Do you need web hosting for your website? Sneaker has been hosting websites for our clients since 2003. We’ve been through just about every major web hosting company on the planet over the years and by necessity, have found and stayed with the best. Hosting over 60 websites, we host clients on VPS Hosting Servers, Dedicated Hosting Servers and Amazon Web Services. And provide Web Server Administration services.
VPS Web Hosting
Virtual Private Servers (VPS) are architected in a way that supposed to prevent resource loss from other clients on the same server. This is different from a Shared Web Hosting plan, where all clients share the same server’s resources together. Each client is expected to operate their website within limitations designated to prevent the server from being taxed, or getting too slow, but the reality of a shared hosting environment is poor performance, mostly due to a small percentage of the clients on it overusing the resources.
The VPS approach ‘sandboxes’ excess resource usage by setting server limits on a client, which goes beyond setting usage limits on a client because the actual server resources are restricted to the designated amount. In the case of the shared hosting environment, a client can exceed usage thresholds easily because there really aren’t server resource restrictions, only warnings to the hosting company and client that they have exceeded a threshold. There are some caveats to the VPS resource restrictions. Some hosting companies designate a ‘burst capability’ of a server to let you know that you can in fact exceed your limits at times, like when the rest of the clients aren’t using a lot of resources.
But to sum it up, we experience excellent bang for the buck on VPS hosting. I can’t think of a cheaper way to get really good performance. Our pricing depends on your site usage and the amount of disk space you will require, and starts at $15/mo, getting no higher than $50/mo for demanding sites that are still within the VPS thresholds of usage and disk space. We include daily backups in the price, both to AWS and to a server at our office. And our hosting company provides managed support of the server, meaning that they take care of the big issues. We take care of the smaller issues, like hack attempts or actual hacks.
Dedicated hosting is a great choice for maximizing performance. This choice can give you more disk space as well. On this level, the hosting company that we use manages the server, so we’re not stuck out in the cold if issues arise, although we have over 10 years experience each managing hosting servers and physical servers in offices. We also provide daily backups to both AWS and an internal server at the Sneaker office.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Web Server Administration
Sneaker is a member of the AWS Partner Network and has been working on AWS since 2010. Our first project was with a client with a high volume e-commerce website in the travel industry, that had to be up and running full time with no failure, so we were thrown into the thickest situation that we could have found ourselves in from the beginning. And back then, the AWS dashboard in the admin area was very limited and you had to write code or scripts to adjust settings on the server, or use SSH. AWS has come a long way since then, although we still use the command line to do some tasks. We now use AWS mostly for clients that have larger websites or high volume traffic on their sites. These clients want their own hosting account, but need Web Server Administration support. That’s where we come in. We also use AWS for backing up all of our client websites.
Some strengths of AWS are:
- Scalability/Elasticity – AWS has an architecture that allows for immediate scalability. You’re not limited to the resources of your server. You can expand those resources at any time, with just a few clicks in the server instance panels of the admin area. Let’s say you need to ramp up server resources at a certain time, like in conjunction with an ad campaign, but you don’t want to and don’t need to keep the server running on that level, mostly because of costs and secondly because most of the time, you don’t have the volume of traffic to justify the spend? You can scale it down, too, just as quickly as you scaled it up. And you can set thresholds to automate scaling.
- Flexibility – Amazon offers anything you need when it comes to web server technologies. In fact, they have more than 90 services that include computing, storage, networking, database, analytics, application services, deployment, management, mobile, developer tools and tools for the Internet of Things. You can spin up an instance of a Microsoft server with .Net if you need it, mirror that instance, throw the databases on another server, backup the site every night to AWS’s S3, and put CloudFront on top of that for security, or you can use Linux with Centos for PHP websites, such as WordPress and scale up from MySQL to Amazon’s faster database, Aurora. Change your WordPress MySQL DB out to Arora for a performance gain of up to 5x faster.
- Security – AWS has some of the best built in security (can come at a cost though) for any web servers. If you need to meet strict government requirements or PCI compliance, then you will save money using AWS. The costs of audits can be as low as 20% of what it would be on other web hosting platforms because of AWS’s security infrastructure and pre-compliance measures.
- Experience – Let’s face it. AWS is the industry leader of larger scale web hosting. They bring experience to the table dating back to 2002. AWS is taking a huge share of the web hosting industry now.
But some downsides to AWS hosting, as we’ve experienced first hand, can be:
- Costs – AWS can be very expensive. It seems like it wants you to pay $500 – 800/month, like AWS gravitates towards that amount on its own. We definitely keep an eye on costs for our clients, and are sometimes directed to keep it down to $350/mo, but keeping it at that price doesn’t seem to work well. If the $500 and above range is ok with you, then you’re good to go. And it will get way more expensive if you want to mirror your site on another server, use a database server, configure the security of CloudFront in a non-standard way, etc. But for most people, including myself, the high price is not good. Fortunately, we have a great cost effective option with our dedicated server.
- Support / Crashes are Brutal – It doesn’t happen often, but we’ve been down a few times on AWS and when you crash on AWS, you crash hard. There’s not much help from support, so the backup plans are crucial for quick restoration. Backups may not fix it, though. It takes a lot of web server knowledge to recover from a crash on AWS. If you don’t believe that, think about that statement the next time Netflix goes down. You’re kind of on your own with AWS. They do have support, and the first shift support is first class (have not had good luck with other shifts), but they are speaking on a completely different level to you. They expect you to know your game and they expect you to fix it with their guidance.
- Can be Overkill – Do you really need AWS? I’ve come to the conclusion with my own site that I don’t. AWS generates a lot of attention right now, but that certainly doesn’t justify using it for smaller or even average sized websites.