Category Archives: web-op

Is a dedicated server or “cloud” instance right for you?

These days, we’re seeing more clients eager to deploy on a cloud system like Amazon EC2 or Digital Ocean.  These systems are closer to conventional dedicated servers than traditional shared-hosting accounts, even though the price is closer to the latter.

There are certain changes you can expect when you move to a setup like this.

  •  Full control over the software stack.  Want to run on your favourite Linux distribution?  Go right ahead.  This becomes much more important if you need special utilities.  For example, if you NEED ImageMagick to do some custom server-side graphics processing, or, say, wkhtmltopdf to generate instant downloadable PDFs of site content.
  •  More assigned resources.  Shared hosting is famous for being vague as to what you get hardware-wise.  Cloud instances and dedicated servers usually come with more clearly defined allocations of CPU, memory, and I/O performance, and you can frequently select upgrades to each as needed.

However, it comes with a significant drawback:  the whole software system is in your hands.  If you want to configure Apache to redirect everything it touches to a porn site, the cloud system won’t stop you.  If you choose to delete the entire filesystem from the top directory downwards, that’s your perogative.  On a more practical note, it means you’re responsible for keeping the software up-to-date.  Usually this is little more than logging in and running “yum update” or the equivalent on a regular basis, but it still requires some awareness of what you’re doing.

One major difference between cloud instances and dedicated servers comes in the hardware.  With the “cloud”, they’re still abstracting out some aspects of the system.  This tends to make for greater inconsistency in perfofmance.  Spin up a dozen EC2 instances, get a dozen different real-world results.  If consistency is your goal, you may have to go all the way to a full dedicated server.

Is the era of hosting your own mail over?

Recently, we’ve began to switch many of our clients from “locally hosted” email to services like Google Apps for Domains and for domains.  We’ve found the results are striking: better deliverability and less resource hassles.

Now, the “resource hassles” thing is simply a matter of scale.  Microsoft and Google can afford to throw fifteen gig at every user and not ask them to keep their inboxes managed for the sake of performance.  They can also customized aspects of the mail delivery experience– for example, custom IMAP servers that don’t try to synch older messages–  that help with the basic difficulties of huge inboxes.  If you’ve ever had an iPhone shriek to a halt trying to synch a 50,000 message inbox, the benefits are clear.

However, the “deliverability” aspect is presenting an ominous possible future.  These days, it’s enough to have a single account with a compromised password remain unnoticed for a few days for the anti-spam forces to panic and blacklist an entire server.  The result:  everyone loses functional mail service because one person got a virus.  Imagine the risks this presents to a small business that manages their own mail service.  Even worse– if you’re on a shared mail server, someone outside your organization can tank your deliverability.  It’s no wonder it’s tempting to make it Google’s problem instead.

It’s not just replacing the mail accounts, though.  If you’ve got an online store, a blog with active commentary, or any other web asset that generates email, you need to find a new way to service them.  We’ve set up some sites, for example, to forward mail through a Google Apps for Domains account, to ensure deliverability.  Others use systems like SendGrid, where normal mail functionality is replaced by web-based service calls, and the outbound messages never touch your server directly.

With these changes, you might be able to get your mail delivered in a hassle-free fashion, although you’re likely looking at new costs (for the SendGrid and/or Google Apps services) and a setup challenge.

Oxygen Plus

There was big interest in the Oxygen Plus products in China. Compressed oxygen has found it’s way into the American market w a bang. We have great hopes for this product on the web in China and the U S.


Dr Spray

Got a great reaction from all of the Chinese distributors concerning the line of products being produced by Dr. Spray. These products give a great result in a handy China friendly package. Keep your eye on this product world wide.


Bio Fuel

Traveled to China this week to introduce Raphael’s bio fuel concept to the Chinese. It’s compressed waste, the product we introduced was made from cow manure and is used as a clean burning coal replacement. It has been exciting to work with Raphael, the Chinese and his company Efrim Energy on this venture.