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I am currently looking up servers on hosting companies. I have finally chosen 2 reliable and tested companies, but their specs vary.

Company one (dedicated server):

  • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ Dual Core
  • RAM: 6 GB DDR2 HDD and RAID: 2 x 750
  • GB SATA II (Software RAID 1)

Company 2 (VPS server)

  • CPU: Intel Xeon Quad Core Harpertown,
  • 12MB cache RAM: 8.0GB ECC HDD and
  • RAID: 45GB, Hardware Raid 10

The price for these 2 machines is exactly the same. Although 45 GB are enough for my needs at this time, I am seriously considering the first option because it's fully dedicated and closer to my location (so, faster transfer times), but I am uncertain how much of an impact the software raid might have on the overall system performance on high traffic, as I have absolutely no experience.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Software RAID has a minimal performance impact, especially in less intensive RAID arrangements like RAID-1. Even in the worst arrangements like RAID-6, you are unlikely to see anywhere near the performance impact from a software RAID as you are from the VPS overhead and the processor contention that you will run into.

WARNING - here be personal opinion:

Honestly, I would never recommend a VPS for high-performance systems. While VPS can come in handy for clustered systems which require high-availability, I've never had good experiences when there are multiple high intensity systems on the same hardware. They just tend to end up stealing from each other a lot and perform worse than either of them would have independently.

Additionally, I'm hesitant to use hardware RAID these days, as I've had two bad experiences (which I'm sure you wouldn't get with a higher end 3Ware card or similar). I've had two RAID controllers die on me and decide to write 0's to the entire array. The point of RAID is to eliminate a single point of failure as far as disks are concerned; why introduce a second one with a hardware controller? True, the on-board controller could die as well, but if that fries, it's taking half of the motherboard with it, and you're pretty well boned anyway.

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I would +3 this not just for the note about software raid not being a performance hit and for both the opinion points about VPS not being a performance alternative about hardware RAID not being a good thing. VPS is great for many many reasons, but performance isn't one of them. If you need that, it sounds like the first guys have a way better setup for you. –  Caleb Apr 15 '11 at 17:21
    
Software RAID is fine for low numbers of disks but with many disks it floods the PCI bus and so causes a big IO bottleneck. Hardware RAID also should have a BBU making it more resilient to corruption in the event of power failure. With regard to RAID corruption, all raid5/6 is prone to it not just hardware raid. Usually when a controller fails you can swap it out and carry on with no effect on the data at all. –  JamesRyan Apr 15 '11 at 19:22

I fully support @Scrivener's answer on all three points, so I won't re-phrase all those details.

The only thing I would add as another answer to this is that it might be worth considering VPS and cloud options not based on their performance stats, but on other advantages like uptime, portability, expandability, etc. You can throw a little more, maybe parallel machines at a job to overcome the performance hit and maybe make it back up in other gains.

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Good point - just because VPSs aren't a high-performance system, doesn't necessarily mean that their benefits don't outweigh their downsides! Careful measurement is necessary in all applications. –  Scrivener Apr 15 '11 at 17:34
    
I forgot to mention in my question: I have been with the company that offers the above VPS for many years now (using their shared hosting for simple websites), and their support / uptime can only be described as stellar. I never had an issue that took them more than 15 minutes to respond, and usually it would be solved in a matter of minutes. Uptime is spectacular, in the last 4 years I noticed only 2 downtimes that lasted 2-3 minues each. This is the thing that makes it so hard for me to deceide :) Better performance and resources on the one side, proven reliability and support on the other! –  Spiros Apr 15 '11 at 18:54

If the Price is Identical go for DEDICATED. Software raid has little no overhead ( although you have to be really good at raid config to set it up and fix things when they go wrong. )

However, more important than specs is the reliability of the company. Will techs answer your calls for help at 2am in the morning or just tell you to shut up and wait until morning? What about on Sundays/Weekends?

What about bandwidth metering? 95% percentile is common but look into this and how much they charge on overages.

But, again, to me it is all about UPTIME and Tech support. How long it takes them to answer Tickets and help requests. Requests like; (can you reset my server?) And... can you set up a remote IP-KVM so I can work on my dedicated server remotely? How long will this take? Am I charged extra for these common tasks?

I would look into this place: Media Temple

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+1 for mentioning company reliability. –  Spiros Apr 15 '11 at 19:28

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