Author Topic: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)  (Read 1514 times)

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Offline Meadow Whisper (Natasha)

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The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« on: December 09, 2011, 02:47:40 am »
Please read this entire post.  It's very important to the site and to me, and I need some feedback about where to invest my money into this site in the future.  To be blunt, I've put literally thousands of dollars of my own money into this site over the years, please at least do me the courtesy of reading this post about where I'll put that money in the future, and give some feedback on what you'd like to see.



The recent network interruption got me searching for colocation providers, to move our server to a new home.  Unfortunately, that search came up empty-handed, there's just no one else offering that type of hosting for an organization as small as Lupinia (one server, 1U of rack space, etc).  Especially up here in Virginia, where I live, and where every business wants to put their servers.

It got me thinking about the future, of the Lupinia Hosting Community as a whole, and of FT.  Lupinia has always been the identity of the server environment, but really, FT has been the dominant force since about 2006.  The overwhelming success of this site is what forced us to find a new web host, and ultimately to buy and host an entire server.  Paid for almost entirely by me.  And, FT has grown exponentially even since then.  I just processed some statistics from the last week, and at the current rate of use, we'll use about 60 gigabytes of bandwidth this month.  Almost 60,000 hits per day.  And to make things even scarier, that's not even counting the static content on the site (images, themes/layout, smileys, etc).  Thanks to the extensive caching systems I implemented the last time we had a traffic crisis, including these things only adds about 5gb/month to the bandwidth consumption, but it's still a pretty hefty figure.  With all the other sites on this server adding to traffic overhead, it continually surprises me that we don't have issues more often than we do.

At this point, our server has been running since January 2007.  It's been rebooted about once every month or two since then, but it hasn't been shut down since it first came online.  So, next month, it'll mark 4 years.  That's starting to get pretty old for a server, and unfortunately, we have no means of replacing it with a better one.  For about two years, I've been pushing for donations toward a new server, but those donations never even scratched the surface of the cost of a new one.  And, really, they never will.  Lupinia is not FA, we don't have the numbers to get donations by volume, nor do we have furries with too much money blindly throwing cash at the donation button.  Even if I hadn't been using those donations for domain renewals and hosting fees over the years, we'd barely have enough to upgrade the hard drives in our existing server, let alone upgrade the whole machine.  Plus, we'd need far more processing power than we did in 2006 to make the investment worth doing, to last another 4-5 years.

For years, ever since I bought the current server, my long-term plan is that I would regularly upgrade the server with a new one, and possibly even add other machines, spending thousands and thousands of dollars on...what?  The sites I host, and especially FT, are deeply important to me; I wouldn't have put so much into them if that weren't the case.  And I've greatly enjoyed all these years.  But, at some point, it becomes a question of expense justification.  I have to ask myself "Can I justify spending this money with no possibility of financial return?".  I asked myself that question again tonight, and for the first time, the answer is a clear and unflinching "no".  Perhaps it's because I'm considerably more financially responsible now than I was five years ago, or maybe I just don't get as much of a thrill out of server administration as hobby as I once did, but when faced with the prospect of spending upwards of $2000-3000 on a new server, I just can't do it, even if I were financially stable enough to afford it.

So, what do we do now?  Our current server is already over-exerted and over-booked, so something has to be done.  I can't even add any new websites on Lupinia because there just isn't enough server to go around.  And, at peak times, this site alone can now bring the server to its knees.  Traffic has literally doubled in the last week.

What I'm looking at is moving us to a shared cloud host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.  It's a newer hosting model than traditional shared-server hosting (which we have far, far too much traffic for), and allows a pretty decent amount of flexibility.  Sites there can grow almost without limit, and metered billing makes it a fair deal for all concerned.  I was originally just going to put our "CDN" there (images, avatars, smileys, themes, etc), but I'm considering moving the entire site there.  Aside from being a much more stable platform, it would free up such significant resources on Lupinia that I would easily be able to keep it running much longer, and would be able to get a much cheaper replacement when the time comes.  Plus, it would be easier to share top-level control with Hale and Spaz; as much as I adore this site, I've long since outgrown it, and it'd be helpful for the future if I at least had the option of easily transferring control to someone else.

