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  1. #1

    Question Need help decide with server spec for high traffic site

    Hi everyone. Since this is my first post, please excuse my bad spelling(english is not my primary language) and my low level of knowledge as i am still learning everyday new things.
    I know that many of you are very experienced and can help me with your advices.
    Should i start with an high cost server configuration specs or i can do it with a low cost one?. All i need is to be able offer good experience to visitors ( fast loading of website but videos as well ).
    I want start an tube site and need more help with choosing server configuration to start with.
    Unfortunately, due to so many other tube sites, i am not sure that my project will succeed so i prefer to not risk much money into this.( since i m going to monetize site using traffic it gets, so more traffic it can sustain means more money to afford expenses, as i intend no profit from it as long as i can pay monthly fees involved with this project and can grow up faster)
    The script i am going to use can work on more than one server.
    I guess that i should start with one server and if my website will have success, to get more servers at the right time.
    After some research i did ( over 2 weeks ) i am still undecided about server spec i should start with but have option to upgrade it later without much hassle or downtime.
    In my vision, to start with two servers should be the best ( will be much easier to start from there later if needed to sustain more traffic - like one server for front end and other for storing videos and streaming from ).
    But for a low cost solution ( since i risk to lose all investment ), if i start with just one server, i guess will be harder later to upgrade it without hassle or downtime. (later i can easy move db to a dedicated server but how about CPU? or videos? or how about upgrading hdd spec with faster ones since need rebuild raid array wich means lots of downtime and hassle about os reload with req. modules and configuration - maybe some fully system backup before videos are added can be done to minimize that downtime?)
    For OS, i m thinking at Centos 5.x 64bit with apache and lighttpd, including only required modules and services to be compiled for a fast run and fully optimized for my project needs.
    Please share your expertize with me and help me get this project to life at minimum costs because in case it won't succeed, to be able lose less money.

    This is the best low cost configuration i can afford( cheap but also higher performance) im thinking at to start with that in my opinion should sustain about 10k uniques daily and around min. 50-100 active concurents without any slowdown( My first goal is to get there ):

    Dual Quad 5520 Nehalem HT ( 2.26Ghz )
    2x 500GB SATA 2 ( Raid 1 hardware - mirrored )
    100MB/s uplink ( dedicated )

    In case this spec won't sustain at least 10k uniques daily without slowdown, what else should i change to it?
    Maybe 15k SAS drives?
    Maybe more RAM?
    Maybe better CPU?
    I am open to new suggestions/advices.
    ( Server and Bandwith monthly costs won't be counted in, since this thread is about server specs only )

    If this spec you think is perfect to start with, what should i do later if more traffic comes and front-end start with slowdowns due to more traffic coming?
    Maybe to get another server spec like this and using load balancing? I am not an expert at this and couldn't find best solution from that point. I just want to make sure i am ready to deal with any problem that should appear when is about offering visitors same best experience i used to offer them from the start.
    Thank you very much and all your advices will be much appreciated.
    Last edited by camgirls; 08-28-2009 at 08:09 PM. Reason: added reason of bad spelling

  2. #2
    I forgot to add about option to have separate hdd and raid maybe for OS,DB,Storage in single server. What are best options available in order to make sure that i can prevent downtimes? Maybe separate hdd for backups? Or remote via local lan? Still waiting on your opinions and advices, thanks

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Hello and welcome to this forum,
    I have heard many great thing's about im sure you can contact them via live chat and they will be able to assist you. Also Hivelocity is a great host who provide's server's check them out

  4. #4
    thanks semoweb, but my question it wasn't about wich hosting provider to go with, but a solution for low-cost server configuration specification regarding my nature of project ( high traffic website ); usually, an hosting provider doesn't provide assistance of wich server customer may need in details, just examples of configurations. The reason i opened this thread, was about getting advices about better in depth of server config, and only people that experienced with problems like this i hope they will share with me how did they fixed the problem of having high traffic on their website by the point of server configuration ( not talking here about optimization tasks )
    Last edited by camgirls; 08-28-2009 at 09:04 PM. Reason: pointing to title of this thread

