Times have changed. Apple’s notebooks are selling like pancakes and iPods.
Even better, Apple’s Xserve is getting rave reviews as an enterprise class solution. How does Xserve work as a server for a web site about Macs?
Just fine, thank you very much. Last week we published an article about our search for a web server to host the Mac360 site, which had been running on a PowerMac G5.
Running the Mac360 web site on a Mac using OS X Tiger Server has been a technical exercise in pleasure, even easier than running a site on vanilla OS X. Seriously.
Tiger Server makes it easy to set up web sites, email, spam control, set up and manage users, and do all the tricky things that techno geeks like me really enjoy.
As we noted in the previous article, following Tera’s death last summer, Ron McElfresh, Mac360’s original sys admin, moved the Mac360 site from a host server back to a PowerMac G5 connected to the internet via DSL.
For the most part, all was well, except for occasionally running out of bandwidth on days when the site was particularly busy. Daily visitors to Mac360 had doubled since last year, so Bambi and Kate commissioned a search for a new web host.
For those readers who wanted more details on our search and final solution, here it is.
Ron and I have some experience dealing with web site hosts, so we narrowed the list to those with technology we thought could handle the site’s future growth.
For example, we looked closely at Mosso, a cluster service with some interesting Linux and Windows hybrid technology.
We’re convinced that clustering, storing a web site on many different computers scattered all over the country, is the future of servers. Web pages can be served quickly and with little interruption.
There are problems, though, as the service is complex. When something goes wrong, it goes wrong, well, all over the country, as it did with Mosso last week. We scratched them off the list.
We looked closely at TextDrive, a hosting service with a unique slant on compression and acceleration technology. What they do to speed up a web site while conserving bandwidth is nothing short of remarkable.
However, service means something, and it took a week to get a handful of questions answered. We looked at other services such as Site5 (affordable, good support), and Pair (superb support, excellent systems, not so affordable).
Some hosts offer a terabyte or so of daily bandwidth for a dime, or something like that. The problem isn’t so much bandwidth, though we need more. It’s CPU and resource usage, which causes problems with the discount web site hosts.
Kate asked if we could expand our search to include web site hosts that use Macs. Perhaps down the road we could afford our own Xserve to be co-located in a datacenter (and thanks to all the Mac360 readers who offered to host our site on their servers—what a great community).
Ron found ServerLogistics, a Mac web host and co-location service in California. Guess what? They run Apple’s new Intel-based Xserves. So last week we took a close look to see if there were performance differences between our PowerMac G5 and the new Xserves.
The short answer is, yes. The Xserves are faster. Much faster. Initial tests using pMachine’s Expression Engine content management system, used by many Mac web sites these days, though Mac360 was the first, were exciting.
Some pages would render five times faster on the Xserve than on the PowerMac G5 (dual Intel Xeons vs. dual 1.8ghz PowerPC), both cached and uncached pages.
Additional testing went so well earlier this week that we moved the entire site to ServerLogistic’s Xserve late Tuesday night. So far, so good. Actually, better than expected.
For example, Mac360’s pages would render in about 8/10ths of a second using the PowerMac G5. Check the bottom of the page to see how quickly they render using Apple’s new Intel Xserves.
How about ServerLogistics as a web site host? They’re affordable and support has been prompt, both for setup and issue resolution. The support ticketing system and response is superb.
Access to the web server for Mac users is excellent. We had zero trouble uploading and importing the Mac360 database and site files. It was so simple that the site went live four days earlier than planned.
ServerLogistics’ web site tools are not as extensive as the popular cPanel available with some web site hosts. Email management is a bit cumbersome, though the control over spam filters is excellent, and the options many.
At this juncture it would be difficult to be more satisfied with ServerLogistics. Even running our own Xserve can be managed there. They also have a co-location price for a Mac mini; we just want those dual core Intel CPUs and Leopard.
Our objective was an affordable, dependable web site host that would give us room to grow Mac360, and ServerLogistics is a good solution. Time will tell, of course, but it just seemed to us that a web site about Macs should be running on a Mac.