How to set up ultra reliable web hosting

General Development Concepts

A method for setting up ultra reliable web hosting to keep your site up 100% of the time and how to do it for less than most dedicated hosting accounts.

Date : 2009-06-17
We were talking about when to use dedicated hosting instead of shared hosting. If you've decided that you can get away with shared hosting then you need to know how to setup ultra reliable web hosting without paying for dedicated hosting.

Dedicated web hosting usually costs several times more than shared hosting. For that reason most web masters will try to get away with shared hosting any time they can. If you've reached the conclusion that your site can be hosted on a shared hosting account but you're hoping to get better reliability then this is how it's done.

What you need is 2 shared hosting accounts and a DNS service that allows for better control of your DNS than most do. This method can also be used if you use dedicated hosting but have downtime that you would like to avoid. It's a good idea to setup your 2 accounts on 2 different providers, often I try to set up one on opposite sides of the continent so power or network issues in one area are unlikely to affect the other.

What you do is setup an account with a Reliable DNS service provider. From your administration account you need to setup Failover and System Monitoring. Using DNSMadeEasy you first create your DNS record then from the main menu you select Managed DNS. That will give you a list of domains you have serviced by them. Then click the “Records” link to get access to the DNS details. Look at your A Records section. The 3rd column has FO / SM as the header. If you don't currently have Failover or System Monitoring setup you will see off / off in that column for each record. Click on that link to turn on Failover and System monitoring. From there you can turn on Failover or System Monitoring, you can setup a notification email address as well as where you want the domain redirected to in case the first server fails. This will take place quickly and seamlessly from your user's perspective.

Depending on the nature of your web site and what kind of web hosting features you're using you may have a couple more considerations. For instance, if you hold session information for your users that would be lost when they are transferred to the other server unless you have it saved in a cookie on the users computer, or in a database that is accessible from both servers. Any other data used from your site will need to be available to both servers as well. Usually I setup a backup utility that runs at night and transfers all the data from the main server to the backup server thus allowing the backup server to be no more than 24 hours behind in data at any one time. This works for many purposes, but may not work for you depending on the data you're storing.

Setting up a Failover DNS can make the difference between 99% uptime and 100% uptime without having to pay the difference in hosting costs. Every time I've set this up it has come up less expensive to have 2 shared hosting accounts and a DNS service than it was to have a dedicated server making this a great alternative to upgrading to more powerful equipment to try to resolve intermittent down time.

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