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Feeling the pinch of being on a shared hosting plan

By on Mar 31, 2010 in Tech Takes | 6 comments

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Something funny that I noticed when trawling through analytics report from my blog today. It appears that close to 60% of search results ending up on my blog are related to image search results. Apart from eating up a sizeable chunk of bandwidth (around 30%; another sizeable chunk is taken up by quiz archive / question paper downloads) as the results (most often) lead straight to full-sized versions of the images, it also means that they bypass the main text-based content completely. Which also means it’s a loss-maker, in a sense, since the full-sized images obviously don’t earn revenue from ads.

Not that I mind. :) I simply hope that a majority of them don’t act like bastards and hotlink my images. (I could filter out hotlinks, but it hasn’t been a big issue – so far.) My image filenames are very sensibly named, coupled with captions and/or alt-tags in many of them. I don’t do this to consciously game search engine rankings; I tend to give quite descriptive names since I want to be able to look them up using desktop search if I need to use them again – which I guess helps pushing them up in image search rankings when people try to search using descriptive keywords. It’s not just content that can be found elsewhere (such as movie posters in my reviews) but also original images uploaded by me on my photo gallery, snapshots taken to illustrate points, and screengrabs from movies describing something happening in that scene.

I’m also reaching the point where I’m feeling the need to switch over to virtual dedicated hosting, compared to shared hosting right now (on GoDaddy). This is mostly due to the combined traffic load that this blog, and gyaan.in, have been receiving over the past few months. (I also host a few other sites on that same hosting account.) I’m currently on the costliest plan that allows for 200 simultaneous connections. Current traffic isn’t causing outages, but visitors have often complained of long pageload times on both sites (blog and gyaan.in) now. Script timeout restrictions on shared hosting are getting a tad annoying too.

Why haven’t I already shifted to virtual dedicated hosting? One of the main reasons is that I’ve invested in this shared hosting account till 2012 (nothing to do with Mayans, I swear) – and shifting prematurely would mean that going to waste. Virtual-dedicated would certainly solve script timeout issues, and almost certainly pageload times too.

To be honest, I’ve been fairly happy with GoDaddy shared hosting service. For the price you pay, you get really good service, acceptable uptime levels, and so far I haven’t had problems with customer support. I genuinely think that a lot of flak that GoDaddy faces is often due to first-time hosting consumers who don’t have experience starting up a site incorrectly blaming tech support for things they do wrong or can’t figure out.

I’m also looking forward to seeing a stable, cost-effective grid-hosting service to come forward. The cheapest grid-hosting services today offer something between shared hosting and virtual dedicated, by scaling the resources allocated according to demand. Theoretically, one of the primary advantages is this means they can offer it at a price lower than virtual dedicated / dedicated servers and still offer the flexibility to sites to consume more computing / bandwidth resources in bursts. Media Temple’s grid-hosting is the most popular service of this kind but has had major issues with reliability according to users, which is why they’re working on a new system called ‘cluster-server‘ that they hope will be more stable. GoDaddy has grid-service hosting in beta testing right now too although I haven’t seen any reliable reviews of it. Assuming that traffic keeps growing, I hope that grid hosting services mature by 2010/2011.

I’ve made a few changes – using database caching, reducing number of posts on a single page – but I feel that if traffic keeps growing at current levels, I’ll have to jump ship from shared hosting soon.



6 Comments

    • Ankur

      March 31, 2010

      Post a Reply

      Thanks for pointing out the typo!

      The financing behind hosting plan is a bit complex. Initially, I bought the cheapest Economy plan for a period of two years (till 2010) when I signed up. (If you sign up for longer periods, you get a discount in the per-month price.) Then – because I wanted to host more sites – I upgraded to the Deluxe plan. If you upgrade to a costlier account as an existing customer (or extend hosting duration), you simply pay the difference in price for the remainder of hosting contract – and you also get cheaper upgrade prices. (Although I’ve been told they’ve stopped giving cheaper upgrade prices.) So I because I upgraded as an existing customer, I paid less than i would’ve if I signed on the Deluxe plan for the same period of time initially. And then later, I upgraded to the unlimited plan, as well as extended hosting duration to 2012.

      Because of this convoluted mess of upgrades and extends, I’ve honestly lost track myself as to the precise amount I spent. (I’ll have to search up receipts for that.) GoDaddy’s site says unlimited plan costs GBP 6.46 for 36 months; I’d hazard my plan price would be GBP 1-1.5 less than that.

  1. Akshay Aurora

    March 31, 2010

    Post a Reply

    How many sites do you run from your shared hosting plan??

    Don’t know exactly but shouldn’t amazon s3 be a better option, given that you get 60% of your traffic from images.Might even cost less.

    BTW, I’ve seen most popular sites (not Xtra pop.) seem to go with Media Temple Grid Hosting.

    • Ankur

      March 31, 2010

      Post a Reply

      I currently host six websites on my account, out of which a bulk of traffic is taken up by my blog and gyaan.in. The other ones are: Code Warriors website (doesn’t get constant traffic, but sees major spikes during Code Wars. Code Wars didn’t happen last year, so the site has been very much dormant), Rachit’s blog (not much traffic), Vivek’s blog (currently, not that high traffic but it’s picking up), 6by9media (just a single HTML page) – and a recent addition – The Stag website. Hosting The Stag‘s site on my hosting was a last-minute decision, and I expect it to be stop-gap measure. This is another site that doesn’t have much traffic right now but has the potential to balloon quickly since it’s the official USSU newspaper site. I expect this to be shifted to a server at university soon, but currently a debate is going on as the union wants Windows Server, and I want a Linux one.

      I’ve considered Amazon S3, but I’ll have to go and replace all images in existing posts. Moreover, bandwidth is currently not the issue since it’s included within my hosting package. With S3, I’d have to pay an amount in addition to what I’ve already paid for hosting. It’s the fact that these users are using up the ‘simultaneous connections’ limit that’s probably slowing the site down. If you see Y!Slow analysis, practically everything that can be done has been done to make the site faster.

      Most of the major blogs / sites that you mention go for Media Temple’s virtual/dedicated hosting, which is admittedly quite good. It’s their cheaper grid-server hosting that has constantly faced flak for poor performance.

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