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When you are a system administrator, responsible for maintaining a dedicated server or VPS, you come to learn that your server is constantly under the threat of attack. It may be from malware, denial of service (DoS), brute force attacks, SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), botnets, phishing schemes, or any number of other nefarious cyber crimes.
To make matters even more complicated, your server may unknowingly be under attack from within. A simple glitch in a piece of code, a faulty installation of software, a troublesome network connection, or just the accumulation of corrupted data can lead to problems.
The best way to avoid problems, whether from security breaches or from network errors, is to monitor your server closely. All server operating systems and software provide log files and other regular information about their status and any problems or errors they encounter, but to really analyze that information and stay abreast on any developments, you need server monitoring software.
It is difficult to say which monitoring system is the best, as they each have their own unique feature set and benefits. What we can provide you with, however, is a list.
Free and Open Source Monitoring Software
This software is free to use, distribute, and modify, giving you the ultimate flexibility.
Nagios – Nagios can monitor your operating system, applications, services, network protocols, infrastructure components, and just about everything else you have. This is great if you need an all-in-one solution.
Ganglia – Ganglia is ideal for monitoring robust systems like clusters and grids. It uses advanced technologies for its monitoring, such as “XML for data representation, XDR for compact, portable data transport, and RRDtool for data storage and visualization”.
Cacti – This free network monitoring software leverages RRDtool to graph network installations and provide you with valuable information.
Commercial Monitoring Software
This software is proprietary and costs money, but when it comes to protecting your server, it might be worth it.
Zenoss – Zenoss provides real-time network monitoring on a wide variety of devices, including virtual ones. It can monitor on even the largest networks with 10,000 or more devices.
Orion Network Performance Monitor – When you need to monitor and also diagnose problems with your network or data center, Solarwinds Orion provides real-time dashboards allowing you to visually track your network.
Server Density – Server Density is an online service that provides monitoring of server load time, disk monitoring, website status, and the aggregation of various server data. Most importantly, it sends alerts when there is a problem to your mobile devices, such as iPhone or Android phones.
As you can see, there are plenty of options for server monitoring, and these just begin to scratch the surface. These tools are primarily designed to show you trouble spots so that you can deal with them before they get out of hand, but you can also use them to help fine tune your server and network for optimum performance.
Cloud computing is becoming extremely popular in the business world, and the term cloud computing may have a different meaning in the IT world than it does in the business world. Nevertheless, consumers and businesses are moving to the cloud at a rapid pace. It may be difficult to predict, but some have even suggested that cloud computing may eventually replace dedicated server hosting completely.
Those who believe cloud computing is the future of hosting point out that its flexibility is one of the key features that attracts users. With cloud computing, it is much easier to switch gears and adjust to changing markets when you do not have to pay out-of-pocket expenses for costly upgrades, third-party add-ons, or other major software changes. As part of the cloud subscription, businesses get the services they need when they need them.
Those who disagree with this hypothesis would argue that dedicated server hosting is not going anywhere. Many individuals and businesses need dedicated servers and enjoy the freedom that comes with being able to manage them and configure them however they want. This is especially true of users who rely on and prefer free and open source software. It is also appealing to companies with sensitive or highly secure information, such as banks and intelligence organizations.
Even those cloud supporters who believe cloud computing will take the “lion’s share” of the market do not believe traditional dedicated server hosting will fade away completely. Some companies may even prefer managed dedicated server hosting as an alternative to cloud hosting.
A third possibility is that many organizations will adopt a hybrid hosting methodology, combining both cloud hosting with dedicated hosting. These organizations are the ones that will likely be in the majority for years to come. For example, they may host certain groupware applications in the cloud but may continue to host their financial service sites on their own servers. Others will host their web applications on their own servers while using content delivery networks (CDN) to host their static files, such as images and videos.
Cloud computing will definitely be a part of hosting for many years to come, but it is safe to say that dedicated server hosting will be as well.
When you go shopping for a dedicated server, you will quickly discover that the options are seemingly endless. It is particularly difficult to choose when you are looking for a remotely hosted dedicated server provider. All web hosts say they have the best servers, and many of them offer very competitive prices. But the truth is, not all of them are equal.
If you have ever shopped for a PC or laptop, you might have decided to choose a less expensive machine knowing that you would not need the full power of a high-end computer. In some cases, that hypothesis turns out to be accurate, and you never have any problems. In other situations, however, you might later end up regretting going with the cheap option.
When it comes to servers, it is better to not take that chance. You should go with the most powerful option in your price range, since it will be less expensive and less time consuming than having to upgrade later.
A server is just a computer. Therefore, a web host can call any box a server without any technical or legal constraints. This means that you could potentially end up using low quality hardware and not even realize it until it is too late. Therefore, the first thing you should do when shopping for a server is look for server-quality hardware.
Processor – The easiest way to identify a server-quality processor is to look at the name. Chip manufacturers such as AMD and Intel have a distinct line of processors for servers. Intel’s Xeon line and AMD’s Opteron line are specifically designed for servers. You can then look at other features like the number of cores, hardware virtualization support, and caching.
