“Hi, I’m interested in hosting with you and would like to discuss pricing. What’s the biggest, baddest server (we’ll refer to this server as the “BBS”) you guys offer?” I’m always surprised by how many sales conversations start off this way. Instead of having a discussion about needs and how best to meet them, some webmasters think that if they get a monster box (the BBS), it will just magically take care of everything they need now, or may need in the future, and this mindset could not be more incorrect. This is akin to wanting to open a small corner store but asking your real estate agent to go out there and find the biggest empty building they can find.
As I wrote about in a my previous article 10 Tips to Selecting Your Web Host Company the first thing you need to do is determine your needs. By this, I mean look at your site, any software packages you may be using and other aspects such as databases, disk space needs etc. This will help you narrow down your search for a web host. However, once you have narrowed your search down to 2-3 hosting companies, it’s now time to talk to them and get their input on what you need. Many times the BBS is not what you need at all. There are a few reasons why having a BBS can actually be an issue.
1. Cost. Of course the larger server you get, the more it’s going to cost. A server with Dual processors, 48G of RAM and some giant drive or RAID array will certainly put a dent in your budget.
2. Scalability. You now have all your eggs in this one BBS basket and when it’s time to grow, you’re likely going to have to get another server just like your first BBS – especially if your growth plan includes incorporating load balancing, as load balanced servers should be as close spec-wise as possible.
3. Efficiency. You might have a BBS that only has a single big drive in it, but because your site is very database intensive, you find that this BBS is actually bottlenecking your sites due to the single disk not keeping up. Of course, because all you wanted was a BBS and never talked to your host about the best SOLUTION for you, you’re now faced with possible downtime to change the drive to something that suits your needs better.
Talking to your hosting provider can go a long way towards making sure you’re utilizing the correct hardware. For instance, using example #3 above, after discussions with your host, you may learn that the best solution is actually splitting the load between two smaller servers where one server is a web server and the second server is a dedicated database server. Had you gone with only one BBS, it’s likely that your site performance could have been affected; leaving you yelling at your web host because your site was slow when in reality, the host did exactly what you told them to.
So, when it’s time to select a web host and the server (or servers) for your needs, remember to talk with the host about what’s best for you. Your host does this for a living and any respectable host will be more than happy to work with you to find the best fit for your needs. Speaking personally, I would rather you be a happy customer with a smaller, less expensive server than an unhappy customer with a BBS that’s not meeting your needs for.