jgillman's Liquid Web Update Unofficial tips, tricks, and happenings from a Liquid Web sales engineer


Pseudo-VPN for SmartServers

One of the disadvantages that SmartVPSs or SmartServers have compared to traditional dedicated servers is that you can't stick an ASA5505 (or some other hardware firewall) in front of it for VPN connectivity.

Many times, customers are looking to have some sort of internal site that they don't want being visible to the outside world. So how can we accomplish something like this without a VPN? Read below the fold to find out.


Big Storage Smart Server

Have you needed a SmartServer with big storage, but didn't want to spend $500 for processor and memory you don't need?

Right now we have a couple i5-760 SmartServers with 4GB of RAM but 1.8TB of storage. These are perfect for those who just need place to store large amounts, whether using the server for serving the content itself, or as a form of network attached storage. These gems are only running for a cool $250. The closest thing that would give you 1.8TB of storage is gonna run you for $500

Want to run a big fat Gluster back end? These are the boxen to use!

And as always, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to give us a call at 800-580-4985.


Load Balancing with Storm/SmartServers

One of the nice things about our cloud platform (Storm On Demand / Smart Servers) is the ability to easily provision load balancing between nodes. This can be used for a multitude of purposes, from increasing overall performance, to mitigating downtime due to server problems.

However, if you're considering going with a load balanced setup, there are a few key issues to be cognizant of.

More below the fold...


Upgrading from Legacy VPS to Smart VPS

One thing that customers of our Legacy VPS product will have noticed is that CentOS 4 will be End Of Life come February 2012. While this doesn't mean that the server will stop working for them, it means that new patches will not be released, thus potentially exposing the customer to security vulnerabilities as they become known.

While this might cause some initial concern, the solution really isn't that hard. Upgrading to Liquid Web's Smart VPS and migration the data can be a relatively easy process!


Traditional Dedicated v. Cloud Based Dedicated

One question that I get asked a bit is why someone would go with a Storm BareMetal or Liquid Web SmartServer as compared to a traditional dedicated server. The answer that I give to that question is that it really depends.

Traditional dedicated and cloud based dedicated servers each have their advantages over the other type. That is why it is important to determine what your architectural requirements are when deciding.

Advantages of Cloud Dedicated Servers (SmartServers/Storm BareMetal) over Traditional Dedicated

Quick Deployment and Granular Billing
One of the most apparent advantages with a cloud based server is the fact that they are pre-racked, and can thus be provisioned within minutes. This, combined with the fact that billing is done daily (SmartServers) or Hourly (Storm BareMetal), make cloud based servers ideal for developers who may need to kick instances quickly and for a relatively short amount of time for a project.

Dynamic Resizing
Another advantage of a cloud based server is the ability to dynamically resize an instance. This is certainly beneficial for long term upgrades, as the migrations are completely automatic and transparent to the user. However, users who have cyclic periods of increased usage can really benefit from this feature (again, combined with daily/hourly billing as well).

For example, I was working with a customer who currently has an older traditional dedicated server. On certain nights (which are known), his traffic literally doubles, which has caused problems for that server. In this case, we decided that a SmartServer was an excellent choice - prior to the start of the busy time, he upsizes the server to handle the significantly increased load, and then when the busy time is done, he just resizes down, only paying for the time that he used. It was truly a win/win, as the customer is able to handle the increased load as needed, while saving money.

Automated Advanced Networking
The advanced networking features of our cloud based servers are another significant advantage over traditional dedicated servers. Through the interface, or the Storm API, you can setup load balancing, firewall rules, and a private network. This makes it easy to transition from say a single server which is both hosting static web content as well as the database, to a frontend-backend setup where the two servers are linked via private networking, as no physical cabling needs to be run, nor switches setup.

Creating Server Images
With Liquid Web's cloud based servers, you have the ability to create server images, which you can subsequently use to kick additional instances.

For example, say that you were anticipating building site with a load balanced architecture. One thing that you might do is create a base configuration that all nodes would have, and then create an image. That way, additional node creation is simply an issue of using that image when they are created.

Advantages of Traditional Servers over Cloud Servers

Hardware Customization
One of the key advantages that a traditional server has over a cloud based one is that you are able to customize various hardware components much more. For example, it's easy to add additional hard drive space or RAM with a traditional server. However, with a cloud based server, you have to upgrade the whole instance. Much more granularity is allowed with a traditional dedicated.

Operating System Selection
Another advantage that traditional dedicated servers have over cloud servers is that, for now, selection is limited to what is available. With a traditional dedicated, any operating system can be installed. Be on the lookout over the next couple of months though for Windows on Storm and Liquid Web SmartServers. Update:Windows on Storm is now available, and should be available soon for SmartServers

One thing that traditional servers can do that our cloud servers can not do is have a custom partitioning scheme. Although the partitioning scheme that comes with Storm and SmartServers is adequate for many, some may require a more customized scheme.

Final Thoughts

As can be seen, choosing between a cloud based server or a traditional is based largely on what your requirements are. If you're looking at just kicking a Debian box to do some code testing on, our cloud offerings would be ideal given the speed of deployment and granular billing. However, if you need things like custom partitioning schemes or operating systems not currently offered with our cloud products, a traditional server would be the right choice.

Of course, Liquid Web sales engineers, such as myself, are around 24x7 to answer any further questions to may have, or to advise you on what the right solution would be for your hosting needs. Don't hesitate to contact us!

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