Cloud vs. Dedicated Hosting

Cloud and dedicated servers are two types of hosting solutions that you will find across professional web hosting companies. Whether your a small business or a thriving enterprise the question remains, what is the difference between Cloud and Dedicating hosting and which one is the best solution for you? For a third year in a row voted by Cloud Spectator, in top server side performance, we are here to give you a comprehensive break down of these two types of hosting environments as well as impactful aspects:  performance through speed and uptime, and most importantly cost.

Simply put the cloud a virtual space on multiple servers. A typical product of the cloud environment is a Cloud VPS. We can compare Cloud hosting to the service of a restaurant. The restaurant would represent the physical server, within that server lives the Cloud VPS, in this case, represented by the restaurant’s tables. Each waitress/waiter equals the resources that each table or Cloud VPS can pull from. If your party is growing, you can add another table (Cloud VPS) together and therefore increase your waiter/waitresses (resources). If your party is leaving the same concept can be applied, quickly adjusting to your needs. On the other hand, a dedicated server would have one table, the whole restaurant to yourself, having six wait staff attending to your dedicated server needs.

Note:
Dedicated and Cloud both have the option to manage or self-manage. Unmanaged means you’ll be responsible for running routine software updates, which are essential to security, as opposed to your hosting provider. The choice to go managed or unmanaged is better left to a broader discussion but as you can guess unmanaged is usually the cheaper option.

Cloud hosting wins over with price as there is no hardware to buy and you usually pay for what you use. While your business grows, you’ll be able to scale up by adding more file space for more or larger websites.  Because these are actual physical pieces that you can own, dedicated servers, sometimes have a setup fee associated with them. The freedom of having your server means you’ll be paying for maximum power even with you are not utilizing the whole server.  Your hosting provider can maintain both Cloud VPS and Dedicated, but dedicated servers often will need an additional team with a deeper understanding of resource monitoring and network setup. Lastly, Cloud VPS average entry-level servers start around $60 per month while dedicated entry level starts off around $199 per month.

Cloud Costs
  • Average entry level $60 per month
  • No hardware to buy
  • Unlimited resource scaling
  • Pay for what you use
Dedicated Costs
  • Average entry level $199 per month
  • Initial setup fees

Uptime, defined as the amount of time your server is online and available to your users.  For most, uptime is of the utmost importance because businesses rely on the revenue or information that their site provides. More and more cloud environments uptimes are improving though there is always the chance of downtime due to resource abuse from other customers on the same server.  Dedicated servers face similar issues with, but those are due to a different reason such as hardware failures. You’ll also find cloud environments are resilient and redundant with their environmental setup and are ideal for minimal downtime in scaling up. Scaling up within dedicated will prove to be more of an impact on uptime due to its intricacies. Regardless of their scaling and known for their superb uptime, dedicated servers are favorites to more significant e-commerce business with larger mission-critical websites.

Cloud Uptime
  • More for small to medium business because uptime can sometimes be an issue
  • Resilient and Redundant
  • Can have occasional downtime due to shared resources
Dedicated Uptime
  • Great uptime larger websites, such as e-commerce businesses and high-traffic sites
  • One point of failure

How fast a network or website is most often the number one concern amongst website developers and users.  When differentiating whether the cloud or a dedicated server is faster, the short of it is, dedicated will usually be faster. It’s difficult to compare the two environments because not all websites are created equal, front-end and backend development play into speed.  In this instance, we are going to assume the code is sufficient for optimal performance. If we think of our restaurant analogy from earlier, resources (the wait staff) are limited in Cloud environment. These resources get pulled by the website’s processes, so you may reach a limit that your hosting provider or Cloud VPS cant handle as fast as a dedicated server. (Though there are some free caching services you can implement to be SEO competitive.)  Remember resources for dedicated servers are all yours, and this equals out to a significant increase in speed.