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Houston, Texas, USA
    Hi there,

    Here are my observations / recommendations. Truth be told you are planning too far ahead, which can cost you a lot upfront! It can ultimately kill your project. Start small, server small then expand as you gain popularity. How do you make your business agile and expandable?

    a) Virtualization
    b) server capacity monitoring over time
    c) a support team that understand your goal and concerns

    Ask for your provider to install a virtualization kernel and tools. Your server will essentially contain one VPS, which will have access to the server's resources exclusively. Why virtualization? This will make your server upgrades or downgrades seamless with zero down time (google live migration Xen). For example, if your provider finds out that your server can't handle the number of visits, they can upgrade your server within the hour without a second of down time! You could start out with a well managed quad core Xeon with a set of RAID-1 disk.

    Which brings me to my second point. How do you know if your server is on the verge of being overwhelmed with traffic (besides slow responsiveness when browsing pages/videos)? That's point b. There are server collected metrics that can be reviewed on a weekly basis to determine growth and to plan accordingly (google SAR). So how does one make sense of these metrics?

    That's the third point. Don't be cheap on this front. Get a well managed server. Canned responses can kill your project. Let me know if you have any question or comment.

    Last edited by UNIXy; 08-28-2009 at 11:27 PM.
    UNIXy - Fully Managed Servers and Clusters - Established in 2006
    [ cPanel Varnish Nginx Plugin ] - Enhance LiteSpeed and Apache Performance - Los Angeles | Houston | Atlanta | Rotterdam
    Love to help pro bono (time permitting). joe >

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    If you are doing a video alike site, it is important that your drive is fast.

    Since you are starting, you can get with a mid cpu like Core2Duo but make sure to use sas drive or scsi. With this setup, you do not need more powerful server until you get plenty of visitors.
    Specially 4 You
    JoneSolutions.Com ( Jones.Solutions ) is on the net 24/7 providing stable and reliable web hosting solutions and services since 2001

  7. #7

    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by net View Post
    If you are doing a video alike site, it is important that your drive is fast.

    Since you are starting, you can get with a mid cpu like Core2Duo but make sure to use sas drive or scsi. With this setup, you do not need more powerful server until you get plenty of visitors.
    HI there, can you tell me more about "plenty" of visitors? And what are you suggest to do after that? Thanks.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    I agree with UNIXy for the most part; I can't tell you how many projects I've seen fail simply because people get in way over their heads too soon with way more server power than they need. If you get a nice managed solution from a good provider that understands complex/clustered server hosting, scalability shouldn't be much to worry about when you get there; and unless you expect an instant rush of traffic from an outside source / advertising campaign, I'd start with one server.
    Corey Northcutt | Northcutt
    Competitive inbound marketing with a hosting industry competency.
    Social | Content | Optimization | Outreach

  9. #9
    Thanks for bringing that to me, yes, will be instant rush of traffic from outside sources, in that limit of 10k a day. Sorry if i forgot to point that out. With the hardware specs i choose, do you think will sustain it? If will do, what's best step to take this at a higher level? Clustering or load balancing?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Montreal, PQ
    Let me try to help.

    10k unique visitors is not much. Looking at the number of sites I host, we're talking about an Alexa ranking of around 45-60k. But also please do take the Alexa rankings with a grain of salt... they don't mean much. But it really is the only way to compare site traffic if you don't have access to the analytics or visitor stats. But if you do, that's another story...

    Ok, so anyway, your proposed setup is overkill for your target. As others have suggested, start small. Pick out a solid dual core system, with plenty of RAM (4+), RAID1/10 disk setup from a reputable provider that can provide personalized support. This can be very important as the host can help you with choosing the right setup and platform for your needs, if you outgrow or need to migrate to clusters, etc...

