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  1. #1
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    Hi Everyone,
    I have a client who runs a small non-profit organization. Their website features videos from their television show as well as audios from their radio programs and lectures.

    They currently are on a shared server with unlimited disk space and have had their website shut down several times because of their large files. (At this time their disk space is around 30GB and they anticipate it to grow with additional files waiting to be uploaded to the site.)

    Can anyone please suggest to me a good hosting company that caters to large multimedia sites? They want something that doesn't require much maintenance and has reliable uptime. Is it preferred to have a dedicated server with these sorts of sites? Are managed or unmanaged servers more favorable? FYI The site is run mainly with MySQL and PHP, so I assume that they should refrain from Windows servers.

    Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

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  3. #2
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    Just so I'm clear upfront, I'm only mentioning everything here because 1) I'm not sure what you know about hosting in general and 2) I'm not sure what anyone who might be reading this post knows about hosting in general. In the event that there's information here that someone could use, I'm posting it all. Please don't take this as an insult to your intelligence. That's not my intention.

    Having said that, let's get started. You don't have to refrain from a Windows server. They'll handle MySQL and PHP just fine. They both take some time to configure, but they do work.

    As far as a good hosting company for multimedia, that's going to be tricky, you're basically eliminating any possibility of a shared plan, and your client is probably going to have to pay larger than normal for it. Being a not-for-profit means nothing to web hosts because it's already a pretty cutthroat industry already, so jus tto save some time upfront, don't expect any charitable discounts.

    To answer your question better, you'll have to figure out what type of hard drive space your client's site is expected to take up for the next few years. If it's 30 GB now, I'd suggest you're probably going to be in the 100 GB range in fairly short order, so look for at least a good virtual dedicated server (think of a dedicated server cut into smaller pieces...that's basically what a V-Ded is) with a high bandwidth capacity if you can find it. Something like this might cut it if you bump the HD up to 120 GB and the RAM up to 2 GB (you're going to want to make sure you've got as much resource as possible). I'm only suggesting this because you're dealing with a non-prof and trying to get funds for things like this is usually a "cry poor" case. This is probably about the maximum you can push your client towards.

    Now, depending on who's backing the non-prof, you may be able to go dedicated. Now, what I did is I went with this particular dedicated server with a Windows OS (I do a lot of ASP and .NET work), 4GB RAM, and 3 HDs. The first two are RAID1 and the third is specifically for backup. I used the "no worry bandwidth" option, since I'm not even close to requiring the 3TB of bandwidth (I use like 400 GB a month or so). It's a managed server, which I find favorable, since it's one less thing to worry about, and chances are you're about as close to a techie as your client knows...and do you really want to be worrying about that stuff?

    Now, your particular configuration is going to depend on how critical your client considers their site, but at the very least, I'd be looking hard at RAID1. I'm not a fan of third-party backup services, so I don't have any recommendation there.

    One thing I'm going to caution against, and I'm not second-guessing your client's decision, but rather trying to avoid a recurrence for your own sake: avoid any hosting plans with unlimited storage space and/or bandwidth at all costs. What you experienced with your client is pretty typical, especially on a shared server. The unlimited promise is a hook designed to get smaller sites that think they're going to grow and get massive, but the problem is that the larger they grow, the more resource they take, and eventually they have to go V-Ded or dedicated anyway. It's harsh, but it's reality.

    By the way, the company I recommended above (Sectorlink) is a company I've been dealing with for nearly 9 years. They know their stuff, and I wouldn't go with anyone else for this sort of thing. I've not only got a dedicated with them, a couple of my clients also have shared plans and I think one of them upgraded to a V-Ded recently. I've had a couple of minor bumps in the road, as anyone would over 9 years, but they've always solved any issue I've thrown in front of them (and believe me, I've come up with some pretty wild questions over the years for them) and the bumps themselves have been few and far between. Your client will be very happy with them as a host.
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  4. #3
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    Wow. Thank you for the detailed explanation. I am in no way a server administrator, so I am not too versed in the mechanics of hosting.

    My client is not looking for any charity discounts - they are just a busy non-profit that doesn't have the man power to dedicate to maintaining their website. So they are looking (and willing to pay) for a low/no maintenance hosting package that can let them freely continue uploading their multimedia without the risk of compromising their website's uptime.

    Now my concern over what type of server stims from a previous experience: I had a client who needed a custom form. My experience is mainly with PHP, and I could not complete the project because they were on a Windows server and I was advised to only code with ASP.NET.

    Now regarding the purchase of a dedicated server - I am a little intimidated as I wouldn't have a clue as to configuring and maintaining. I would really prefer leaving all the server maintenance to a hosting company who specializes in it. With that being said, is there any good hosting packages out there for dedicated servers where I have no hardware to maintain? And what's the difference between a virtual dedicated one and just a dedicated one? And when a site is transferred over to these sorts of servers, what is the difference in setting it up compared to a shared server?

  5. #4
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    No harm in not being a server admin. I'm not one, either...I've just been dealing with my own for 8 years and had to learn a bunch of things along the way.

    The major difference is control. Simply put, you have a whole lot more with a dedicated server compared to a shared server. You can set up a site whenever you want, configure emails, install software if need be, etc. I even went as far as to install a text editor onto mine so that I can quickly fix code on the fly without needing to go the FTP route. But I'm a bit unusual that way, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. You may need your host to step in and add the domain to their DNS servers, but you can do everything else yourself.

