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My experience with GoDaddy Grid Hosting, so far

By on Nov 27, 2010 in Reviews, Tech Takes | 24 comments

I have mentioned earlier on my blog that GoDaddy is my hosting provider and how living inside a shared hosting environment was affecting my blog’s loading time because of higher traffic. In that same blog post, I also mentioned how thing’s had reached a point where I was considering switching to virtual dedicated servers or grid hosting – but I left that decision off for another day. As a stop-gap measure, I tackled the problem by reducing the number of plugins that pre-process pages before serving them on my blog. That’s the story thus far. Firstly, one of the major reasons why I was reluctant to shift was that my hosting account is paid for till 2012 – and it just seemed to be a waste of money to abandon it and upgrade to a VPS host. I surely wouldn’t have left any of the sites hosted here behind in case I was shifting to a new server, so what would I do with my shared hosting account then? Secondly, VPS hosting services usually cost around $20-25 per month (well, at least the reliable ones do) and at the same time, GoDaddy was offering a beta test of their new Grid Hosting service at $5 per month. I was sorely tempted to take that offer, I must admit. I searched around on the Internet, and sadly most of the search results that showed up were either affiliate links to GoDaddy’s Grid Hosting Beta sign up page, Todd Cochrane praising it on behalf of his blog’s sponsor (GoDaddy – no surprises there) with a promise to try the service out (never materialized, as far as I see), curious souls inquiring in forums as to whether anyone else had used it, and a few horror stories. I wasn’t willing to jump the gun and pass judgement on a beta service that I hadn’t tried. I let it be for then. Fast forward to now. I have been using GoDaddy Grid Hosting for close to two months now, and I wanted to share my impression of it thus far. There is a serious lack of reviews from actual customers of the product on the Web. I hope that this post will be one of the many opinions on offered on the product as more customers start using it – for better or worse. What is ‘grid hosting’, and why are hosting companies offering such services now? Allow me to give a brief explanation to those who are new to this; you can skip to the next heading in case you don’t want a lesson on the basics. A normal shared hosting environment has a single server machine where hundreds – sometimes thousands, depending on which company is your host – reside. All of these websites share a single IP address as they are on the same server. When a browser sends a request to your website’s nameserver, the hosting company resolves it internally at their end and serves up your web page from that particular server. This setup works fine for most low traffic websites – and for ‘static’ websites that load HTML files that do not change. Until a few years ago, this is what most websites used to be so shared hosting worked fine for a large population of websites. Most websites these days though are ‘dynamically’ generated either by custom-coded scripts, or increasingly popular content management systems like WordPress. What WordPress does is that it stores your content in a database, then every time a visitor wants to view your website it checks what sort of styling to use (from your theme), any sort of processing done by plugins (converting links to YouTube into embedded videos, for example), converts the end result into an HTML file and sends it to the visitor’s browser. All this happens within seconds. But. Let’s say your website starts getting a more steady stream of visitors or sees a sudden spike in traffic. Your web server now has to process more of these page generation requests in real-time and dispatch the generated HTML file. (To some extent, this can be countered by using ‘caching’ plugins that temporarily store the result of database calls and/or generated HTML files and use that to cut down user load times.) In a universe where your server has infinite computing resources, this wouldn’t matter because the server would have infinite computing resources at its disposal. Unfortunately, the economics of reality dictate that a single machine can only handle so many requests before giving up the ghost. And this is particularly true of shared hosting these days: any single website is allocated only a small chunk of computing resources on the server, and even then heavy traffic to a completely different website on the same server can cause bottlenecks that slow down everyone else. Indeed, a ‘rogue’ website could cause a server to crash, taking down the hundreds/thousands of websites on the same server along with it. (Usually, hosts don’t let this happen; opting instead to kill of your site if it starts putting extra load on its servers rather than risking downtime.) With an ever-increasing number of websites taxing single server setups, shared hosting companies these days have been under fire from customers for slow loading times. The traditional method to deal with these issues has been to invest in more servers and make lesser number of websites share...

A word about the new design

By on Jul 5, 2010 in Personal | 9 comments

I have been meaning to change things around here for a while. What started off as a good design has gradually ended up as cluttered, slow, and with multiple ads shoved down its throat. Much of the slowness resulted from the fact that on pageload your browser would scamper off to fetch ads from multiple ad networks. After a point, I realized that all of this was diverging away from the real reason why I started blogging – to display content that I write and like. So I evaluated the effectiveness of the various ad networks that I was using the result was unequivocal. Barring Google AdSense, every other ad network else is a pile of horsedung that can’t even scratch out a few dollars. Off with their head then. Google AdSense on the other hand is very effective and it pays the bills, so that stays. When I started to look for a new design, I wanted one that pulled focus towards the content on the blog, rather than navigational elements that are extraneous to the design. This theme that I’m using now is called ‘Wu Wei‘, and it has been designed by Jeff Ngan – apparently according to Taoist principles. (Although, I’m fairly sure the book of Taoist design principles has nothing to say on the subject of AdSense. I had to wing it when integrating ads into my blog.) Love this new theme! Update: I forgot to add this. You might have also noticed that I have changed my filing system. The number of categories has been stripped down to a bare minimum. Specific topics that I used to speak about earlier are being tagged as such instead. Update 2: Shucks, I keep forgetting stuff. Another change that I have made is that I’ve reduced the number of plugins used to just a few backend ones (for better database management, sitemap generation et al). So when you load the page, you don’t have to wait for sharing / PDF printing / podcasting / contact form etc plugins to process the page and then send it your browser. While there were people who were using sharing / PDF printing, if someone wants to really share a link they’ll go ahead and do so anyway. For the rest – and majority – of the readers, reducing plugin usage will significantly speed up pageload speeds. As it is the theme is lean on resources. (I hope this I’ve covered everything and this is the last ‘update’ I need to make to this blog...

