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  1. #1

    Hosting & Servers for Social networking website?

    So we are almost ready to launch a beta version of a social network site we are developing and are looking into Hosting and Hardware. The developers told us we need a dedicated environment with full root access.

    Site will have user profiles, messaging (email accounts), chat, live notifications, real time updates, video/photo sharing, etc. Next phases will have API implementation for 3rd party games/apps also. There could be 10 users, a thousand a million or even 10 million, so number of users is unpredictable. Site will be targeted towards global audiences because it's about local city networking so I do expect a lot of users and fast.

    Development environment is using MySQL / Linux / Php. Currently there are only two databases. Still need to research into staging environments and implementing backup solutions but I am not sure what and how much resources I will require.

    This is self funded, not investment runned so I can't go with the best of the best. Price is very important but so it having a solid hosting provider and solid hardware plan.

    Price I can spend is cheaper the better, but under 500 a month (with everything included, - support/hardware/software, etc) until some investments come in to finance this.
    Suggestions?
    Last edited by matty090; 07-05-2010 at 10:53 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Houston, Texas, USA
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    2,875
    Obviously, the cost of the hardware gear and support level will depend on the number of concurrent visitors that are hitting the social network application at peak time. But to start out, your budget is reasonable. On the technical side, a social network app that scales out has to be built with sharding in mind. It's very easy to scale out PHP but MySQL is a beast. Even MySQL NDB tends to come short.

    So here's what I recommend before beta launching and based on my experience with a 2Million+ member social app:

    1. Always serve from cache
    2. Shard the DB at the table level (modulus is OK)
    3. Leverage nginx and varnish whenever possible
    4. Learn from Facebook's failures/successes (online literature)


    Based on your description, your dev team and the provider will have to work hand in hand to understand the issues that crop up and team up to resolve them.

    Regards
    Joe / UNIXY
    UNIXy - Fully Managed Servers and Clusters - Established in 2006
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    Love to help pro bono (time permitting). joe > unixy.net

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
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    71
    Personally i'd start with a small vps, explain to the host what you are going to be doing and ask them about the possibility of expanding as and when you need.

    That way you can start on a shoestring as low as $5-20ish a month and as it grows, so does your vps package specs.

    That way, the money you save in month 1/2/3 etc can be ploughed back in when your all singing all dancing and giving facebook a run for their money

    Just my 2c like.

  4. #4
    But what about the hardware? IS 2GB RAM enough? Is one server enough? I am not sure on the HD space needed to handle this many users. Initially I may disable video sharing due to cost issues but photos will be there and heavy emphases on photo sharing.

    I don't want to sound over ambitious but I know this project will kick ground fast and hard because this is a first local social network of its kind and nothing comes near to the way it is digging into a city level on a social stage. So I am unsure about how many users to plan for. Since this is self-funded I can't grow to fast either or even afford to build a server farm or something until investments come in, hence trying to lock in to a provider and hardware that is good enough for a "medium level" social network so at least I can get by the first 1 year then go chasing investors to fund a server farm.

    I am not sure about this but do any hosts provide CDN services?

    UNIXy - You say MySQL was not a good idea to use huh? Since it's not launched we can still change the Database & queries but I couldn't find any alternatives except Oracle / Microsoft, both of them are $$$. I am already scared about the database because it's got detailed user tracking being built even beyond what you see on Google + lots of multi-languages options will be available so we are expecting the database to grow very fast and hard, and I am hoping MySQL lives up to it's reputation!

  5. #5
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    Every dedicated server comes with root access, so you don't have to worry about that.

    Well concerning the hardware, I would recommend starting at least with an Intel Xeon server. For start one server should be enough, you can always add more servers later on.

    I would at least start with 4 GB ram, since traffic spikes may use up your bandwidth pretty quickly at certain times.

    Also do you have any budget for the server?
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by matty090 View Post
    I am not sure about this but do any hosts provide CDN services?

