I am currently on a shared box reselling hosting services. In the future, once my company grows a bit bigger, I will move to a dedicated box. In trying to wrap my head around everything that move would entail, I am wondering - is there a diference between a web server and a mail server? I would think they are the same thing most often (use the same box if only one box used for hosting) - is that correct?
Most shared hosts probably are using the same server for both web and email services along with ftp and control panel. Though if you have the budget or knowledge to setup otherwise, it is possible to setup one server for http requests, other for email, and 3rd for FTP, 4th for MySQL and the list goes on
You just need someone knowledgeable to help you get it setup.
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Ideally you should have services separated (ie web mail db, etc) - however, this obviously is not economical when you dont actually need multiple servers.
when you first move from a shared environment to a dedicated environment, you will certainly be on a single server configuration. However, depending which solution you choose, clustering either becomes just a function of adding additional servers and allocating services to them or becomes a fairly complicated process.
I would not say that most hosts have everything on single servers. Almost any provider over 2 or 3 servers in size that isnt using cpanel, is clustered (and even some of those using cpanel have still clustered to take advantage of the many benefits of clustering)
Additionally, even though web and email can obviously co-exist on the same server, they tend to use different types of server resources - and as such, you can much more efficiently utilize your resources if they are clustered onto different servers. For example, I/O and RAM is typically more important in mail servers, so you will want beefy servers with lots of ram and fast 15k SCSI drives - whereas you can probably get away with less RAM and 10K SCSI or even SATA drives for a web server.
Thanks for the great replies. Obviously when I make the jump I will start out with one box. You guys brought up 2 more questions for me though.
1) In general, what would be the first thing or things you would want to put on a 2nd server when the time came?
2) So, what specs are most important for a web server, a mail server, ftp, control panel and sql? I never really thought on this level that they use different features of a server (RAM, HD, Processor, etc)
you should really be looking at something like hsphere...
But, to answer your questions - it really depends on what is most heavily used.
The first things we moved off were mysql and ns2, leaving control panel, email, web and ns1 on the original server. We then moved off mail, then web, etc... (ftp typically would not require its own server, it is usually a service on a web server)
General specs for the services will vary - however, good rules of thumb:
web - good processing power, average amount of ram, decent drives (we like scsi with raid because of redundancy and time to restore is better)
mysql - more of everything is better - specifically heavy processors, ram and fast drives
email - ram and I/O is the most important
These are just generalalizations and actual configs can vary greatly depending on many factors, including budget...
Think of it this way - web program, email program, dns program, database program, FTP program.
These are all different programs ran on a server. Can web and email be on one server? Yes. Can the database program be on one server? Yes.
When we started out - I had the same problem as you. It's a server. So I thought we had to have a server for everything but then once I looked at it a different way - it was a lot easier.
For example we had the website program, ftp program and control panel program on one server. We had email and DNS on one server. And we had MSSQL and secondary DNS on another. We added another server and moved Helm to that server later.
Now since the sell, we have two servers and are outsourcing some of the services as well but maintaining everything on our server just as a backup