WordPress 3.0 and DB Cache Reloaded plugin conflict

By on Jun 18, 2010 in Personal | 3 comments

WordPress 3.0 ‘Thelonious’ was released yesterday. Haven’t got time to play around and see the changes yet – I’ll do so once my exams are done. For now, I’ve only upgraded my personal blog as a guinea pig, and I’m waiting to see if any issues crop up before upgrading MAD TV and The Stag websites. Excited about the custom post type feature that allows you to give unique formatting to different media types in posts (somewhat like what Tumblr does). The only problem that I have had so far is that the plugin DB Cache Reloaded causes a problem with WordPress 3.0. If you’re logged in as an administrator, and go the post creation page, you’ll find that all links that have JavaScript actions associated with them would have stopped working. You can still jump between top-level admin menus, but expand buttons and any other link that uses JavaScript stops working (such as links to edit/quick edit, delete). For now, I have disabled DB Cache Reloaded until this bug is ironed out. Thus you might find my blog slowing down again over the next few days /...

Feeling the pinch of being on a shared hosting plan

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

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. Related articles by Zemanta Search Based upon Concepts: Applied Semantics and Google (seobythesea.com) Five Top Innovations to Look for in Search-Based Marketing in 2010...

On-demand web page archiving

By on Sep 5, 2009 in Reviews, Tech Takes | 2 comments

I did a post yesterday at Youthpad on how popular websites looked in old days. Internet Archives’ Wayback Machine is indeed an excellent resource for this particular purpose, but its task is to keep snapshots of the Web as it grows, and not primarily as an archival service. Snapshots are made available six months after they are ‘crawled’, i.e., recorded by the Internet Archives’ automated scripts. What if you need to create on-demand snapshots of how a particular web page looks? Fortunately, there are a few web services to the rescue. The first web service is called Iterasi. (Cool sounding name and yet unique enough – a lot like ‘Google’). What Iterasi does is that it creates an exact copy of a webpage that you are viewing, including text, images, stylesheets, JavaScript elements, et al. Using Iterasi you can create working copies of a page you come across. We often underestimate the fluid nature of websites – what may be there today may not be a valid link tomorrow. For instance, I had to link to IIT JEE rules for a blog post I did a few months ago. The thing is that if I link to it right now, it no doubt points to the correct link; however, if someone visits the same post a year down the line and clicks through to the IIT JEE site it may no longer be a valid link. By storing a copy on Iterasi, you can circumvent this potential problem. It’s not necessary to Iterasi-ize everything you link to, just a few important ones. You will need to create a free account on Iterasi to start archiving (you’ll have to hunt around a bit for the free account sign-up link). Once you have done that, you can set copies of a web page as public or private. You also get a short URL to the copy. To make the task of archiving easier, you have a bookmarklet (works on any browser; just drag and drop the link in your bookmarks toolbar) and a Firefox plugin. The other archival or recording requirement you might have is to take a screenshot of a web page. Basically, just an image and not a ‘working’ copy as in Iterasi. Using the normal method of pressing ‘Print Screen’ key and then pasting in some image editing application, or by using a standalone screenshot application what you often get is a screenshot of just the visible portion of the web page. Aviary.com – an online image editing suite (the mind boggles at the various online image-editing utilities they have on offer) – has a free feature that allows you to take a screenshot image of the entire web page, and not just the visible area. All you need to do is this: say that you want to take a screenshot of gyaan.in, enter aviary.com/http://gyaan.in and it will take a screenshot which you can save to your PC. Just visit a webpage, and when you find one you need to take a screenshot of, enter aviary.com in front of the URL and press Enter. Aviary.com also offers a bookmarklet that you can drag to your bookmarks list, and a Firefox plugin that offers you the option to take a screenshot of whole page, visible area only, or a selected region of the page. You can then save the image to your desktop or edit it online on Aviary.com (provided you have signed up for a free account). PS – BTW, folks in Delhi can catch up with me tomorrow at OSSCamp Delhi at NSIT Dwarka from 10am to 5pm (drop in any time you want). I’ll be giving a talk on Creative Commons licenses and conducting a quiz on open source. There are goodies to win from Adobe, Mozilla, and OSSCamp branded...