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This might seem like a ridiculous question, but mainly I'm wondering how can I test the difference in latency between the ISP we use in our office and the hosting provider we use (Rackspace in this case). Like what would be the difference in speed if we hosted our servers in our office as opposed to at Rackspace. Can I just pick an arbitrary place in the US and ping it from each and receive a realistic representation of the speed difference?

How fast should our ISP be to compete with one of those big dudes? is 50mbps fast enough?

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You've said absolutely nothing about your hosting requirements, which is what will determine whether or not you will be able to effectively host in-house. Don't forget to add an allowance for all other traffic flowing on that connection. – John Gardeniers Feb 16 '10 at 3:55
It's just something I've always been interested in, what is the overall performance difference between a host and just using my ISP. Hosting requirements, SLA's, Contracts aside, I just want to know the metrics. Phoebus hit the nail on the head. – JP Silvashy Feb 18 '10 at 1:55
up vote 11 down vote accepted

In general, you don't host with a provider solely for speed. A company like Rackspace with dedicated servers (I know they don't do much colocation so I'm assuming you're using a dedicated offering) is giving you:

  • 24/7 monitoring, depending on the level of the offering you purchase
  • SLAs for uptime, etc
  • Flat-rate hardware (i.e. you pay a month-to-month regardless of necessity of replacements, etc)
  • Powerful existing infrastructure (load balancers, firewalls, etc)
  • Multiple internet backbone providers (in the case of Rackspace's largest datacenter I believe it is seven)
  • Minimum N+1 redundant power and cooling systems
  • Physical security
  • Expert support availability
  • etc, etc

You don't host with a provider like Rackspace for the purpose of raw connection speed. That's like asking how many RPMs you'd need to hit in your Toyota in order to match a Ferrari. It's certainly a metric, but it's meaningless without context.

Now, you may be able to provide some or all of the above yourself (and there are many unmentioned factors), but the real question when looking at self-hosting, colocation, dedicated offsite servers, "cloud" hosting, etc, is reliability, performance, and efficiency per unit cost, and what is an acceptable level of each. There are no easy answers.

Ultimately, though, to answer your question, on a pure speed basis you're at the very least going to need a dedicated line à la T1, or some other symmetric connection. Your typical home-style connection, and indeed many "business" hookups, just don't have the outgoing capacity, especially not in a reliable, non-bursty manner.

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awesome answer, I suppose I didn't consider the up-speed, being so important, but I think that'd be the most important, of which Comcast is capped at 2mbps, which ain't gonna cut it. Do you know of any really good resources to find a co-lo? It seems searching online yields only BS affiliates and whatnot. – JP Silvashy Feb 16 '10 at 2:04
+1 clear and concise reasoning phoebus - wish I could favorite your answer. – Patrick R Feb 16 '10 at 2:07
+1 I love car analogies – Mark Henderson Feb 16 '10 at 3:48

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