A hosting evolution

A hosting evolution

Our journey as a hosting provider has been an interesting one. Since we first started implementing content managed websites, many moons ago, we’ve also been offering hosting to our clients.

Back in those days VMware and cloud computing was some way off. The decision for us was whether to outsource everything or to go for a co-location suite. In the end we went for the co-location as we preferred the control this gave us.

We could choose the hardware, software, switches, load balancers and all the other elements required to offer hosting SLA's of 99.9%. Our hosting partner took care of the environment and provided us with the power, bandwidth, security and the backup generators that automatically kicked-in in the event of power failure. Thankfully these were few and far between.

Therein lies one of the problems, the capital outlay of rack mounted HP servers, Netscaler load balancers, Cisco switches and Microsoft licenses all in fail-over configuration is not insignificant. Add to that the required skills set and time needed to configure the environment and make sure everything is optimised and running efficiently and you are talking about a serious investment.

Once everything was up and running we were proud of our beautifully configured cabinet even if the occasional data centre visit at 2am was not great fun, they're soul less places at the best of times.

As our client base grew we had to increase the number of machines, start replacing some of the older ones and we had to commit to a further cabinet. Managing this had become a serious proposition and it was apparent that we needed to bring in a dedicated engineer or change our offering.

Thankfully our hosting partner had been doing some work with VMware and had set up a very impressive private cloud on HP blades and a Hitachi disk array. We didn't need much persuading. The advantages of elasticity, scalability, and rapid provisioning and the prospect of not having to own or support hardware was enough for us to make the switch.

We've been running sites on the private cloud for a couple of years now and it's been nice not worrying about hardware not to mention the benefits of being able to provision new VMs so quickly. We can offer clients' different levels of hosting depending on their requirements, from shared VMs to multiple dedicated VMs geographically load balanced to provide real time Disaster Recovery in the event of a failure at the primary site.

So what next in our hosting journey?

We've been looking at the public cloud and Amazon Web Services in particular, which is hugely impressive but ultimately a public/private hybrid looks to be the best option to provide our clients with the flexibility and security they need.

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