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I'm trying to transfer my organization's website from the university server to a separate machine on the network and need to know what the hardware needs will be. This will be a Linux server (you can recommend a distro if you like, too.). This is a fairly small website. Since I took over, the record maximum was about 21k requests in a week, typically around 16-18k. Everything is in PHP (will be using Apache), and uses a PostgreSQL database. Also, there will be 2-4 daily users using ssh/scp.

Thanks for your input.

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closed as too localized by Skyhawk, Mark Henderson Dec 1 '11 at 0:35

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5 Answers

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Based on what you said, pretty much anything will be more than sufficient, capacity wise. What's your budget and admin skill level like? What kind of downtime do you think is acceptable? Do you have room for a large rack-mounted noisy server or were you thinking more like under the desk?

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Under the desk would be ideal. And I don't actually have the ability to gauge how much CPU usage I'm taking right now. For all I know everything I've done is terribly written and will kill a small server. I don't really have a budget, as I'm creating this proposal for people who will make the decision - basically as cheap as possible with no noticeable change for the users. Downtime should be kept to a bare minimum, as the primary users are college students who like to do things at odd hours of the day ;) Our biggest concern is that we're eating up our allotted space on the uni's web server. –  Alex S Nov 15 '09 at 4:47
    
You should plan on around $1,500 or so to get anything labeled a "server." Dell sells some cheap models, there's also the Mac mini server. Generally most all "servers" are on the louder side. Your app might be perfectly happy running on a castoff desktop if you're really strapped, or need something between now and the next FY, just make sure you're well backed up. Or ask around other departments for machines coming off warranty - at UM it's not uncommon for machines being replaced to get handed down. –  Jim Zajkowski Nov 15 '09 at 18:26
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You should really get a budget figure nailed down, and then ask for recommendations within that budget. You'll get much better responses.

That said, don't underestimate the warm-fuzziness of vendor support, especially when dealing with the bean counters. Dell advertises new servers for under $300, and while that is very entry-level, it is still a vendor-supported server-grade machine.

Start with an entry-level model (tower or rack), and maybe upgrade a couple of things - slightly more ram, slightly better processor, slightly larger disk - and you should still be at a competitive price point.

As for distros, what is your current site hosted on? If it's something open sourced, why not pick that? You'll already have experience with it, and it should give the IT staff the warm fuzzies since they'll know what to expect with it.

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They switched from Solaris to Cent OS right before the big issues hit with the project. I'm not sure if Cent would be the right choice at the moment. –  Alex S Nov 16 '09 at 0:27
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the record maximum was about 21k requests in a week, typically around 16-18k.

21k requests, is that total hits to the server (images, css, js etc) or page views? Even conservatively assuming it is page views only then 21k pageviews pr week should comfortably fit on a smaller VPS.

My suggestion would be to consider the growth potential, i.e. are you likely to attract many more visitors in the future by means of marketing etc? Next, consider the 'spike-ness' of the site, will it have heavy load over a few hours / days?

If neither of the above is a problem, then either place the site on a managed or unmanaged VPS with a hosting provider of your choosing, or place it on a virtualized machine on your own server park. Hardware reqs for 21 pageviews per week are minimal, it's not more than ~6 pageviews per minute during workdays...

I would respectfully propose that a fully managed VPS is the best fit for your needs.

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We really want to avoid monthly costs and the machine has to be in the university network as its accessed through a directory. Sure, we could redirect, but we deal with mostly with arts majors. –  Alex S Nov 15 '09 at 7:25
    
@Shadow: Do I understand correctly that the server is a) Internet-accessible and b) member of a directory service such as Active Directory (AD)? Internet-accessible points to putting it outside the primary firewall, in the DMZ. Placing AD in the DMZ is doable, but it is complicated business to get it right & secure. Maybe you should get a experienced sysadmin from another faculty to advise... –  Jesper Mortensen Nov 16 '09 at 6:21
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Since price is your biggest issue, then consider a Dell tower server. The low end is about $1000 - $1500 USD when you add in the RAID and decent memory. While a mac mini would be nice and small, it doesn't have the extra's a server would (like the RAID) The Dell should have more then enough computing power unless the app is really, really badly written.

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Mac mini "server edition" has two disks which can be RAID 1'd. –  Jim Zajkowski Nov 15 '09 at 18:12
    
Cool, then it would be good. Learn something new everyday. –  user26147 Nov 16 '09 at 13:12
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dells are cheap. But if you aren't going to put it in a rack and are looking for a table top solution, you should consider getting a mac mini :)

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