A Look Inside Steadfast Networks
March 19th, 2008
Litespeed is now being used for all new Steadfast Networks Shared Web Hosting services.
Letter sent to all shared hosting customers on March 19, 2008:
After a week of thorough beta testing and many weeks of internal testing, we are proud to announce that Steadfast Networks has partnered with LiteSpeed Technologies to provide LiteSpeed based web hosting. LiteSpeed is web server software which offers greater speed, reliability, and security than Apache, the current web server software we are using. All new shared hosting accounts will be established on the new LiteSpeed servers and existing customers can be moved to the new servers by emailing email@example.com or opening a support ticket at https://support.steadfast.net and including your account username or ID along with the request to be moved to the new LiteSpeed servers. Anyone requesting the move will still use the same control panel, mail server, MySQL server and DNS and the transfer should not involve any downtime as long as the account is setup according to our recommendations.
LiteSpeed offers many advantages over Apache, and you can read all about them here: http://steadfast.net/services/litespeed.php As far as disadvantages, there are currently a couple, though the features are planned to be added by LiteSpeed Technologies over the coming months. These lost features are: Server Side Includes, mono (for ASP.Net support), agent logs, referrer logs, and error logs. LiteSpeed does fully support any .htaccess files you may be using and any Perl or PHP scripts you may have, so there should be no difference there, though I would like to note that new servers are only deployed with PHP 5, as PHP 4 is nearing its end of life. If you are not using any of the above features which are currently not included, we highly recommend you request a switch to LiteSpeed to take advantage of the increased speed, reliability, and security.
Notes: When you request a move you will not be able to add or edit most items in your control panel for a period of 24 hours, to assure that the old and new copies (one on the old server and one on the new) of your account remain consistent in case there ends up being an issue with the account transfer. If you do notice any issues after being transferred to the LiteSpeed server please contact our support department and they will be able to assist you, or get you moved back to your original server. In addition, we are now officially offering support for Ruby on Rails on LiteSpeed based servers. Finally, we will likely always be keeping Apache based web servers for existing customers. There are no plans to ever force existing customers to move to LiteSpeed.
March 12th, 2008
I had said last week that we would begin offering LiteSpeed based web servers, and we are now open for Beta testing. To be moved to our new web server just contact our support staff, email or ticket, and request that they move your account to the new LiteSpeed web server. Make sure to note the username and/or account ID on your account and there will be no downtime with the move, assuming you are using the Steadfast name servers.
As the subject says, this is still a Beta product. We do not see reliability being an issue, but there are some features that are not fully functional at this time. Some changes include no SSI, no mono (ASP.Net support), only support for access logs (no error or referrer logs, etc.), and
the cgi-bin directory (and thus AWStats) does not work, though you can install CGIs outside of the cgi-bin directory. If everything works out as it should, the new web server should definitely be faster and more reliable than any web server you're on with us currently, but as it is still in beta there could also still be some unresolved issues.
Note: This has since been released to the public, you can order here: http://steadfast.net/services/shared.phpÂ
March 10th, 2008
We have decided to completely change our VPS plan offerings to appeal to a wider array of customers and to make the experience better for all of our customers. This involved adding new plans at both the low and high end of the plan spectrum and offering more RAM with the plans at a lower price point. In addition, we have changed all the names, though still sticking with the metal theme, to assure that there is no confusion between the old and new plans.
With the new plans we have added some more variety. First of all, we offer a low cost VPS option, just $14.95 a month and $19.95 setup (the setup fee is dropped if you pay 3 or more months in advance) which offers 128MB of RAM, 5GB of disk space, and 100GB of bandwidth. The plan does not contain enough RAM to support any of the usual control panels, thus none are supported on this plan, but the plan would work perfectly for someone to use as a DNS server, a developmental server, etc. On the high end of the plans, we are now offering VPS accounts with dedicated processing cores and 1-2GB of RAM. These high end plans are designed to eliminate the need for some people to migrate to a dedicated server and offering more growth options for existing VPS customers.
We haven't only added additional plans, but we have basically upgraded all the plans, giving more RAM, disk space, and bandwidth for the same prices. Now existing customers will not get the new pricing by default, but they will be able to upgrade to the new plans by using the "Upgrade Center" from the control panel at https://hspc.nozonenet.com. Note: Some customers may need to cancel their old VPS and sign-up for a new one if their VPS is based on old OS templates, though the new templates will also offer higher efficiency and a better overall user experience.
Well, that is all I have to say here, but you can see all the new plans on the VPS page of our web site: http://steadfast.net/services/vps.php
March 7th, 2008
We have been testing the LiteSpeed web server for several weeks now. We have worked out the kinks and have it working properly with H-Sphere now, with help from the great staff over at LiteSpeed. Soon, we are hoping to deploy our first shared hosting web server based on LiteSpeed, so I figured I would make this blog post to describe some of the differences between LiteSpeed and Apache, which we use currently. None of our existing web servers will be converted to LiteSpeed, at least not anytime soon, but new web servers will be deployed with LiteSpeed. Existing customers will be able to request that they be moved to a new LiteSpeed web server if they want as well.