    Besides, you're video streaming right? Your video streaming servers (and I hope they're separate, dedicated boxes) will bottleneck and bleed pain long before your website chokes.

    For your streaming servers, aim for a cheap CPU, a good amount of ram (2-4gb~) and fast disk I/O. I don't know how big your videos are, but 4x 250gb RAID-0 for small files or 4x 500GB+ RAID-0 for larger files, and find a way to mirror them. Setup a software load balancer (like NGINX) between 2 servers that have identical content, and do that throughout your service. This way you get the speed of RAID-0 that is critical with VOD streaming, and the fault tolerance of having a backup mirror.
    Servers proudly hosted at... WebNX (10) - Netelligent (6)
    Also enjoying services from DreamHost, Hyperspin
    (#) indicates number of servers - 16 total

  11. #11
    Thank you very much Xf-Chan, looks very good your reply, can you tell me more about fast disk? 15k SAS or SSD drives? Since i need a low cost solution, can't go with 2 servers. But SAS/SSD are so pricey... anyway, thank you very much for your advices, everyone, much appreciated.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Montreal, PQ
    No. You can get by with conventional 7200rpm SATA2 disks.

    I'll give an example. When you open multiple programs at the same time, your computer will become slow and unresponsive. Even if you have a Quad core processor, and tons of RAM. The hard drive is holding you back.

    Same thing if you were to do multiple (or even just one) file copy from one place to another, your computer will be slow and unresponsive.

    I assume you'll be doing Flash video streaming, right? The video streaming will be progressive, reading sequentially off the drive.

    I'm going to go over a few things you will need to first understand the hardware before we start choosing what kind of disks you can use.

    Sequential reading: This means data will be read linearly across the disk.

    Next we have random read, which becomes increasingly important once your popularity kicks off. All mechanical disks have trouble with random reading/writing, performance can be measured by the disk access time and spindle speed... so higher RPM drives like those 15k SAS can improve performance here.

    Finally we have NCQ (Native Command Queueing). Native Command Queuing (NCQ) is a technology designed to increase performance of SATA hard disks under certain situations by allowing the individual hard disk to internally optimize the order in which received read and write commands are executed. This can reduce the amount of unnecessary drive head movement, resulting in increased performance (and slightly decreased wear of the drive) for workloads where multiple simultaneous read/write requests are outstanding, most often occurring in server-type applications. (credit to Wikipedia)

    So there you have it. Next lets look at the types of drives.

    SAS 10k-15k/Raptor: Expensive. Low capacity. Great random read/write. Average 5ms access time. Largest drive size 300GB.
    SSD: Even more expensive. Even less capacity. Excellent random read/write. Average <0.5 ms access time.
    SATA2: Cheap. High capacity up to 2TB. Decent random read/write, thanks to NCQ. Average access time 13ms.

    For cost reasons it's best to go with SATA2. It's good to go cheap on the processor and memory. But not too cheap, since you'll need to make sure the platform/chipset supports NCQ. You might want to ask the host to be sure it's supported, and enabled. You can get by with 1GB of ram if you avoid the memory hog known as Apache, and use something light like Lighttp or Nginx.

    When only one person is streaming off the server, the disk will just read the data sequentially. Once a few more users jump in and watch stuff, the reading turns into random read, since they will be watching different things, and that data would be located at different sectors of the drive.

    RAID or not? A single SATA2 disk (WD Caviar black) can serve about 80-100 users @ 250kbit and pushing 30mbit. You can double the drives into a RAID-0 and you could expect to reach 60mbit. You can get free raid by using onboard. They're good enough these days.
    Servers proudly hosted at... WebNX (10) - Netelligent (6)
    Also enjoying services from DreamHost, Hyperspin
    (#) indicates number of servers - 16 total

  13. #13
    Wow, so much knowledge, thank you so much. RAID0 means stripping and RAID1 mirroring, right? Can mirroring affect reading speed so much? What backup solution shall i use?

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