Memory - On a PC, you might not even notice the difference between 3 GB of RAM and 4 GB unless you are doing something extraordinary, but on a server, every byte counts, especially when server-side scripting (such as PHP) and databases(such as MySQL) are involved. Memory is a lot less expensive than it used to be, so there is no reason to not get as much as possible.
Storage – Drive capacity is only the beginning. You should find out how fasts the drives are, if the storage capacity is expandable, and if your host offers special features, such as solid state drives (SSD).
Other factors - There are many other factors that you should consider, but most of them are host-specific, such as network speed, data center security, and power management. You should investigate all of these features and compare each host’s offerings to find the best one.
Image credit: Robert Kloosterhuis
The use of the word “unlimited” is a common one in the web hosting world. These days, almost all web hosts offer at least some “unlimited” features, including disk space, bandwidth, domains, and more. Just like unlimited Internet access and unlimited mobile data plans, there are actually limits. The real difference between limited plans and unlimited plans is that the unlimited plans are undefined.
When you sign up for a hosting plan that allows for unlimited disk space, you will most likely not run into a problem, even if you use hundreds of gigabytes of space. Typically, hosting companies that offer these unlimited services have a surplus of it available. If they do not, it is truly false advertising. They base their claim of unlimited service on the maximum amount of usage they get from their users. They then make a business decision that even if a user goes over that maximum amount, they will impose any additional charges.
Unlimited, therefore, is more accurately described as “unmetered”. The web host is not measuring how much of the service you use. There is no quota, and you will probably not have a problem unless you are using more than even a dedicated server would typically support. In that case, your host may contact you and offer you some type of other deal. Under no circumstances, however, should your host slap you with additional fees when they have made a promise of “unlimited” space or bandwidth to you.
For some services, such as domain hosting, the unlimited amount is limited by other features. In other words, if your account has a 400 GB space limit, such as the Hosting Mini plan offered by WebHostingBuzz, you can only have as many domains hosted as 400 GB will allow, which is more than most customers will ever use.
To put it plainly, even unlimited hosting has its technical limits, but a good web host will not punish you for exceeding their server capacity. They will simply make arrangements to move you to your own server or setup some type of special account in order to keep your website functioning properly.
When a cloud service goes down, it makes big headlines. Many businesses now depend on cloud hosting services to always be on. Despite that desire for constant connectivity, no cloud providers actually promise 100% uptime. Is such a thing even possible? There is no simple answer, but there are many issues at play here.
Most web hosts will offer 99% uptime or something close to it, leaving the window open for possible downtime. Some downtime may be intentional and others might not. The following are a few examples of unavoidable downtime:
- Hardware upgrades
- Scheduled maintenance, especially security updates that require server reboots
- Power outages. Often times these can be redirected to redundant servers, but not always
- Security attack. A denial of service (DoS) attack or other major intrusion can cripple even the most advanced servers
- Internet congestion or delays – Yes, I am going to use that old analogy. The Internet is like an “information superhighway”, and a road block or other problem at any point can cause a disruption of service. This may have nothing to do with your web host or your Internet service provider but rather one of the junctions in between the two.
Any one of these events or other unavoidable acts of nature can cause stoppage of cloud service or any web hosting for that matter. In other words, with our current technology, 100% uptime is probably just not feasible. What a web host can promise, however, is that schedule downtime will be during off hours, preferably when you and your customers are asleep. Moreover, they can promise that any unintentional down time is mitigated quickly and that they compensate you for any loss if it is not.
The scenario goes something like this. You have been using a service like wordpress.com to host your blog and have even assigned a domain name to point to that service. Now, you have moved your blog to a new host with a new domain, but you still want people who access the old domain to somehow wind up at your new site.
Ideally, you want to make it as simple as modifying the DNS, but that may not be the best option. First, you should understand what you can and cannot do with DNS. The main purpose of DNS is to assign names to IP addresses. Your domain, mywebiste.tld, must be associated with the IP address of a server. The primary record responsible for that association is an “A” record.
If you already have a domain pointing to an IP, you can use CNAME to create an alias, but an alias is different from a redirect. Instead of sending users to the new domain, CNAME will use the old domain to view the same site.
The best option is to use your web server to do an actual redirect that nearly all web browsers should recognize. For example, the Apache web server code for a redirect is 301, and it is universally known by web browsers.
You will still need hosting for the old domain, so make sure your new web host will allow you to host multiple domains. Place an .htaccess file in the root document directory, and put the following information in it:
Redirect 301 / http://www.my-new-website.tld/
This will send users to your new website. You should also put an html file in the same directory in case some users are not redirected, for whatever reason. It should just include a brief statement indicating that the site has moved and a link to the new site. This will also be good for any directories or other services that have indexed your site.
Before you even get to this question, there are a few other questions you should ask first. How critical are the websites and/or applications you want to host on your VPS (virtual private server)? What features do you need? Are you willing to sacrifice some of those features in exchange for less expensive hosting?