    UNIXy - You say MySQL was not a good idea to use huh? Since it's not launched we can still change the Database & queries but I couldn't find any alternatives except Oracle / Microsoft, both of them are $$$. I am already scared about the database because it's got detailed user tracking being built even beyond what you see on Google + lots of multi-languages options will be available so we are expecting the database to grow very fast and hard, and I am hoping MySQL lives up to it's reputation!
    Hi,

    I didn't mean to confuse you. MySQL is viable and I did not mean to dismiss it. The point I was trying to make is about scalability. One MySQL database will not be able to scale well. Many MySQL databases, and hence many servers can. So no need to throw away your SQL queries / configuration . But expect little tweaks here and there during beta.

    I say get a quad core or dual quad core dedicated server initially to get your proof of concept going. There are many software technologies you can implement with zero cost but can improve performance tenfold (ex: nginx, varnish, memached, shm, kernel tweaks, etc). So take advantage of those.

    Regards
    Joe / UNIXY
    Last edited by UNIXy; 07-06-2010 at 01:12 PM.
    UNIXy - Fully Managed Servers and Clusters - Established in 2006
    [ cPanel Varnish Nginx Plugin ] - Enhance LiteSpeed and Apache Performance
    www.unixy.net - Los Angeles | Houston | Atlanta | Rotterdam
    Love to help pro bono (time permitting). joe > unixy.net

  7. #7
    No server budget. I though it is part of hosting. But in the end, you have to pay for whatever it takes to get the site going, whether it can be afforded or not. So if not in budget then I will take loans to make it in my budget.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by matty090 View Post
    No server budget. I though it is part of hosting. But in the end, you have to pay for whatever it takes to get the site going, whether it can be afforded or not. So if not in budget then I will take loans to make it in my budget.
    Well you have servers ranging from $150 - $250 and others ranging from $250 and up to $600.

    In your situation I would recommend an Intel Xeon X3440 or X3450 server. Intel Xeon X34xx series servers are high performance servers and run around $150 to $200 a month.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SnoorkAdvertiser View Post
    Well you have servers ranging from $150 - $250 and others ranging from $250 and up to $600.

    In your situation I would recommend an Intel Xeon X3440 or X3450 server. Intel Xeon X34xx series servers are high performance servers and run around $150 to $200 a month.
    Yes I have found that Good Dedicated servers these days are running between the above price ranges. I would definately not go with anything less than a Quad Core Server (XEON). Also the minimum amount of memory I would go is 4GB or 6GB. This will help you handle the load latter on if your server traffic spikes. I would also look at upgrading the bandwidth from the beginning. I think most companies are offering standard 4000GB of bandwidth. This will help you save money later on if your traffic spikes.

  10. #10
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    A quad core does seem like a good idea to start with. You should also get an idea of how you would want to scale your site and what the overall design will be as you get more machines. If your site does start to get a sudden surge of traffic it is good to have a plan laid out for how you would want to expand to be able to handle the traffic.
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  11. #11
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    *

    Quote Originally Posted by matty090 View Post
    But what about the hardware? IS 2GB RAM enough? Is one server enough? I am not sure on the HD space needed to handle this many users. Initially I may disable video sharing due to cost issues but photos will be there and heavy emphases on photo sharing.

    I don't want to sound over ambitious but I know this project will kick ground fast and hard because this is a first local social network of its kind and nothing comes near to the way it is digging into a city level on a social stage. So I am unsure about how many users to plan for. Since this is self-funded I can't grow to fast either or even afford to build a server farm or something until investments come in, hence trying to lock in to a provider and hardware that is good enough for a "medium level" social network so at least I can get by the first 1 year then go chasing investors to fund a server farm.

    I am not sure about this but do any hosts provide CDN services?