Now is the part where you come in.  As with anything, NearlyFreeSpeech isn't free.  And with the size of this site, it would cost as much as we currently pay to colocate a server, around $30/month.  That translates to an additional $30/month out of my pocket.  Unfortunately, funds are somewhat tight for me, and my career is in a state of flux, so I can't commit to a recurring expense like that right now, even a small one.  Best-case scenario, it'll be at least 3-4 months before I can safely do it.  However, a lot can happen in that time, and I know everyone is tired of PM restrictions and what-not.  So, my friends of FT, I will make you a deal:  If you can raise $100 toward the cost of the new hosting account, I'll move us there immediately.  That will cover more than 3 months of hosting, and to be frank, it'll blow my mind so hard I'll have no choice but to do my part to make this happen.

You can donate here.  Make sure you specify that it's for FT.  And if we don't hit that goal, I'll still put those funds toward this, it just might take a little longer.

For what it's worth, I don't regret what I've put into FT.  Quite the contrary, I feel I've made an investment in the future of the fandom by doing everything in my power to ensure the success of this site, and in the process, it has continued to feel like home, even if I'm more of an out-of-touch mom than a regular member at this point.  I just hope you've all enjoyed it as much as I have.
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Offline qwertyjake

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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2011, 03:56:55 am »
ill help raise money for FT but i could send more by mail because I don't have a credit card,so anyway of mailing?
[btw ive donated the rest of the money in my paypal $0.33 not much but every little helps :)]
$99.67 left
« Last Edit: December 09, 2011, 04:00:06 am by qwertyjake »
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Offline Daniel A. Skirtandzy

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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2011, 04:33:34 am »
That was a read, but I fully understand where you are coming from.
I know this can not be an easy job, but I thank you for the effort. And if moving it will help you in the long run, then I think it is a justifiable action, for all you have done here.

That said, I've been here for about 3 years. I've never posted anywhere as much as I have here. And this is a site that I make a daily check of.
For all the site has given, I think I can give back. Expect something coming in soon, and I further wish you luck with collecting funds.
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Offline Meadow Whisper (Natasha)

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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2011, 05:05:51 am »
If you'd like to mail a donation, using a cashier's check or postal money order, contact me privately and I can give you some information on where to send it.

ill help raise money for FT but i could send more by mail because I don't have a credit card,so anyway of mailing?
[btw ive donated the rest of the money in my paypal $0.33 not much but every little helps :)]
$99.67 left

Actually, $99.98 left, Paypal took $0.31 of it in fees.  Thanks though.
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Offline TIGER

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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2011, 05:09:39 am »
I know I probably won't be able to raise much, but I'll open up for commissions over my school holidays to try and help too.
I don't come here as much as I used to, admittedly, but honestly this is the only forum I've ever really used and I love it here.
You guys have been so supportive and put up with me for 2 years now; I figure I should start giving something back hahaha.
I want to put something here about how much I appreciate what you do for us, Natasha, but I can't even begin to word what I want to say. But I really appreciate what you do lots and lots and thank you so much.
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Offline Shade DaWolf

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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2011, 02:19:39 pm »
Seeing how I won't be earning a cent without my dad taxing me and keeping a close eye on where it  goes, I won't be able to donate anything. :(

But I sincerely appreciate all your efforts in hosting Lupinia and FT. It's benefited a whole lot  of people, and it's all thanks to  you.

Offline Spoopy ★ Panda

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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2011, 11:14:41 pm »
Wow, I had no idea servers and stuff cost that much.

I do really love this site  though, even though I haven't been around long at all compared to some of the other members. I will try to donate a little now, and when I get a stead job I will donate more <3 Have you ever thought about putting some merchandise out? I'm sure there are artists here who would donate art for t-shirts, stickers, buttons, whatever. I'd offer but I'm not sure if I'm THAT good enough =P

But yeah. I think we can do this <3
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Offline Meadow Whisper (Natasha)

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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2011, 11:36:36 pm »
Since last night, I've received a net amount of about $30 in donations toward this.  That's considerably more than I expected, thank you all so much!  you guys rock :-)

Wow, I had no idea servers and stuff cost that much.