Cloud Speed
  • Average page load times
  • Extra work needed to implement caching
Dedicated Speed
  • Higher than average website load times
  • High performance due to unshared resources
You’ll find that determining the current need of your business will help to ease the choice of hosting environments.  Dedicated servers remain the best choice where performance is critical if you have the money to spend but can be rigid in upscaling.  Most small to medium sites are optimal to run on the cloud or can stand for the occasional downtime and are best for growing businesses.   For a side by side comparison, visit our products to see how our Dedicated Servers  and Cloud VPS win over big name hosting providers.

 

How to Configure Apache 2 to Control Browser Caching

Today we are configuring browser caching control on common Apache 2 servers. Caching is a great tool to reduce server resource consumption, bandwidth utilization and provide a faster end-user experience to visitors. To get familiar with caching concepts, simply review our ‘What is Caching?’ tutorial.

Pre-Flight Check

This article covers all Apache 2 servers running the mod_expires and mod_headers Apache modules. This includes, but is not limited to, both traditional Dedicated servers and Cloud VPS servers running a number of different Linux distributions:

  • Core-managed CentOS 7* Servers
  • Core-managed CentOS 6* Servers
  • Fully-managed CentOS 7 cPanel Servers
  • Fully-managed CentOS 6 cPanel Servers
  • Fully-managed CentOS 7 Plesk Onyx 17 Linux Servers
Note:
Self-managed servers running a similar Linux distribution can take advantage of this article. However, instructions are not specifically provided for Self-managed configurations.

The article assumes familiarity with the following basic system administration concepts:

Verify Modules

Our servers generally include both the mod_expires and mod_headers modules needed for browser cache control. However, before we configure the directives, we must first ensure the modules are installed and Apache 2 is ready to accept the directives. Verification is simple. We will be using the apachectl -M command to list the installed Apache modules while piping the output through the grep module_name command to filter the results down to showing only modules with the provided module_name, likes so:

Verifying mod_headers (also known as Headers_module) by copying & pasting the following command.

apachectl -M | grep header

… will return:

headers_module (shared)

Verifying mod_expires (also known as expires module) by copying and pasting the following command.

apachectl -M | grep expires

… will return:

expires_module (shared)

These modules must be present in the output when running the command. If they do not show up in the output, it will simply be blank, which indicates the modules are not installed. If the modules are missing then we will need to install them before we can continue.

Configuration Directives

We can use the following example of a generic configuration that serves to reduce the strain on server resources by prolonging the cache duration of common static files. These types of files typically do not change between visits. So they do not need to be downloaded on every visit. Modern browsers are equipped to accept instructions from web servers that provide suggestions for how long content should be cached. This example works well for most sites. However, you may need to add/remove file types or adjust lifespan as needed for your particular content.

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
# Turn on the module.
ExpiresActive on
# Set the default expiry times.
ExpiresDefault "access plus 2 days"
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/css "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/css "now plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/ico "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/html "access plus 600 seconds"
</IfModule>

Explanation of Each Directive

These are opening tags and will only process directives between these if the module, mod_expires, is installed on the server.

<IfModule mod_expires.c> ... </IfModule>

Download all files only if the cached has not been accessed in more than 2 days.

ExpiresDefault "access plus 2 days"
Download files only if the cached file has not been access in more than 1 month. This covers jpg, jpeg, gif, png, css, javascript, flash, ico and x-icon file types.

ExpiresDefault "access plus 2 days"
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/css "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/css "now plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/ico "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access plus 1 month"

Download files only if the cached copy hasn’t been accessed in 10 minutes.

ExpiresByType text/html "access plus 600 seconds"

You can find a more robust explanation of these directives and all that expires_module offers in the Apache mod_expires Online Docs.

Implementation

Now that we have an understanding of how these directives can be configured, we need to decide on our method of implementation. There are generally two method of implementation for these directives. We classify these as either Portable or Include Methods.

Portable Method

The Portable Method uses .htaccess files to manage which directories are affected by the mod_expires configuration we are settings. These are handled like any other .htaccess file changes.

