Things you should Know!

Before we started Manxhosts, we had to rely on other web hosts to house our other web projects. We've learned a lot because of that, and thus we'll now teach you the things you should look for in a web host before making your final choice.

A server's performance is just the beginning. Besides bandwidth and connectivity, server power is one of the main elements to be considered when choosing a web host.

Myth and hype: Many web hosting companies claim that their servers are better because they are either Sun servers or Windows NT certified. Don't be fooled by this. Sun servers are great, but a £8,000 Intel based server performs just as good as a £20,000 Sun server. A £3,000 Sun CPU performs just equally as two Pentium IIIs (which cost about £200 each as of January 2000). As for Windows NT, no one serious (or smart) enough would use it for web hosting.Windows NT is great as an application server, but for web hosting, it is too expensive, it's performance is low when compared to UNIX, and it's unstable. UNIX/Linux can do far more web serving than NT on the same hardware for a LOT less money (Microsoft IIS licenses per server amount to thousands of pounds). And no, you don't have to learn UNIX to use a hosting account running on Linux.

The truth: Serving a page is a task that consumes very little power (less than 0.001% CPU power for a fraction of a second).

Ask and beware: Always ask a web host what kind of servers they are using. Make sure they have powerful servers for two reasons: power, and the fact that to have such powerful servers, the hosting company must be financially stable. But beware of hosting companies that spend too much money on server "names" they really don't need. Also, some web hosts with less powerful servers will claim they don't need more because web hosting is not CPU intensive. Don't listen to that! A powerful server will deliver your pages faster than a less powerful one, whether it is CGI or a static page.

R A M:

A server's CPU power is not much without proper RAM. A web host with only 32 MB RAM on it's server is of little or no use.

Fact: when a page in your website is accessed for the first time, it is accessed from the server's hard drives and delivered to the browser that requested it. The next time someone else requests the same page, it will not be read from the hard drives, but from the server's RAM. The page was copied to cache RAM the first time it was accessed. The more RAM the server has, the faster a site's files can be accessed.

Myth and hype: some web hosts will claim that they don't need so much RAM because they have ultra-super-fast SCSI drives. No matter how fast a hard drive is, it can't beat the speed of RAM. Most web hosts usually stuff thousands of websites on a server with 256MB or 512MBs of RAM and then customers start complaining their website's responsiveness is going down. Why? No matter how fast the drive is, it will slow down when trying to respond to thousands of file requests (pages, images, etc) per second. Our servers have a maximum of 250 clients web sites on them, and any high bandwidth users are transferred to their own dedicated server.

Ok, so they have a powerful server right? What about that server's connection to the Internet? Manxhosts servers are on a network that is connected to the Internet through 155Mbit fibre optic link, and this is directly connected to the Internet's backbone.

Myth and hype: Some web hosts claim they have an entire T1 (15GB of data a day) or DS3 (45 times a T1) available to them, and that they are not using it at full capacity so they have plenty of it available. But, what happens if that single line goes down? Your site will go down and become inaccessible. And believe us, this kind of event happens every single day around the world. Also, small communication lines like T1s usually do not come from major Internet providers (UUNet, MCI, Sprint and others) but from smaller providers that buy from a bigger provider that buys from an even bigger provider, resulting in more "jump points" (known as hops) between a visitor and your site. The more hops between your site and the Internet, the slower your site will respond.

Ask and beware: Always ask what type of connection a web host has, how much of it are they using, how many of them they have and who provides them. Hi-quality bandwidth is a must if you want your website to be accessible at fast speeds from everywhere in the world.


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