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Web Server Best Practices: What’s Under the Hood?

Oct 29 • Technology, Website • 6304 Views • No Comments on Web Server Best Practices: What’s Under the Hood? • By Tyler Moran

If you were an immigrant worker living in New York City in the late 1800s you most likely would have lived in a tenement.  These 300-350 square foot apartments were infamously known as “railroad flats” because the dank, windowless rooms were linked together like a train and usually housed more anywhere from 7 to 12 people.  Most units lacked any type of indoor plumbing and you were very lucky if your unit was one equipped with tiny windows.  This was the standard of living for many of our great-great grandparents. Could you imagine living conditions like this in America today?

If you were to compare the tenement conditions and standard of living back in the late 1800s to how most small business hosting companies manage client websites you would find startlingly similar conditions.  A good majority of your competitors are running their websites with shared hosting services like HostGator, GoDaddy, 1&1 and the like.  You could find a plan to host a website for as low as $4.00 per month.  Don’t get me wrong there is definitely a market out there for cheap hosting.  If you ran a lemonade stand or were a local dog walker, a shared hosting plan would be the perfect solution. But if you run a business of any consequence, you need some fire power to get the job done.  Here is what is happening to your competitor sites that rely on reseller or shared hosting providers:

  • There could be close to 1,000 websites crammed into one shared server much like a packed tenement.
  • When there is a heavy load of traffic or email your competitor’s website may load very slowly or not at all.
  • Low security thresholds make it extremely easy to hack into their websites.

You’d be surprised how many $5M+ companies who seem to have their act together online run their web strategy on a service just like this.  With equipment failures, server outages and the risk of slow response or loading times, I wouldn’t trust my website with a shared hosting provider – especially if I were investing in online advertising where my website performance was critical to the overall success of my campaigns. Remember—the more your website is down, the more advertising dollars are wasted.

Even though we’ve been managing our clients on some serious hardware all along, we recently invested in enhanced hardware, software, security and disaster recovery plans. Each and every one of our clients are running on an enterprise class setup.  Consider our recent capital investments the brand new “Ferrari” your web strategy could be driving on. Let’s pop the hood:

 

Quad-core Servers

Quad-core servers are high performance computers designed to process outside requests and deliver data to other computers via the internet. Quad-core models are the industry’s gold standard in speed, efficiency and reliability.

Where are our servers?

We recently invested in an entire cluster of quad-core servers with a tier one data center and partner LiquidWeb in Lansing, Michigan. LiquidWeb is considered to be one of the top service providers in the business. We would offer our clients nothing less. Our clients benefit from LiquidWeb’s 24-hour live support and a 59 second response time guarantee written right into our service level agreement. And as if that weren’t enough, we also invested in a cluster of back up web servers with a tier one data center in Chicago to act as a safety net should our main cluster ever go down. The Chicago location provides a second, secure layer of back up and all of our systems and websites are mirrored here in real time. So if our Lansing location does happen to experience any down time, the Chicago servers pick up the slack immediately and automatically—with zero lapse in service.

How do they work?

The server’s “quad-core” designation refers to the unit’s processing chip which is made up of 4 independent units called cores. The individual cores in a quad-core server can run multiple instructions simultaneously, increasing the overall speed of the system and making the unit an excellent multi-tasker. These cores are what do the server’s heavy lifting, reading and executing CPU directives.

What are the benefits?

  • Industry Leading Performance: With more cores for superior multi-tasking capability, our servers have the balance necessary to do more in less time without sacrificing a high-quality user experience.
  • More Processing Power: Our quad-core servers will offer your site visitors a smoother, more intuitive interaction with your website and won’t crash no matter how many users are logged on.
  • Back Up Hard Drives: Our quad-core servers have back up hard drives built directly into the unit to ensure the continuous, real time back up for your valuable data and web content.
  • Cyber-Security: Our quad-core servers are fully protected by new firewalls and security protocols to prevent hackers and DDoS attacks, which are a particularly malicious type of Trojan horse virus. This security software supplements the tough protection our service provider gives us already.