  1. SSH/FTP to the server
  2. Locate the directory which needs browser caching enabled.
  3. Modify the .htaccess file in that directory or create one if there is not one already.
  4. Add the needed directives from the Configuration Directives section above.
  5. Save the changes to the file.
  6. Done.

There is a small bottleneck caveat associated with .htaccess files. This caveat is not specific to mod_expires and is an overall Apache caveat with .htaccess files in general. In order for .htaccess files to work, Apache must scan every directory leading up to a targeted file looking for and applying any .htaccess files it finds along the way. This can create an I/O bottleneck on some server configurations. We recommend using the Include Method on all Cloud VPS Servers to avoid this type of problem.

Include Method

In contrast to the Portable Method, the Include Method takes advantage of the Apache include system. Apache only reads include files at startup so this prevents the I/O Bottleneck discussed above in the Portable Method section.

There are generally two ways to use the Include Method: Globally or Per Website. Either method requires locating and modifying the correct include files on the server. The correct files to modify is dependent on both distribution and server management software. We will discuss the correct locations for both methods on the various Liquid Web CentOS servers we support and listed in the Pre-Flight Check section above.

Global Includes

Applying the mod_expires directives globally is straight forward. It will have the effect of enabling the desired directives over the entire server, affecting every site running through Apache.

Core-managed CentOS 6 & 7 Servers

1.  Create a file named expires.conf in /etc/httpd/conf.d/ by typing in the following command:

vim /etc/httpd/conf.d/expire.conf

2. Add the necessary directives to the file and save the changes.
File should look like the following:

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
# Turn on the module.
ExpiresActive on
# Set the default expiry times.
ExpiresDefault "access plus 2 days"
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/css "now plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/ico "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/html "access plus 600 seconds"
</IfModule>

3.  To finish, reload Apache for the server to see the changes:

Service httpd reload

Fully-managed CentOS 6 & 7 cPanel Servers

1. Create file name pre_virtualhost_global.conf  in /usr/local/apache/conf/includes/ if it does not already exist.

vim /usr/local/apache/conf/includes/pre_virtualhost_global.conf

2.  Add the necessary directives to the bottom of the  file and save the changes.
Your file may contain additional directives in this file, but the bottom should look like this:

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
# Turn on the module.
ExpiresActive on
# Set the default expiry times.
ExpiresDefault "access plus 2 days"
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/css "now plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/ico "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/html "access plus 600 seconds"
</IfModule>

3.  Restart Apache Service:

/scripts/restartsrv_apache

If Running EasyApache 4: Restart Apache PHP-FPM Service

/scripts/restartsrv_apache_php_fpm

Fully-managed CentOS 7 Plesk Onyx 17 Linux Servers

1. Create file name expires.conf in /etc/httpd/conf.d/

vim /etc/httpd/conf.d/expire.conf

2.Add the necessary directives to the file and save the changes.
The file should look like the following:

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
# Turn on the module.
ExpiresActive on
# Set the default expiry times.
ExpiresDefault "access plus 2 days"
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/css "now plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/ico "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/html "access plus 600 seconds"
</IfModule>

3.  Restart Apache Service:

Service httpd restart

Per Website Includes

We can also use Apache includes on a per virtual host level to enable browser caching on an individual website basis. We’ll go over how to configure these on our CentOS systems below.

Note:
Each website has two virtual hosts, one for HTTP (port 80) connections and another for HTTPS (port 443) connections. Each virtual host is independent of one another. Adding a change to the HTTP virtual host will not automatically apply to the HTTPS virtual host and vice versa.
Core-managed CentOS 6 & 7 Servers

The exact method of site management on Core-managed servers is left up to the server owner. This can vary dramatically depending on the person. We will use the default SSL site configuration file as an example on how to configure the Per Website includes for browser caching. Once you locate the necessary site’s configuration file, follow these steps:

1. Locate and Open the configuration file for the site being modified. 

vim /etc/httpd/conf.d/ssl.conf

2.  Locate the Virtual Host line for the site within its config file.  A Virtual Host Stanza looks like the following example:

