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I'm looking for a Windows server for my startup search application, and need some advice. The application downloads a few megabytes worth of text from a remote server and processes it (regular expressions, full text searches, etc) for each search - including download time, each call takes from 10-20 seconds on my two-year old AMD dual core machine.

I really have no idea what sort of power this thing will need once it starts getting heavy traffic, but I have limited startup cash so I need to get as much bang for my buck as I can - and spend under $85 a month to start if possible.

What is the best processor I can get in a budget server? Some of the plans I'm looking at run on Pentium 4s, but I've been warned against them. Do you know any server providers who have good plans I could look into, and does anyone out there with experience in this have any other gems of wisdom that could save me a few headaches down the road?

Thanks in advance!

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Just to start with realistic goals, you're not going to get a dedicated server for < $85 a month anywhere. That said, it looks like some big optimizations could help you out.

Scott Hebert posted recently on Planet Sysadmin with a list of cheap VPS providers.

Have you considered pre-downloading these text files beforehand? If they change frequently, how about downloading them periodically and using the local cached copies? I bet a lot of your time is spent on the download, and not the processing.

Take a look at optimizing your regular expression queries, as well. grep can be very slow if it's an older version -- improvements of 10x can be seen by just going to a later version.

It's always good to explain as much about the issue as possible. You say this is a Windows server, which may also bump up your cost considerably, as licensing isn't free.

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Looking around I did find a few boxes for <70/month, for example: I can't precache the text files as they're dynamic. Download time isn't an issue so much for me as processing power - I don't want my app to freeze up for everyone if I get a bunch of concurrent hits. I did a bunch of optimization on my processing which helped, but however you look at it it's going to take up some CPU juice. – MarathonStudios Aug 20 '10 at 22:51
Fair enough, but note those are Atom processors, which have slow clock speeds and are far slower, tick for tick, than even Pentium 4's. I'd start asking around local business, governments, etc. to see if they have any older hardware they're cycling out. Even older Xeons are pretty decent, and may do the trick for you. – Jeff McJunkin Aug 20 '10 at 22:54
I wondered how Atoms compared to Pentiums. If you had the choice between an Atom dual core and a Pentium single, which do you think would be better? As for hosting my own hardware, I wish it was an option - I could buy most of the dedicateds I see for less then it costs to rent one for 3 monthes, but I don;t have anywhere to host it. – MarathonStudios Aug 20 '10 at 23:01
Most operations will be single threaded, honestly, so I'd pick the Pentium single. Atom isn't really a reasonable option for most server workloads. – Jeff McJunkin Aug 20 '10 at 23:05
Jeff, if I have multiple people accessing a script application on my webserver at once wouldn't that spawn multiple threads? I'm not coding in a threaded language, so if it happens it'll happen at the webserver level and not directly in my script. – MarathonStudios Aug 20 '10 at 23:52

You should be able to get an unmanaged dedicated server core i7 of >2.3Ghz with 8GB of ram and 750GB disk, with some terrabytes of data transfer (reasonable bandwidth) for about USD65/month.

That said, if a single call requires a full 20 seconds (ie, 5 on a modern machine) you are in for some trouble if you get some traffic.

Is it spent waiting for the network of crunching CPU? It look like Jeff McJunkin has some good suggestions.

Edit For example:, (I have some with them, they are pretty much ok) - there are plenty of others.

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The time is definitely waiting for the data to download, the processing only takes a few seconds but it does take some CPU juice. I haven't seen anything with the specs like you mentioned for under 150, where are you finding it so cheap? – MarathonStudios Aug 20 '10 at 23:51
Second the question of where on earth you're finding that deal. – Bill Weiss Aug 21 '10 at 1:34

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