c it wouldn’t allow me to edit!

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com/ Dan Florien

    “Dedicated servers are also for people who don’t want their sites to fail…ever”

    No, that’s cloud computing. Sites are spread over multiple machines in multiple locations, reducing single points of failure.

    I’ve run a couple dedicated servers for 8 years. There have been many failures, even using rackspace. It’s usually back up in an hour or so, sometimes two, but it still happens.

    There’s a single point of failure for dedicated servers, unless you’re using a load balancer (and then hopefully that won’t fail). Software upgrades can leave your server in a state of disaster. Hackers can get root access if an exploit is faster than you (and thus you have to love maintenance). The hard drive can fail (RAID helps there). Apache can get overloaded. DDoS attacks. Oh, they fail.

    I just can’t imagine choosing dedicated hosting for a blog like this, especially with the easy, cheap options that are available.

    Also, whoever is selling your VPS is overselling them if this site is this slow with one.

  • http://anotherguy.us AnotherGuy

    Or this site gets a lot more php requests than you guys think. Let’s run the numbers again. I don’t mean to sound rude, but I want to make sure you guys all see where we’re at. This is a problem that needs a solution pretty soon.

    16,000 + pageviews a day
    400 GB of bandwidth in one week
    300 MB of storage taken up
    On a virtual server.

    If any of you have noticed the loss of editing comments, etc… it’s because I’ve already disabled any plugins that are causing issues. There are some that are still up that aren’t hurting anything.

    WP-Supercache is set up, I have the notification that it is on turned off…cause we don’t need to advertise someone elses website.

    Email me with any other questions
    timothy.stiffler@anotherguy.us

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Dan Florien

    It sounds like you have a bunch of us tech guys giving you the same advice. Many of us do this for a living. I don’t mean to be rude either, but you wanted our advice, and there it is. We all think it’s overkill.

    I don’t understand why there would be so many php requests if the cache is enabled. Seems like there should only be requests once for a new post and then for each comment. Either something is misconfigured, or as I said, your VPS host is overselling.

    Why are you so resistant to cloud? That’s obviously the future of web hosting, and it seems crazy not to use it — it’s perfect for this! If it’s because you don’t resell it, I’m sure they have affiliate or reseller plans. I don’t see any downside.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    mnatheists.org is running off of BlueHost, and we ran into the CPU page a few times when I had a plugin misconfigured, or something else wrong on the site. BlueHost has been pretty helpful in nailing down a troublesome file.

  • http://anotherguy.us AnotherGuy

    I’m not resistant to change at all, or cloud computing, or anything else for that matter. But, I’m not going to jump onto a single solution just because a few people say that it’s the correct one (isn’t that the atheist way, not taking what others say as truth just because they say it?). I need to be sure before I put this site under any more strain of switching servers.

    I’m very open to discussing this with any of you over email.

  • Jason

    I’m not really on the hardware side of tech things, so I can’t comment on what’s ideal for a server.

    But, I can say there’s been a few times in the past few weeks where the site has been down when I visited, or I received a page with a bunch of jumbled garbage – almost like the browser received the wrong content-type in the request and didn’t know how to display anything.

    My point being is that I just say “aww shucks, I’ll check on Hemant in an hour or so.” So I don’t really expect 100% uptime, super-speedy access, etc. If the site is down or slow, I just check it a bit later. Unless Hemant is generating big revenue off this site, I wouldn’t strive for the type of performance and uptime implied by the specs in the original post.

  • Kirk

    I’ll echo the statement that some of those quotes seem a tad high for what you’re quoting. But I do have a question about what you claim the site is doing. You said you’re doing 400GB of transfer a week. What exactly is using up that much bandwith? I’ve been reading the site daily for the last few months and I don’t recall seeing any media that should be using a lot of bandwidth.

    I run a site that is a tad busier than this one, it sounds. up 6K unique users a day, 20,000 page views and a hell of a lot more media and we don’t come close to that number.


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