 

Domain Name System

Our domain name system (DNS) translates web domain and host names into IP addresses. For example, when a user enters a URL, like www.google.com into their browser, the request is not sent directly to the Google servers. Rather, the request goes to a DNS server, which uses a database to determine the IP address of the website that is being sought. It then forwards this request to the correct servers and returns the information to the user’s browser.

As part as our comprehensive server upgrade, we invested in a cloud based DNS service. This increases speed and reliability of DNS performance and allows us to configure dynamic DNS.

What is Dynamic DNS?

Standard DNS requires all IP address information stored in the database to be fixed. This works fine for supporting typical Web sites but not for devices using dynamic IP addresses such as home or commercial web servers. Dynamic DNS adds network protocol extensions to DNS to enable name resolution service for dynamic clients.

 

Content Delivery Network

We recently upgraded all of our clients to a secure content delivery network system (CDN). A CDN is essentially a series of interconnected computers able to rapidly distribute all sorts of online content to numerous users.

How does it work?

CDNs are able to rapidly distribute web content by “mirroring” it across multiple servers and then sending it on to users based on proximity. Typically, we use our CDN to deliver our client’s websites to users, but the technology is also well suited to streaming audio, video and interactive web content.

What are the benefits?

  • Content Replication: Since multiple, identical copies of your content would be located on strategically located servers across the country, it is possible to efficiently and reliably deliver it to many users even during heavy web traffic or sudden demand “spikes.” When a specific content item is sought by a user, the server closest to that user is dynamically determined. This dynamically determined proximity optimizes the speed and security with which the content arrives on the user’s screen.
  • Economic Advantages: CDN technology offers numerous financial benefits to businesses who receive a high volume of hits on their websites from a wide range of locations. Even if dozens or hundreds users all attempted to access your site at the exact same moment, our CDN will deliver the desired content to every one of them without delay or time-out. The more users who are able to easily view your site, the better your chances are that user will become a customer.
  • Enhanced User Experience: Our CDN technology eliminates issues with lag and delay for users interacting with your web content. It also maximizes individual bandwidth thereby minimizing that annoying “stutter” you sometimes see in streaming audio and video. Our CDN works in tandem with our quad core server bolstering speed and performance to decrease load times.
  • Content Redundancy: Our CDN technology acts as a fail-safe, protecting your website from going down, even during an extensive failure that disables many servers. In the event our Lansing and Chicago servers fail, the CDN will automatically pick up your sites with zero downtime or lapse in service. Still another advantage of CDN technology is the fact that it inherently offers enhanced data backup, archiving, and storage capacity. This can benefit individuals and enterprises who rely on online data backup services.
  • PPC Management Asset: Our CDN is an enterprise quality way to manage large-scale pay-per-click campaigns. Our client landing pages already average about a 60% conversion rate and with a CDN in place, that percentage is projected to climb.
  • You’ll Be In Good Company: Fortune 500 companies from Nike and JetBlue to Wal-Mart and Apple have CDN technology or something just like it built into their online presence to promote positive experiences for visitors to their websites.
  • The Ultimate Safety Net: In addition to our 2 data centers and CDN, we also have in place a continuous data protection plan that offers us a 4th and final back up in an offsite location in the event Lansing, Chicago and the CDN fails.

 

“Gentlemen, we can rebuild your website. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first indestructible website. Yours will be that site. Better than it was before. Better, faster, stronger…”

Visit ServiceInbound.com to learn how our team can help you transition your current website to provide a better, faster and stronger customer experience. 

 

 

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Tyler Moran

Content Marketing Manager at Sales and Service Media Group
Tyler is the content marketing manager for The Service Coach. He is a graduate of the University of Vermont and is currently pursuing a degree in digital media from Emerson College. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts where he loves to read, write and enjoy the outdoors with his dog, Otto.

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