I do really love this site  though, even though I haven't been around long at all compared to some of the other members. I will try to donate a little now, and when I get a stead job I will donate more <3 Have you ever thought about putting some merchandise out? I'm sure there are artists here who would donate art for t-shirts, stickers, buttons, whatever. I'd offer but I'm not sure if I'm THAT good enough =P

But yeah. I think we can do this <3

OH yes, servers are expensive.  And this was even a fairly cheap one, small and without very impressive specs, definitely not meant for the load it currently has.  The main reason servers are pricy is because they have to be designed to much higher quality standards than consumer-grade computers.  The average off-the-shelf laptop is designed to last about 2-3 years with 30% uptime (ie, only powered on 30% of that time).  The average server is designed to last 5-7 years or more, with 100% uptime (never powered off, ever).  That takes much more expensive components and manufacturing processes, especially for things like motherboards and power supplies.  Additionally, due to the nature of what they do, servers have some very expensive components that are practically unheard of on consumer-grade computers:  Redundant power supplies, network co-processors (like a video card's GPU, but for network traffic), error-corrected memory, failsafe-cache hard drive controllers, and so forth.  And, while a datacenter/server closet is supposed to have pretty serious cooling, the server itself must have a heavy-duty cooling system to keep the system much cooler than a home desktop, with fans designed to keep up with the aforementioned 5-7 years of 100% uptime.

And all of that goes in a computer case the size of a large pizza box (that's a photo of our current server, btw, sitting in my office while I was setting it up).

EDIT:  Forgot to finish my post :-P

As for merchandising, it's definitely an idea, but we just don't have a strong enough brand/identity right now for that to work super-well.  But, it's something I'd like to do in the future.
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Offline Sleek

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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2011, 12:17:22 am »
Well I am proud to have donated $5(ok technically I commissioned Mango) and I will try to get a bit more so I can donate more money.
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Offline Daniel A. Skirtandzy

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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2011, 12:20:45 am »
I found a few dollars today, so I decided to pass it along. :)
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Offline Zenith Decrowe

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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2011, 03:40:55 am »
I'll donate as soon as my bank account clears the payment.  While I don't post much, I'm always on the site and I really love it!  It's basically my internet home and it would be heartbreaking if it had to go.  I'll help anyway I can for you guys!
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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2011, 05:42:28 pm »
For a horrible moment there I thought the site was shutting down o.o

I've been a member of this site for 3 years now and It has brought me nothing but happiness. FT is actually a very good forum for new and old furries - friendly and not insanely large. I visit here almost every day and hope to do so for a long time. Good luck in collecting funds!

I just made a paypal account, not particularly sure how to use this thing...Any help would be appreciated xD

Offline copb.phoenix

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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2011, 06:00:28 pm »
(>''<) *hugs*

January. Right now all my own bills are in arears, but it's been on my list for a long, long time to give back to this community, both because of the community and many individual members in this community.
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Offline Meadow Whisper (Natasha)

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Re: The Future: Hosting Considerations (Please read, I beg you)
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2011, 12:10:04 am »
Just wanted to give an update to this, the amount currently raised toward this project is $70.  Since I'm having a profitable month, I say let's go ahead and do this.  You've all proven beyond a doubt that this means a lot to you, so I'm going to do my part and make this a reality.

I want to give a special shout-out to Mango and Crowley, who ran a donation drive that brought in the bulk of the money.  Truly excellent work, you two, I'm very impressed :-)

Once we're moved, I'll set up a donation page/button specifically for FT, separate from Lupinia.  All contributions made will go exclusively to FT's hosting fees, and "come up with donor perks" is already on the agenda for the staff.

So, by the end of the month, FT will have a new home, because you all made it happen.  Thank you so much :-)
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           \               \kkkkk
             \               \kkkkk

Note:  I'm no longer actively involved in running this site, so while I welcome any personal messages, please do not contact me about account issues.  Please direct all such inquiries to Panda.  Thanks for all the years of awesome memories and friendship!  <3