    UNIXy - You say MySQL was not a good idea to use huh? Since it's not launched we can still change the Database & queries but I couldn't find any alternatives except Oracle / Microsoft, both of them are $$$. I am already scared about the database because it's got detailed user tracking being built even beyond what you see on Google + lots of multi-languages options will be available so we are expecting the database to grow very fast and hard, and I am hoping MySQL lives up to it's reputation!
    if youare thinking about cdn then i would recommend cloudlayer best of the best gives you opprtunity to grow your plan as your costumership grows and they can offer some thing better then any body else they are reliable i had used them for my clients brand inugration website

  12. #12
    A VPs might be enough for the first few months. if you are going for a virtual machine, make sure that the hosting provider has enough resources on the system where your account would be hosted. Another option is to go for a VPS hosted on a Cloud infrastructure.

    As far as for the dedicated server, you'd should not have troubles if you get a server which is powerful enough. Just make sure you are having replicated copy and an archive copy of the project.

    PS: I think that MySQL would work perfect for you.
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  13. #13
    I am a bit lost here.

    To describe the website better -> It's a geographic based social network, targeting local cities world over connecting people, companies, brands, products, etc from a neighborhood level up to a global level. Initially heavy emphasis on photo sharing. Will be adding Chat and video sharing also. Lots of pages to host. Leaving out user pages and profiles, the system pages itself will be in the 3 million+ range, as each city, each neighborhood will have a separate set of pages. There is also heavy user tracking, much more than other sites so database will grow very fast.

    Target audience will be world over. I expect lots of site hit. How much? No idea initially but I want to play safe and the last thing I need is for either the host to cut me off or charge me extra $$$ for over usage, nor do I need the servers/database to crash due to lots of concurrent connections.

    Since I am an individual and not a company, budget is tight. But I will spend the minimum of what is needed to be safe.

    So currently this is what I gather I need:
    Hosting type -> Dedicated with full root access. (will also require some level of managed service to be safe incase my dev team cannot look into any issue in time.)
    Hosting company -> Still looking around.
    Bandwidth -> To be safe, un-metered? Start with 10Mbps then up it? Or start with 100 or higher?
    RAM -> I'll go with 6 GB
    Hard disk space -> Not sure?
    Processor - Quad core.
    How many servers needed -> I am guessing 1?

    Site has only 1 domain, but will have many sub-domains and email accounts. There is no backup strategy or staging environment setup, so I am guessing for these extra servers / space / hosting requirements?

    Also, where does the CDN fit in or is part of the dedicated hosting somewhere? Or is it needed right now?
    Last edited by matty090; 08-02-2010 at 05:50 AM.

  14. #14
    Join Date
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    I think it's important to not lose track of your goal. For a proof of concept you only need one server with a CDN (geographic nature). Bandwidth will not be an issue either. Your server won't be consuming much. The CDN will, however, eat up the most of your bandwidth. You can build a custom CDN with Nginx. There are instructions online to do it on the cheap. But yes, a CDN is required if your remote visitors are to experience decent response time.

    Backup and SDLC is going to require additional resources. You don't want to run without backup or lack of a dev/QA environment. Unless you expect to resolve issues live in production. That'll upset your users but it's been done before. Your main web server should be:

    Quad Core Xeon
    4GB or 6GB RAM
    2x500GB RAID-1
    CDN edge nodes (custom)
    raw storage for backup shipping
    Optional: small box for SDLC

    Don't forget that caching will be your best friend. It could make the difference between using a quad core and needing a dual quad.

    Regards
    Joe / UNIXY
    UNIXy - Fully Managed Servers and Clusters - Established in 2006
    [ cPanel Varnish Nginx Plugin ] - Enhance LiteSpeed and Apache Performance
    www.unixy.net - Los Angeles | Houston | Atlanta | Rotterdam
    Love to help pro bono (time permitting). joe > unixy.net

  15. #15
    Listen to UNIXy--there's no reason for you to get an all-out spec machine, when you're still developing.

    I'd go with jmunki's advice; pick a VPS provider that has a good reputation, and is known to have the ability to scale very quickly and very highly (such as Linode and Slicehost). Alternatively, you could always host in the cloud (Amazon AWS, etc).

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