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I will need server for supporting large/mid files download.

Do you think it's better to have a 1 big server or more of minor power?

Let's consider the bandwidth price too.

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1. Online or local? 2. What is "big" for you, quad core or more? –  Brian Carlton Feb 23 '11 at 2:14

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The short answer is that it all depends on your application and what is running on the server:

  • Having more servers gives you the ability to handle server failures more easily. If you have 10 servers and one fails chances are no one will notice if you have it correctly setup. What do you do if you just have one massive server and it starts smoking?
  • If you're in a situation where you're running multiple servers you probably have the budget to put them all in a private rack behind a switch. In this case the inter-server network does not contribute to your monthly bandwidth.
  • Some applications are not easy to scale out, for example some databases in some situations. In this case it is easier to scale up for a while before considering to scale out.
  • Server cost is a big factor in deciding whether to scale up or not. When you're renting a bigger server begins to cost a lot more than two or more smaller servers so it makes more budgetary sense to scale out. This may be less of a factor if you actually buy/build your own servers and use colocation services.
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Lots of little servers. If you can get your site code to the point where it can handle files hosted on many different servers, this makes your life easier (scaling wise). It also means that if one server goes down, less of your content is inaccessible.

Of course, this assumes that the big server is the same price as lots of little servers. It's hard to say that this will always be the case, because server prices vary wildly throughout the world.

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Both - one big server (or maybe two for redundancy) as a VM host for lots of little servers. –  Joel Coel Feb 23 '11 at 3:52
    
That seems like a surefire way to kill disk IO performance. You now have a lot of little servers all trying to read different parts of the big server's disk. –  devicenull Feb 23 '11 at 4:06

There isn't one true answer to this. It will depend on the specific constraints in your situation. You will need to do your own analysis.

Let's consider the bandwidth price too.

We can't. Bandwidth pricing is not a function of the server size, it depends on what you negotiate, which provider you choose, etc.

I will need server for supporting large/mid files download.

Hmn, well, all other things being equal, if you're serving up large files, then you're probably using plain stateless HTTP, or a streaming video protocol. In that case, I would personally prefer multiple smaller servers -- it's easy to scale sessionless HTTP out over multiple servers, and running on multiple servers provides better options for implementing high availability.

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