Skedsheet Blog

Where we talk about the product, calendars, organization, and business

The real cost of servers

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monopoly by peeper - http://www.flickr.com/photos/sybot/907482858/ Ever since we decided to offer online services instead of just traditional installed software, we keep investing more and more in our servers.  Originally, our server was sitting in Ted’s closet

Then we moved up to a low-cost datacenter.  After a few problems with low-cost service and reliability, our servers are now in a data center that provides what we need – great service and connectivity.

Servers aren’t free, though.  For us there are two types of cost: time and money.  How we draw the line keeps changing, but until we find an IT expert perfectionist who works for free, we’ll keep spending both.

Money

  1. Computers.  For a “real server”, you need reliable hardware.  For us, the limitations are RAM and disk access, so we get lots of memory and fast drives.  We also have RAID drives – we don’t want a single hard-drive to bring down a whole server.  To top it off, servers get crusty pretty quickly, so we replace our computers every few years.
  2. Internet access.  We don’t want our end of the pipeline to slow people down or worse…to not be available.  To get good internet access, you need to have your computers in a data center.  If you go with a high-end data center you get multiple high-bandwidth connections to the internet.  Even if a back-hoe runs over one of the internet connections there’s still access to your servers.
  3. Backups.  Even though we’ve been really happy with the data center, there’s a chance that it will blow up and our servers will go along with it.  We don’t want to rely on any one location, so we make sure that we have both on and offsite backups.  When you’re dealing with lots of data, the cost of moving and storing it adds up.

Time

  1. Maintaining.  We spend time just making sure that everything’s running like it should.  This includes monitoring the server for performance problems and errors, making sure the backups are working properly, installing operating system and other software updates, and rolling out upgrades to our own software.
  2. Fixing stuff.  Face it, computers break down.  Because we take lots of precautions by spending money and maintaining what we have, it’s rare that our hardware breaks.  But it happens, and it takes time to make sure that we fix or replace things in a way that minimizes the impact to our customers.
  3. Answering questions about our servers.  We get a wide variety of questions…I’ve been asked if we have video surveillance, whether we have Intel or AMD processors, and even what material the data center building is made out of.  I guess each question comes from someone being burned by a specific problem in the past, but they’re entertaining anyway.

While the cost of our servers keeps growing, on the whole it’s still better for everyone than the alternative – forcing our non-technical customers to spend their own money to do a worse job of buying, maintaining, and fixing their own servers.

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Written by Harry Hollander

March 23, 2009 at 6:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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