Premium Web Hosting Put to the Test

8th July, 2012 in Hosting

We needed to invest in a new server for our website hosting service but before we placed the order we decided to review our usual server setup (several dedicated and VPS's) and hosting plans. With our premium website service being so popular we decided it is wise to ensure we offer a premium website hosting service to go with it. After all, it makes sense to ensure the server can deliver a fast website after spending time ensuring the website itself is optimised for page load speed.

Our most recent server is a dedicated server and although has plenty of space left, it does have a lot of websites so is classed as a shared dedicated server. As with any shared environment, all these websites would have an impact on each other. Although they still load fast enough to satisfy our customers, they would not load as fast as they could do if they were the only site, or one of a few sites, on a dedicated server or VPS.

We therefore wondered if instead of having a dedicated server that many of our customers shared, to have several smaller servers that few of our customers share. With this in mind we thought it about time we offer Cloud Hosting. Cloud Hosting can be compared to VPS's in terms of resources offered (perhaps 1 or 2Gb RAM, 20 or 40Gb space), except they use a distributed architecture to store files and resources on offer, which means they are more reliable (less inclined to suffer from hardware failures) and easily scaleable (adjust resources like RAM and space required) to suit the load.

Our predicament was which host to use. We wanted to find the fastest cloud server we could to ensure the premium website hosting service will serve our customers websites as fast as possible. On the other hand, the faster the server, the higher the cost. So we do need to weigh up cost with performance.

With that in mind we ran various tests on various servers from various providers. We wanted to compare speeds between a dedicated server with one website, our most recent dedicated server with over 50 websites, a dedicated VPS, and a few dedicated cloud servers. We chose EUKHost, Rackspace and Linode as the hosting providers to test.

The results are quite interesting and mean we can now choose a suitable provider for the next phase in our premium website services.

server graphs
Click to view larger version

The above chart is a small snapshot of the tests which we ran over a period of a few days. Over those days the chart altered a little, but the what you see is representative of the average performance of each server, especially in relation to one an another.

Results - Top Down

First up is EUKHost (http://www.eukhost.com/), a current server provider of ours. The results showed that this cloud server did not perform as well as we thought it would. Worse than our shared dedicated that has a lot of websites, yet of the same specification. A dedicated will always be the most powerful, but with so many sites on it we thought a brand new cloud would be able to out perform it. But no.

Next up it's an approximate tie between a dedicated VPS from EUKHost and our EUKhost shared dedicated server with many websites. The VPS in this case actually has twice the RAM than our dedicated shared server. Again, we are surprised at the low performance of this VPS. We think it should be far faster than the shared dedicated.

Slightly faster than the VPS and shared dedicated are the cloud servers from Rackspace (http://www.rackspace.co.uk/) and Linode (http://www.linode.com/), both reputable and good quality server providers. The fact these are 1Gb RAM and the EUKHost VPS a 2Gb shows the performance benefit of using these cloud servers. We are still surprised the cloud servers do not perform much better than the shared dedicated.

Our surprise about the great performance of the shared dedicated (not we do not consider it a low performance of the VPS and cloud servers) is justified after reviewing the last server on test, a dedicated server with only one average usage website on it. You can see from the results this server far out performance all the others. This confirms that dedicated servers truly are far better than, and out perform, VPS and cloud servers.

Of course, with performance comes price. Our non-shared dedicated server costs 4x the price of the cloud servers so the best website speed will come at a costly price for customers.

Conclusion

Based on our tests, we can now decide on the next server(s) to order for our customers websites. In fact, we have decided to offer several choices to customers due to the varying speed and cost of each option, and the varying usage of websites. We will offer our standard, shared hosting service as we have done because the tests show performance is fine, but add on additional premium web hosting services for those who need something faster, have high traffic or use a lot of server resources.

  • Shared Dedicated Hosting: Many websites (50 to 100) sharing a dedicated server. This is our current standard service.
  • Shared Cloud Hosting: Several websites (5 to 10) hosted on a cloud server. The low number of sites will ensure performance is maintained
  • Dedicated Cloud Hosting: One website on a cloud server, to ensure the website benefits from all server resources
  • Dedicated Server: One website hosted on a dedicated server to ensure the website performs as best it can

We can of course vary the above offerings, as no website is different. From static websites with low visitors, to dynamic websites with medium traffic, to extremely popular and database hungry applications, all hosting requirements are covered from our service.

Thanks to Nodeping (http://nodeping.com/) and Singlow (https://github.com/singlow/smoothieping) for the monitoring and graphs.

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