I will begin with the bad things, as there is some bad involved with this change, and these all involve lost features. While LiteSpeed is a great piece of software it does not currently have full compatibility with all the features of Apache. Right now, LiteSpeed does not support Server Side Includes (SSI) or mono, which is what we use for ASP.Net support, but we have been assured that both of those are planned additions in the coming months. One other lost item is the difference in how Apache and LiteSpeed handle error logs, so that with the LiteSpeed web servers individual customers will not direct access to their error logs. There is also still full support of .htaccess and mod_rewrite.
Even though LiteSpeed does require licensing costs, we feel the change is worth it as LiteSpeed allows us to increase the speed, security, and reliability of our web servers. Various benchmarks show drastic speed improvements between LiteSpeed and Apache with it being more than 6 times faster when serving small static files and more than 50% faster in PHP performance. LiteSpeed also allows us to set additional security settings with less overall overhead, allowing us to secure the server to a greater extent than Apache reasonably allowed, and it includes a built-in defense against HTTP based DDoS attacks. There are also reliability benefits because of LiteSpeeds superior ability to handle high amounts of load and the zero downtime graceful restarts.
We feel that adding LiteSpeed is just further evidence of Steadfast Networks' commitment to improving the customer experience, no matter what the cost. We will be closely watching the new web servers for issues, but our testing has indicated there would be few issues with the new software, though huge benefits. Enjoy!
Note: As PHP4 is also nearing it's end, the new LiteSpeed web servers will only be deployed with PHP5. Also, the LiteSpeed servers will have full (and much faster) Ruby on Rails support.
February 16th, 2008
A potential customer brought an article at Web Worker Daily to my attention, as it favorably mentions our service, but the article also got me thinking, at least enough that I decided to make a blog post about it. The basic point is that the phrase "Bigger is better" simply doesn't apply to web hosting.
First of all, you can read the article here. The comments made about our services are these, "Ever heard of Steadfast Networks? Me either. But RealMetrics' Web Speed Index score for this hosting service is nearly perfect, and its score for response time from support personnel is perfect. The fee for its basic hosting plan is under $5 a month-”among the cheapest plans available." I know you have all heard of us, but otherwise, great comments.
Now, I'll actually get to my point, and what is largely the point of the article, bigger is NOT necessarily better. The article is primarily stating that the large hosts, such as GoDaddy, are simply not the best. A big host is just that, big, and it says nothing about the level of service you'll receive, except that due to the sheer size the chance of you receiving sub par service and no one caring is increased. With smaller hosts, such as ourselves, the support team is a small group who all talk to each other on a nearly daily basis. We are all aware of what is going on, what problems certain customers are having and we work together to assure that ALL customers are treated properly. Instead of spending thousands upon thousands on marketing, we put our money into server upgrades, additional staffing, network improvements, etc. We know that our biggest marketing tool is our existing customer base and that happy customers are going to bring us more happy customers.
Personally, I feel Steadfast Networks offers a great balance between the small and large host. We have a relatively small staff, a staff that has many, many years of industry experience, a staff that cares about our customers, and a staff where everyone is able to help you. You're not going to be sent between several employees to fix a single issue; you're not going to need to wait to be sent up to the next tier of support. Even with this personalized service, we provide the advantages of a large company in that we are in full control of our infrastructure. We run our own data center space, we operate our own network, we own our servers, and all of our staff is on-site. With this massive infrastructure in place and now over 7 years as a corporate entity you can be certain that we're not going to just fall off the face of the earth either.
Not only is bigger not better company-wise, but it isn't better when looking at hosting plans either. We very often get people wondering why we charge more for less in many cases; they're wondering why we do not offer 25GB and 1000GB of bandwidth for $5.95 a month. The simple fact is it is because we want to provide a higher level of service while being able to provide a level of resources people actually use, not just a level that is purely a marketing gimmick. The quote from the article spells it out nicely, "But RealMetrics' Web Speed Index score for this hosting service is nearly perfect, and its score for response time from support personnel is perfect. The fee for its basic hosting plan is under $5 a month-”among the cheapest plans available." Instead of providing you the 24 of the 25GB of disk space you're not going to use we provide you with speed and service at the top of the industry. If a host charges less for more it is easy to see that that equals less revenue for the same amount of resources, meaning there must be cuts made somewhere, and those cuts are normally made in support/staffing. The simple fact is a vast majority of web sites do not use more than 100MB of disk space or 4GB of bandwidth, all that extra space that you're paying for and never going to use is going to waste, so why not spend that money on a higher level of service instead?
I know, this all turned into a combination rant/marketing ploy, but hey, I think we're doing things right and I want to make sure people are aware of our philosophy. I guess you could say our philosophy is, "Better, not bigger."