A low-end VPS is a great way to get a server with root (administrative) access without paying a fortune to do it. If you simply cannot afford the cost of a typical VPS hosting package, it may be your only option. Nevertheless, there are plenty of reasons why you should prefer a reasonably-priced VPS plan from a more reliable host over a low-end deal from a host that may not offer the best service.
One of the most important things VPS users often need is scalability. As your websites grow, they will need more RAM, more CPU power, more disk space, and more bandwidth. A reputable host will offer you a VPS package that is expandable and also leave the option for you to upgrade to a full dedicated server.
You should also make sure you understand what you are paying for when you sign up for low-end VPS service. They manage to be less expensive by offering less RAM, less dedicated CPU power, and often significantly fewer features.
Another important aspect to consider is service. You should not choose a web host simply because it has bargain basement prices. Instead, investigate carefully, and find a host that offers good customer service for a reasonable price. Ask current and former customers what they think of the host.
Ultimately, a VPS can be a powerful tool to add your arsenal, but you should not get your expectations too high with an unreliable low-end VPS. If you just need a test server or something for a small project, it might be enough, but if you are planning to deploy long-term serious websites, you need a stable VPS hosting package.
LAMP is a common technology acronym that stands for the software combination of Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. Most web applications can run on a variety of operating systems, web servers, and database servers, but this combination of free and open source tools has become enormously popular for its security, flexibility, and scalability.
The web hosting company that offers the fastest LAMP hosting would probably have a difficult time proving it. Furthermore, speed is only part of the equation for good performance. What you really need to consider is how you want to deploy your LAMP web applications and how to evaluate the reliability of web hosting providers.
Deployment is very important because it could have a serious impact on performance. When you deploy on a shared hosting account, it is with the understanding that you will be sharing the server with other users. Under a small to medium load of website traffic, that should not be a problem. For higher traffic or for a web application that is resource-intensive, you should consider going with a VPS or dedicated server.
You cannot judge web host reliability by the statistics a host gives you. On paper, it may be extremely fast, but actual performance will depend on how the host manages accounts and how it treats customers. For those answers, you will need to investigate. Read independent reviews, ask current users, and find websites that you know are already hosted on the prospective host’s servers.
Finding the best LAMP host can be tricky, just as tricky as finding hosting for just about anything else. What you need most is a host that offers server-quality hardware and a proven track record of delivering performance to customers.
It is one of the most popular buzzwords in the IT and business worlds. You cannot go anywhere and not hear people, advertisements, and computer experts talking about the “cloud”. But what does the word cloud actually mean? Is it something tangible or just an abstraction used to define something that already existed? The answer probably lies somewhere in between.
As one person who had worked in the IT industry put it, “There is no cloud. It’s just a bunch of servers.” From an IT perspective, this is true. The cloud looks a lot like the web hosting of old. In that sense, nothing has changed.
Nevertheless, a fundamental shift has occurred at both the business and consumer level. For a business, that “bunch of servers” once occupied a floor of its building and had to be maintained by a full staff of competent IT professionals. For the consumer, valuable emails that they once downloaded from their ISPs resided exclusively on their hard drives.
With the advent of the cloud, there are now companies that specialize in doing nothing but providing working, managed servers for businesses. While we may refer to them as cloud service providers, they are still web hosting companies that now offer software as a service (SaaS) or a platform as a service (PaaS). For the business employee or even a private consumer, it means that they can now access their software anywhere and are not tied to a single workstation or home computer.
Having stated all of the above, it is important to know what you are getting when you move your business to the cloud. For many users, traditional web hosting may still be the best option, especially if they want full control of their platform and software. For those that cannot afford to do it themselves, they can now pay others to run their business applications from the cloud.
One of the many benefits of having your own web hosting account is that you do not have to depend on cloud services for all of your web needs. In some cases, it may be more beneficial to host your own. The easiest way to do this is to find a free script that offers the same or similar features as the cloud app you would otherwise use.
OwnCloud login screen
CloudApp and Droplr are cloud services that provide cloud hosting for images and other files. You can also use them to share these files with other users. The following are some possible alternatives:
- OwnCloud – This free and open source project allows you to store images, documents, contacts, calendars, and more. You can share files with others, create users with various privileges, and even stream music. OwnCloud requires only PHP and either MySQL or SQLite, making it ideal for shared hosting users.
- SparkleShare – SparkleShare focuses on collaboration, allowing users easy access to files within their projects. It relies on Git collaboration technology and requires a server that has Git running. This makes it ideal for dedicated server or VPS users who want some type of collaborative development environment. It is also free and open source.
- AcidRain – Another free and open source file storage option, AcidRain provides the server and client software for syncing. It even keeps a history of your syncs and changes to any files. AcidRain relies on the Mecurial version control system, and therefore, requires a server that has it installed.
The above apps are just a few possibilities for cloud storage, syncing, and sharing that you can run on your own website or server. With shared hosting, virtual private servers, or dedicated servers from WebHostingBuzz, you can install the apps you need to get the job done.