Re-seller hosting account:
Once upon a time in early 2001, I signed up with Fasthosts and offered website hosting as a re-seller on a shared server with hundreds of other websites. The sites were managed only via a control panel.
The time came to move on from re-selling and a partnership was formed with another young Derby company to purchase our own 1U servers and Microsoft Service Providers License Agreement (SPLA) and have them co-located and managed by the third party. This worked well for a couple of years and we attracted company’s as big as Siemens to the bespoke setup. The back end system was called HELM and in 2002 we were among some of the first users and testers of this great product that allowed our clients to log in and setup their sites.
When the availability from the third party started to drop the decision was made to buy brand new 1U servers and pay for our own 11U’s of rack space. We recruited an in house hostmaster to manage the servers – and they were co-located in a data centre in Leicester.
These are the six 1U Dell rackmount servers in the data centre in May 2007 and the specification was:
- PowerEdge 860
- PE860 Dual Core Xeon 3060
- 2.4GHz/4MB 1066FSB
- 2GB 533MHz Dual Rank ECC Memory (2X1GB)
- 2 x 160GB SATA (7,200rpm) 3.5inch Hard Drive
Along with the web servers there was a separate backup server, a database server, a mail server, a Cisco firewall and Cisco managed switch. We simply paid for a quarter rack of space and bandwidth with the data center, but no server management. No more than 100 sites were ever loaded onto one server and performance was fast and reliable with mirrored RAID hard drives and daily backups. This business class solution was reflected in the cost to host with us rather than be shoved on a shared, slow, server based in London or in the US with limited acces.
Management was fairly intense with 24 hour monitoring of charts and firewall logs and frequent trips to the data center with secure swipe card access for security updates and hardware management. The server software was based on IIS and our clients – mainly from larger corporations did not want to have to log into control panels so complete management was provided as part of the package.
Although there were redundant servers and expensive Dell 1hr response support, It was still a worry at the back of the mind that if a server went down there would be a delay in deploying a new server or moving sites to a backup server in the middle of the night. When you are hosting e-commerce and mission critical business software it certainly becomes a concern.
Then, one day I was introduced to military grade Storage Area Networks. Once only available to massive enterprise due to cost, a SAN server stores data securely on an IP SAN and is mirrored across several drives using RAID 50. Over the course of a well planned month we moved all of the sites onto the new platform and now have a very expensive pile of unused servers!
The QUAD CORE servers do not have hard drives and are in effect dumb terminals. The server boots off the SAN and if a fan or CPU fails they are replaced using a standby server without any data loss. Redundant firewalls and switches are provided as well as 24 hour monitoring and management. We still only allow a very limited number of sites on the server and no clients have FTP access to protect from script uploads – malicious or accidental. The package typically includes SAN storage, SSL, DNS, Database, email and ultimately speed and piece of mind for mission critical applications. Our hosting has come a long way since the re-seller hosting of non-critical ‘brochureware’ sites and the high specification comes at a large overhead to us, but we have moved on in a good way and there are plenty of other hosting providers that I could point you to if you are looking for a more ‘cost effective’ solution – just don’t call me in the middle of the night if something goes down.
The best measure of our success is the company we keep. Here is a sample of some of our clients that currently utilise our hosting platform.
- Center Parcs
- Noble Foods
- TN Corporation
We benefit from a First Class hosting environment provided by Griffin Internet located in Pride Park, Derby.
Post update: We are now experimenting with Amazon EC2 in the cloud