    As far as maintaining the hardware, that's up to the host, especially when it's managed. You might want to peer in from time to time to make sure everything's working, but maintenance on a dedicated server from a hardware point of view is on the host. Unmanaged generally refers more to software upgrades, patches, OS updates, etc. For your purposes, go managed. That's a no-brainer.

    As far as configuring hardware and a server, it's not all that difficult. We'll walk through the steps together.

    First, set a soft budget. I'd say for your needs, somewhere around $100/month ought to cut it. You might have to go up to $125-$150/month, however.

    Then, we figure out storage space. You already said it was 30 GB, so allow for 100 GB (growth factor).

    Then multiply that by 20 to get your bandwidth (2000 GB, or 2 TB)...that's my own rule of thumb, and you might want to increase the multiplier.

    Now we're onto the RAM and processor. Use the same rule for a server as you would for your desktop PC...get the best you can for your budget. Get as much RAM as possible (focus on this first) and get as much processing speed as possible.

    Then we move on to software. You'll need an FTP client (FileZilla is free), PHP (also free) and MySQL (free again). If you ask really nicely, most hosts will usually install these for you for free. A good host would rather do it themselves then let a customer potentially mess it up (not saying that you would, but people can do anything at anytime for any reason and often no reason at all, and that messes up a host's server and the host gets blamed for something that isn't their fault). After that, I'm not sure...this depends on your client's site.

    Finally, we're on to options such as backup and additional hard drives.

    As I stated, RAID1 should be your bare minimum. RAID1 is a fancy way of saying "two drives with identical stuff on each of them, so if one goes for a ride, the other kicks in and your server still operates, albeit more slowly." If uptime's an issue, I'd consider this a must-have.

    An additional third hard drive would be an option for internal backup. I don't know how exactly this works with a Linux server, so you'll have to ask the host you pick out. There's bound to be a solution...in Windows Server 2008, it's suprisingly easy (they actually have a Server Backup option that took me about 5 minutes to configure, and having tested it twice, it works very well, even with the database I accidentally screwed up).

    If you're really concerned about uptime and/or hacking, some hosts (including Sectorlink, the one I mentioned above) offer something called an Untangle appliance. I haven't used or configured this myself, so I don't know how it all works from the inside. But the short version, from what I understand, is that it's basically a firewall/anti-spam filter.

    The difference betwen a virtual dedicated and a dedicated server is that you still share a virtual dedicated server (it's not all yours). However, you share it with a lot fewer people (usually 1-7 other customers, from what I've seen) and your resources are dedicated to you. You get X amount of RAM that's yours, X amount of hard drive that is yours, the ability to install things on your server yourself, etc. If you think of it as a smaller version of a dedicated server, you'll have the right idea.
    If I've helped you out in any way, please pay it forward. My wife and I are walking for Autism Speaks. Please donate, and thanks.

    If someone helped you out, be sure to "Like" their post and/or help them in kind. The "Like" link is on the bottom right of each post, beside the "Share" link.

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  6. #5
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    Hmmmm... still seems a bit too much work than I would want to dedicate my time to (since I know I am probably going to have to be the one installing, configuring and keeping up with everything...)

    But it would be something I might invest in the future in for my own sites and other clients, and I definitely appreciate the time you took to respond.

    In this case, however, I am on a time crunch. Any other suggestions for a quick solution to offer them?

  7. #6
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    If it weren't for the multimedia stuff, a shared plan on a good host would do. The problem is the storage space required and the bandwidth associated with said space.

    I'm afraid I don't have any answer as a result. Sorry.
    If I've helped you out in any way, please pay it forward. My wife and I are walking for Autism Speaks. Please donate, and thanks.

    If someone helped you out, be sure to "Like" their post and/or help them in kind. The "Like" link is on the bottom right of each post, beside the "Share" link.

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  8. #7
    Senior Member LeenkzMike's Avatar
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    This might be stupid but, Ill bring it up anyway, instead of uploading videos to their site, couldn't you just set them up with a you Tube channel, and upload the videos there and link to them from the site, that would unload the real large files from their hosting account, and maybe even give them some extra exposure from you tube???
    Peace, Mike
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  9. #8
    WDF Staff AlphaMare's Avatar
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    That would work - but check out the Youtube rules - seems to me they have a max file size.
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  10. #9
    Unpaid WDF Intern TheGAME1264's Avatar
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    EDIT: Misread the suggestion.
    If I've helped you out in any way, please pay it forward. My wife and I are walking for Autism Speaks. Please donate, and thanks.

    If someone helped you out, be sure to "Like" their post and/or help them in kind. The "Like" link is on the bottom right of each post, beside the "Share" link.

    My stuff (well, some of it): My bowling alley site | Canadian Postal Code Info (beta)

  11. #10
    Senior Member LeenkzMike's Avatar
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    Hi AlphaMare:

    You are correct, they do have a file size limit. I was just thinking that 2GB file size and 15 minute length might work for the OP.
    Peace, Mike
    WebHost1-For all your Hosting needs.
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    I realllllly need to feel useful, please "like" my signatures!!!! (Button is on the bottom right!)


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