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Forum: Running in the USA Website
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Topic: Does the website seem faster?
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Posted By: Webmaster Mary Posted: May 26, 2011 Reply
May 26, 2011
Are you finding the web pages loading faster? We've done some major upgrades under the hood.

We outsource the hosting of this website.  We do not have the equipment, expertise or desire to host it ourselves.  We pay professionals to take care of making sure this website is accessible on the magic internet and not tampered with.

A few weeks ago, we got an email from our hosting company, asking if we were doing something different or had experienced a lot of growth.  They had recently noticed we were hogging a lot of resources. 

We have been experiencing increased growth at Running in the USA, in terms of web traffic.  In April, 2011 we had our first month with over 6 million page views.


Side Note: web traffic is tallied in 2 main ways - page views and unique visitors.  Page views is how many pages were accessed, and unique visitors is how many different people visited the site.  One person might click around to10 different pages.  That would count as one unique visitor, and 10 page views.
Hosting plans come in 3 main varieties.  Shared hosting, virtual server, and dedicated server.  A shared hosting plan is the most basic, and least expensive.  A virtual server is in the middle, and a dedicated server is the highest end, and most expensive.  Since the launch of Running in the USA, we have always been on a shared hosting plan.

Websites on a server can be compared to swimmers in a swimming pool.

A shared hosting plan would be like one big pool with a whole bunch of causal swimmers swimming around randomly.  They are mildly active most of the time, occasionally swim a few hard core laps, and then rest for a while.  The natural randomness of swimmers' behavior keeps the overall activity in the pool constant, and they coexist without incident.

Tracking how much 'hard core lap swimming' each website on the shared server is doing is actually pretty difficult, and not routinely done.  Standard monitoring looks at the overall total activity in the pool, rather than the history for each individual swimmer.  It is the hosting company's job monitor the total activity, and make sure there aren't too many swimmers in one pool.  When a pool reaches capacity, they build another pool, and all new swimmers go to that pool, until it's full.  A hosting company may have hundreds of pools.

Our hosting company had taken a more detailed look, and determined that our 'swimmer' was doing too many hard core laps for the pool, hogging the pool, and making life unpleasant for the other swimmers in our pool.

We were told we'd need to move to a virtual server.  A virtual server is the next step up.  Basically, a virtual server is a smaller pool, with fewer swimmers, but each swimmer gets their own lane in the pool.  Swimmers don't interfere with each other.

So, we packed up and moved everything to a virtual server.  And everything came to a screeching halt. This plan was significantly more expensive, and was supposed to be an upgrade, and it was significantly slower than when we were on the shared hosting plan.  The hosting company added more and more resources to our lane, but our swimmer kept bumping into the edges of the pool.  It was at that time, we realized we had Michael Phelps on crack for our swimmer.

So our hosting company told us we'd have to have our very own pool.  On May 19th, we moved to our very own dedicated server.  Our hosting costs jumped over 5 fold from our shared hosting plan, but our swimmer, and all other swimmers, are much happier for it.

The end result for our visitors should be faster page performance.  When you click around, the pages should come up faster.