How to Choose Web Hosting for Your Social Networking Site
Social media can be one of the most attractive features of a well-designed web site. Aside from the ability to share articles and other content from your site to the wider Internet, the ability for fans and readers to interact with each other on your own site can dramatically increase your traffic and engagement.
But all that communication comes with a price. Web hosting for social networking site launches must be able to handle the demands of increased speed, storage and stability. As all developers know, whether they are tasked with building a simple message board or a full-fledged real-time social media destination, all software problems are inherently hardware problems. Deciding which hosting plan to choose is always a challenge. If you are not able to build out your own hardware and co-locate it at the data center of your choice, your next best choice is to find a web host who can provide what your audience needs.
Here are some things to consider if you are choosing a web host and planning to set up social media services on your own site for your readers and fans.
Hardware: Overbuild and Overdeliver
When you decide on your hardware, storage, bandwidth and location, you are not just deciding on which hosting plan to choose or just what your site will need today. You are also tasked with building a site that will work just as well or better tomorrow. Social media sites tend to grow, and some of them grow rather rapidly. While your server doesn’t necessarily have to be ready for millions of guests next week, you don’t want to get caught in the classic revenue vs. bandwidth squeeze where you can’t afford your audience.
As important as speed is, you can’t win the race if you’re out of gas. When choosing a web host, build for stability first. Make sure you are using whatever options your web host provides to keep your site isolated from other hosts. If you can, opt for a dedicated machine. If that is out of your budget, get a vps server or a vps hosting plan. While not equivalent to dedicated hardware, vps hosting is often the closest you can get to a dedicated machine while still keeping costs low.
Web hosting for social networking site development requires the best hardware you can afford.
Software: Database First
Multi-tier software development depends entirely on the quality of your database. Any bottlenecks that are likely to emerge during stress testing, development or during site growth will almost always manifest in the database first, and then expand to include RAM spikes and finally storage hardware problems.
Installing and tuning the right database software and then hiring an expert database administrator to supervise it all are not optional, even if you are able to afford a vps server or a dedicated machine. Social media users like speed and responsiveness. If your database isn’t up to the task, your site will either chug, hesitate or outright hang, and that will make it very hard to build on any early successes.
Better middleware or client software won’t help if your database is overloaded. Like your hardware, you need the foundation of your multi-tier architecture to be ready right out of the gate. Once you get this layer working on one machine, your greatest advantage down the road will be to simply parallelize your working model to many servers. This strategy will allow you to keep up with growth while you optimize.
Network: Location then Topography
If your site is too far from the rest of the network hardware, all that time and energy spent building a great platform will be wasted. Do everything you can to get your machine as close to the biggest data trunk you can find. Many network operations centers will be happy to guide you to the right locations if you plan to install your own hardware. If not, be sure to ask. If you are one hop off a trunk, your network will be snappy and responsive. If you are five hops off, you’re going to be spending all your time keeping four other nodes working and will have no time left for your own.
Take a page from the playbook of the financial industry and their flash trading systems. Even at the speed of light, a hundred miles can be the difference between getting the sale and not. In the marketplace of attention spans, you need to be first. Get that extra hundred miles and you will.
If you find you have many options, do some testing. See which data center provides you the best burst and sustained traffic support. If you have the means, set up a failover system so one machine can pinch hit for the other during high traffic or high latency intervals.
Once you have solved the hardware, database and networking problems you are likely way ahead of 90% of your competition. Like it or not, the last ten percent is always a dog fight. Just be certain you aren’t costing yourself unnecessary money fighting through the first nine opponents. You’re going to need it to win the social media championship.
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