<VirtualHost _default_:443>

</VirtualHost

3. Apply the needed mod_expires directives between the virtual host lines.
The results should look similar to the following example:

<VirtualHost _default_:443>

   <IfModule mod_expires.c>
   # Turn on the module.
   ExpiresActive on
   # Set the default expiry times.
   ExpiresDefault "access plus 2 days"
   ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 month"
   ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 month"
   ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 month"
   ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 month"
   ExpiresByType text/javascript "access plus 1 month"
   ExpiresByType application/javascript "access plus 1 month"
   ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access plus 1 month"
   ExpiresByType text/css "now plus 1 month"
   ExpiresByType image/ico "access plus 1 month"
   ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access plus 1 month"
   ExpiresByType text/html "access plus 600 seconds"
   </IfModule>

</VirtualHost>

4. Restart Apache Service

Service httpd restart

Fully-managed CentOS 6 & 7 cPanel Servers

cPanel provides a rich template system that can be used to modify Apache behavior as needed. There is a specific directory structure needed to ensure our modifications persist through updates, upgrades and restarts. This system works the same way on both EasyApache 3 as well as EasyApache 4 systems.

 

Each site can handle its own set of custom include files. These need to be located in the following locations:


HTTP Virtual Hosts:
/etc/apache2/conf.d/userdata/std/2_4/<USER>/<DOMAIN>/<INCLUDENAME>.conf


HTTPS Virtual Hosts:
/etc/apache2/conf.d/userdata/ssl/2_4/<USER>/<DOMAIN>/<INCLUDENAME>.conf

There are three variables in the path above that need to be reconciled:

  • <USER> replaced by the necessary accounts username.
  • <DOMAIN> replaced by the fully qualified domain.tld name of the site. (minus the www. prefix)
  • <INCLUDENAME> replace by the name of the include file. This should reflect the include’s purpose. E.G. expires.conf

1. These directories do not exists by default and will need to be created. Once you know the details this can be done easily with the mkdir -p command like so:

HTTP Virtual Host:

mkdir -p /etc/apache2/conf.d/userdata/std/2_4/myuser/example.com/

HTTPS Virtual Host:

mkdir -p /etc/apache2/conf.d/userdata/ssl/2_4/myuser/example.com/

2. After the directories are created, we can now create our include files, calling it expires.conf.
HTTP Virtual Host:

vim /etc/apache2/conf.d/userdata/std/2_4/myuser/example.com/expires.conf

HTTPS Virtual Host:
vim /etc/apache2/conf.d/userdata/ssl/2_4/myuser/example.com/expires.conf

3. Add the necessary mod_expires directives to both expires.conf files. They should look similar to this when complete:

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
# Turn on the module.
ExpiresActive on
# Set the default expiry times.
ExpiresDefault "access plus 2 days"
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/css "now plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/ico "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/html "access plus 600 seconds"
</IfModule>

4. Now we will need to have cPanel rebuild the Apache configuration to apply the new includes.

/usr/local/cpanel/scripts/rebuildhttpdconf

5. Restart Apache to update the running configuration:
/usr/local/cpanel/scripts/restartsrv_apache

6. If running EasyApache 4, Restart Apache PHP-FPM service as well:
/usr/local/cpanel/scripts/restartsrv_apache_php_fpm

There are additional methods for handling virtual hosts in cPanel. Applying includes to all hosts or all HTTPS hosts or even all hosts by one user. For a much more in-depth explanation of the cPanel Virtual Host Include system, visit the Official cPanel Online Docs.

Fully-managed CentOS 7 Plesk Onyx 17 Linux Servers

Plesk provides a robust include and template system for modification of virtual host entries on an individual virtual host basis. These are done in the following files:

Note:
We will need to replace example.com with your domain name (minus www. prefix).
/var/www/vhosts/system/example.com/conf/vhost_ssl.conf

The directory structure here should already exist. However, these vhost.conf and vhost_ssl.conf files do not exist by default and will need to created.

