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How to Determine my web site hosting needs - Which ISP? How much server space?  etc.

Posted on 2014-02-23
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Last Modified: 2014-11-12
I'm setting up a professional networking membership site that will be accepting payments for joining .  Initially, there will be no live chats/webinars or streaming video but there will be on-line newsletters, links and blogs.  
-.  How do I plan/anticipate how much server power I need to run this site?  

-. Should I use Azure? Amazon Web services?  1and1? Go Daddy?

-.  If I have 10,000 paid members, should I plan for a worst-case scenario of 8,000 of them hitting my site at the same time?

-.  How do I plan my hosting needs?

-. At this stage of my business planning cycle, I'd appreciate any advice you have.
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Question by:brothertruffle880
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by:mankowitz
mankowitz earned 100 total points
ID: 39881234
newsletters links and blogs are minimal bandwidth and minimal processor time. Just about any shared hosting service will suffice. Even if you have 8000 visitors per day, that's really not all that much for what is mostly a static site. Personally, I happen  to like 1and1, but as I said before, just about any host will be able to meet your needs.

If you believe that your site will scale in complexity and/or membership by 2 orders of magnitude (i.e. 800k visitors per day), then you'll need a much more dynamic host. Amazon is really good at this, and you really don't have to put much effort in allowing your site to scale. You just have to pay for the extra usage. On the other hand, I'm sure that any of the other hosting companies would help you scale your site and consume more of their services.

Also, I think it would be truly incredible if you could get 80% of your users to log in on a particular day. Facebook, for example, is very proud of its ability to keep users coming back again and again. They have 1.15 billion users and about 165 million daily views, or about 14% -- and they  are the best.
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by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 100 total points
ID: 39881269
I always recommend against 1and1.  You can't actually detemine your eventual needs.  But as @mankowitz said, just about any shared hosting will get you started.  But if you succeed, you can expect to upgrade your hosting and all the code that runs the site several times.  Everybody else has.  When you get to 10,000 members and you are streaming videos and webinars, you will probably need your own server with other people helping you to manage it.
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by:Jason C. Levine
Jason C. Levine earned 200 total points
ID: 39881614
How do I plan/anticipate how much server power I need to run this site?  

By cataloging what your site will be doing.  E-commerce, links and blogs is relatively resource-inexpensive on the server so no worries there.  Videos are more resource-intensive but you can easily offload that to Amazon or YouTube or some other server. You will need to list every single thing you think you users will do, including actions that generate email (plan on sending 10,000 "Activate Your Account" emails?  Better make sure you can...) and also actions that hit on a database.

Should I use Azure? Amazon Web services?  1and1? Go Daddy?

For Azure or Amazon, I would say "no" initially.  Maybe an S3 account for simple media storage needs (profile photos, etc.) but nothing fancy.  

I would stay away from GoDaddy and 1and1 just on general principle but they also are terrible hosts overall so you can make a good case to stay away from them for technical reasons too.

If I have 10,000 paid members, should I plan for a worst-case scenario of 8,000 of them hitting my site at the same time?

Unlikely, at least in the beginning. If you have 10,000 members in one time zone, then you have more reason to worry about it but even then it's a remote chance.  Decent hosting helps you here...good hosts will work with you to handle traffic spikes in a safe and sane matter.

How do I plan my hosting needs?

As above.  You have to look through what you expect the site to do, how often it will need to do it and for how many people at once. You also need to decide what languages you will be using (PHP? .NET? Ruby? Python? Something else?) Then look for hosting that meets or exceeds those needs.

My personal rule of thumb: For small sites (under 25,000 users/month) you are probably fine with good shared hosting.  Between 25,000 and 100,000 users/month, look at VPS hosting.  100,000 - 1,000,000 users/month and you should be looking at a dedicated server.  Beyond that point you are probably doing very well and no longer need to answer your own questions on this matter as you will have specialists working for you.

You probably want to hook on with hosting that offers all three levels of service, which makes upgrading from level to level easier.  If you have to move to a new hosting company each time your site gets better traffic, it's difficult and possibly expensive if you have to break a contract each time.
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Scott Fell,  EE MVE earned 100 total points
ID: 39882330
>there will be no live chats/webinars or streaming video but there will be on-line newsletters, links and blogs

I agree with what has been said.  Most shared hosting will meet your needs.   I use http://www.liquidweb.com/ for my dedicated and have used http://webservices.thesba.com/ for shared windows for 12+ years.   Both have good support but I have been extremely happy with liquidweb.    I do see a lot of folks going to digital ocean https://www.digitalocean.com  One thing to consider is how much handholding you want.   What I like about the first 2 I mention is 24/7 phone support if  you need it.  

When it comes to media files, get them on a media host and as mentioned, youtube has figured this out pretty well.  In addition to amazon, you can use dropbox and google drive to host your videos as well.  The only caveat is you can only frame the videos (but it is free).

For newsletters - http://mailchimp.com/ and one off "thank you" emails http://mandrill.com or http://sendgrid.com.  I know most people like sending from their server because it is free, I personally like using 3rd party mailers and get better deliverability as well as get around most shared hosts terms of service to not allow sending bulk mail.

Since you are starting off, the shared hosting services will offer email or even with vps/dedicated you can install your own open source or paid mail program.  I strongly suggest getting yourself a google apps for business account and point your mx records there.  You can't beat the spam filters and managing email issues can be a real pain.  It's worth the $50/year/user.  If you need messaging service for your site, that is what mandril/sendgrid would be for.   Maindril offers the first 11K emails per month free (If you don't use a dedicated IP).  After that it is a pretty small amount.  Sendgrid is more expensive up front but uses a dedicated IP (don't bother with the $10/month account).  For starting out, I would use free mandril.

You will see private cloud hosting meant to handle scale.  And in the case of Liquid Web they have http://www.liquidweb.com/StormServers/.   This lets you upgrade and down grade within minutes rather than days.   More than likely you are starting out from scratch and getting 10,000 regular users does not happen over night.   With that in mind, star with one of the $10 to $20 per month shared hosting solutions and get google apps for business for your own email.
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