The Future of RTSL Hosting

3rd June 2017

A couple of days ago I work up to find the site offline.

It’s a horrible feeling, especially if you don’t have time to fix it before leaving for work or worse, having to wait for somebody to do something before you can do something else.

This fairly brief post will explain the result of that outage.

Background

For the last few years, I have been hosted by Nodecraft.com. Now, they are really a game server provider but they do host a few websites. This aspect of hosted is actually done on servers other than their own. In some ways, it’s a favour to the people they host, or at least it was in my case.

Up until the last month or so, I had had very few problems. The site was always fast and reliable.

I actually have a dedicated server in France that I rent to host the images and downloads. I do this to ensure that no matter how many files are being downloaded at once, the site remains fast and responsive.

What Happened?

The actual host sent this message to Nodecraft:

“We are encountering an issue with this account causing very high load on the server. On our shared servers all resources are shared by all of the accounts, and unfortunately your account is using such high resources it is negatively impacting the other accounts on the server. We have temporarily password restricted access to web content on this account to prevent ongoing load issues until corrective action has been taken.

We will need you to take steps to reduce the load used by this shared account.

Another option is to disable or correct the scripting causing this heavy load. If you are not familiar with the scripting you will need to contact your web developer or the creator of the script itself to help reduce the impact of the script on the server’s shared resources.

A third option is to move the domain which is causing high load to it’s own VPS or dedicated server which would enable the full resources of the package you choose to be used for your accounts rather than the the limited amount offered by our shared plans.

The final option is to remove the domain which contains the scripting that is causing high load issues.

Upon review of your WordPress site we see it has over 30 plugins enabled. We find WordPress performance deteriorates when it has over 15 installed plugins. We recommend reducing the plugin count of the WordPress site as well as performing further optimization.”

So basically, my site suddenly seemed to be using too many shared resources. I have made no changes to the site for weeks, so why this would suddenly happen I don’t know.

Despite repeated requests, the host has yet to provide details.

The solution to getting it back online was to simply add it to Cloudflare. Cloudflare is a kind of caching service. I had tested it in the past but it actually screwed the whole site up so turned it off year ago.

What Now?

Well, the site is still on the same server as it was and there could still be issues any day. I don’t want to rush to move the site for obvious reasons and it’s a terrible of time of year for me as I have to write a lot of student reports. Stuff like “Could do better!”

This means I am making more backups than usual and expecting the worse every morning.

I have decided on a short-term and long-term approach.

Short-term Plan

I have decided to move the site to another server, but I want to stress again, this has nothing to do with Nodecraft. Over the years, I have had to move the site at least 5 times because the host said I was using too many resources and I had out grown shared servers.

I’ve looked around and found a few hosts I like the sound of and I am going to post about them here in case readers have an input. Now, even though I have been managing the website for over 13 years, I am certainly not an expert. As long as the thing works, that’s all I care about.

WP Engine my top choice, is too expensive for me (the $29 doesn’t have enough resources and the next one skyrockets to $99! But even $30 a month is too much for me).
PageFog confuses me. I think they manage the servers for you. That might actually be useful at some point in the future.

Veerotech.net is a potential option. FOr $9 a month I can run the site but I can’t see bandwdith and connectivity details.

Finally, and probably my choice, Vidahost.com. They seem to have a good reputation and the price is fine (£10 a month) for the resources.

Providers like WP Engine and Vidahost automatically install the OS etc so users don’t have to. It means users generally have less control over things but less responsibility as well. It’s how most amateur websites are hosted and unless you have a really busy website, it works fine.

I know there are thousands of potential hosts available and many offer really cheap prices but you need to understand they are for small sites. I have 30,000 users per month with between 45GB and 75GB bandwidth. I would crash their shared servers. That’s very small compared to ModDB but that’s a business and they have money to spend.

Long-term Plan

In the long-term I feel I need to move the site to either a dedicated server or VPS (Virtual Private Server). In the case of a dedicated server, I rent an actual computer in a rack in a server farm. I have complete control over the server. But it means I essentially have no support either, at least as far as software is concerned. This is what I have in France but a very kind and patient RTSL user actually did all the work of choosing the right OS, installing it as well as the other software, configuring the firewall etc etc etc (yes, three “etcs” because it was quite a few hours of work).

A VPS is almost a balance between shared hosting and dedicated servers.

Believe it or not dedicated servers are pretty cheap compared to what you get in shared hosting, so I suppose it’s the cost of people administering the software that sets the price as much as the hardware.

The real issue here is that I would have to learn a LOT about running a server and have complete responsibility if something goes wrong. Plenty of people say it’s easy but I know it’s more involved than they think. I struggle to use SSH even now.

Anyway, here are potential options:
Digital Ocean. I’ve read and heard good and bad things about ther support. What I really like is the idea of easy to install templates (that’s OS, webserver, DB and PHP, all installed quickly and easily). The price is good and the resources fair (would like more RAM and CPU but don’t need the storage and bandwidth).
I think this is the same thing but it’s not as nicely presented as the above. Scaleway.com. I think I can order a server with pre-install OS, webserver etc and then install apps from there, including WordPress (the software used to run the site).

Vultr.com has been recommended to me as well.

After that it goes straight to fully managed dedicated servers and there are plenty of options available including the ones above plus:
Linode.com and Online.net.

Remember, fully managed dedicated server is the ultimate in control but comes at the price of a very steep learning curve and full responsibility.

I do want this to be how I run the site but need to recognise it’s a bit of a risk – that’s why it’s the long-term plan.

Final Thoughts

I have been a terrible webmaster for the last year or so and any extra work administering the site is bad news. I have played anything this week nor done any mapping. I have virtually no free time. Even my squash videos have stopped.

Unless any reader has significant input, I’ll probably go with Vidahost later this month with perhaps some tests with Digital Ocean to see how those templates work. At $5 a month, it’s work a try.

Just in case you didn’t know, many companies now charge by the hour, allowing developers to test setups, configurations etc for short periods of time. I don’t know if that means that long term hosting on those sorts of hosts is not a good idea.

Anyway, thanks for your patience and support over the last few days.

Remember, finishing Half-Life is just the beginning! CYA!

Help me create more and better content - please support me on Patreon

Help me create more and better content - please support me on Patreon

4 Comments

  1. On the short term solution, have you seen OVH ? Maybe you’ll be able to get a cheaper price.

    Another advantage with the “long term plans” over “short term plans” : like you mentioned, you have complete authority on the server meaning you could have a “backup download server” for the website and/or Gauge if something bad would happen to the “primary download server”. But that would require some software knowledge and some time setting up (you mentioned it as well).

    1. Thanks, that’s another one to add to the list, although the limit of 30 connections to the DB might be a deal breaker.

  2. lurkerofxen

    I’d look at BuyVM for VPS hosting.

Leave a Reply


Comment Formatting Guide

Well formatted comments are much easier to read. Please copy and paste the HTML Tags to use in your comment

  • HEADER: <div class="fix"></div><div class="sbe3">TEXT HERE</div>
  • BOLD: <strong>TEXT HERE</strong>
  • ITALIC: <em>TEXT HERE</em>
  • SPOILER: <span class="spoiler">TEXT HERE</span>