1. Create the needed include files:
HTTP Virtual Host:

touch /var/www/vhosts/system/example.com/conf/vhost.conf

HTTPS Virtual Host:
touch /var/www/vhosts/system/example.com/conf/vhost_ssl.conf

2. Modify both vhost.conf and vhost_ssl.conf applying the necessary mod_expires directives. When finish each file should look similar to the following:

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
# Turn on the module.
ExpiresActive on
# Set the default expiry times.
ExpiresDefault "access plus 2 days"
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/javascript "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/css "now plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/ico "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access plus 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/html "access plus 600 seconds"
</IfModule>

3. Have Plesk rebuild the configuration for the site in question
/usr/local/psa/admin/sbin/httpdmng --reconfigure-domain example.com

4. Restart Apache Service:
service httpd restart

The Plesk templates and includes systems is very robust and permits integration of many other common Apache directives. Visit the Plesk Onyx Online Documentation to learn more about leveraging its capabilities.

Creating Your First Cloud Product with Liquid Web Reseller Plugin

In the previous few articles we installed the WHMCS plugin and configured it with the Storm API. This article will cover the fun part, actually using the plugin to create new cloud based products! We’ll go over the plugin’s “Product Setup Wizard”, which makes it easy to create new products based on our Cloud VPS, Cloud Dedicated VPS, and Private Cloud products. Continue reading “Creating Your First Cloud Product with Liquid Web Reseller Plugin”

Configuring Liquid Web’s WHMCS Plugin

In the previous article we covered the basics of WHMCS, the benefits of using our WHMCS plugin, and how to enable the plugin and widgets we provide in our plugin. This article will cover getting your WHMCS server and the plugin connected to the Storm API.

We’ll cover how to configure the WHMCS plugin to authenticate with Liquid Web’s API, as well as how to obtain access to our API, if you’re not yet our customer. In the next article we’ll cover the plugin’s “Product Setup Wizard”, which makes it easy to create new products based on our Cloud VPS, Cloud Dedicated VPS, and Private Cloud products.
Continue reading “Configuring Liquid Web’s WHMCS Plugin”

Working with WHMCS & the Liquid Web Reseller Plugin

What is WHMCS & how it can optimize your business

The WHMCS software suite is an all-in-one client management, billing & support interface for web hosting businesses. WHMCS can be used to automate the billing and provision of Web Hosting Services. Most often utilized by resellers, WHMCS can simplify and streamline the process of providing hosting service. To learn more, read our “What is WHMCS” article here. Continue reading “Working with WHMCS & the Liquid Web Reseller Plugin”

Why have a Private Cloud?

Private Cloud solutions are an excellent option for businesses and organizations that require: complete physical isolation for security, customizable server instances, and/or a high level of flexibility in their hosting infrastructure. On a Private Cloud server you will have the entire physical server is dedicated for your use. Allowing you to utilize and partition the server in any way you require. Continue reading “Why have a Private Cloud?”

WHMCS with Private Cloud Servers and Advanced Product Setup

With the steps of the previous articles complete, we now have the WHMCS Liquid Web plugin setup and enabled. If you followed the previous directions, you’ve successfully created the first product based on VPS offerings. We will now cover some more advanced product creation options. Continue reading “WHMCS with Private Cloud Servers and Advanced Product Setup”

How to Resize a Server

Upgrading your Storm® server is a simple process, and can be done in just a few satisfying clicks. Upgrades are a necessity. You work hard on your blog, or ecommerce store, and the traffic grows! Once you’ve optimized your WordPress site or Magento store, reward yourself with an easy upgrade process and increase the available resources to your Storm® by following the steps below. This process can be followed for Storm® VPS or Storm® Dedicated servers.

Pre-Flight Check
  • These instructions are intended specifically for resizing your Storm® server.

Continue reading “How to Resize a Server”

How to Reboot a Server via Manage

Rebooting a server in Manage has been made incredibly easy, and only takes a few clicks. Further simplifying the process, multiple servers can be rebooted at the same time!

Pre-Flight Check

Continue reading “How to Reboot a Server via Manage”