Hosting for Non-Techies

A “Medium-Sized” Website?

Last week, a good friend who works at Google sent me a link to a Wall Street Journal story on the price wars that seem to be heating up in the cloud computing and storage sectors. (Editor’s note: WSJ hyperlinks only work once. To read this article run a google search for “A Price War Erupts in Cloud Services”)

I found the article fascinating, but I thought it did a surprisingly poor job helping the reader understand how the Cloud might affect real-world hosting decisions.

At the center of the problem was the effort the author made to demystify the cost of cloud hosting. In order to provide a common storage and processing task against which all the major cloud service providers’ fees would be measured, the author chose the following:

“(Hosting) a medium-sized website with about 50 million page views a month…”

Anybody who has ever had to choose a host to match traffic requirements will immediately see the flaws in the author’s premise:

What does the author mean by “medium-sized”?

If the site is composed entirely of HTML, with no significant back-end database requirements, even a 50 million-hits-per-month site could be hosted on a cell phone. Site design matters!

Exactly how and when do the 50 million hits per month happen?

If they all happen in the first few days of the month, or after an appearance on Good Morning America, your hosting platform requirements for those few days would be immense, and extremely expensive — with or without auto-scaling cloud. If, on the other hand, traffic is evenly spread out across all 30 days and all 24 hours, your server requirements will be very modest. Traffic patterns matter!

I wouldn’t be doing my job as a Marketing Guy if I didn’t take the time to point out another error in the article: by not mentioning fully managed cloud hosting companies like ServInt, the author leaves the impression that commodity cloud players like AWS, or Google, will always charge less than us. This is simply not true.

If we take the “medium-sized website with about 50 million page views a month…” description to mean, say, a typical WordPress deployment with an average back-end database load, with page views happening around the clock — such a site could very easily be hosted on ServInt’s Ultimate VPS for $129 per month. That’s about one-third of the $400-500 this article says would be the cost at AWS, Google, or with Microsoft Azure. Plus, a.) you don’t need to change your code to host with us; and b.) the supposedly cheaper enormo-cloud platforms don’t offer you any kind of real customer service.

Details matter. You need to match the correct hosting solution to your site or app’s requirements. Many who take the time to scope out all their outsourced options — from mammoth, commodity cloud companies to smaller, fully managed cloud hosting service providers like ServInt — find that the small guy often wins on price, performance and service. Some of the biggest brand names on the planet continue to choose us over the big cloud players for just this reason.

Join me next time as I discuss how to – and how not to – match hosting solutions to your site or app’s requirements.

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  1. Fritz, great post first of all! Design definitely matters and constantly preparing your site for traffic spikes is crucial (if you can get it to the numbers mentioned). Dedicated cloud hosting companies such as Rackspace can also add some value although your mentionees are definitely worth the $.
  2. Thanks for these tips as we run into similar arguments from some prospects, every now and then. Minor nitpick - you mentioned 50 million 'hits' twice, which I have no doubt you know is different from 50 million 'page views'. :-)
  3. Which is less expensive? unmanaged AWS or fully managed VPS with ServInt? The answer is in the details.
  4. How does "the Cloud" affect real-world hosting decisions? This week on the ServInt Source.
  5. RT @servint: How do you compare cloud hosting providers? It's harder than you think, even for the Wall Street Journal!…
  6. How do you compare cloud hosting providers? It's harder than you think, even for the Wall Street Journal!
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