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Up Close & Personal With Your Server

May 19th, 2015 by

What goes on behind the scenes of web hosting? We take a closer look at servers.

You’ve set up the business, created your website which wows on all devices (important for that SEO ranking) and you’re powered by one of UK2’s servers. Great; but have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes? Being in the know about just how your hosting solution works could put you at a great business advantage, and allow you to make a more informed choice on which hosting solution is for you: shared, cloud or dedicated.

So what is it that actually powers your site?

Unlike other areas of your business, you actually do need a computer science degree to understand the many intricacies of computing and IT services. While we won’t go into granular detail which will be hard to understand for any self-confessed computing novice, we will outline all components of a server which will affect the performance and quality of your business website.

While there are a few different hosting options for you to choose from (think shared hosting, virtual private servers and dedicated servers) they are all physical machines. In fact, the primary distinction between hosting solutions is just how much of this physical machine you have access to; that is, what size slice of the machine resources are assigned to you. The physicality of the machines means that contrary to popular belief cloud hosting is not in fact a method of storing data in the stratosphere; the cloud we have on offer (our Virtual Private Servers) is very much earthbound and stored in one of our 18 global data centres for your convenience.

So we’ve established that web hosting is performed by a physical machine. What goes on inside though?

The ‘wares’ your machine in made up of are categorised into hardware and software. The difference between the hard and the soft is pretty easy to remember: hardware is any physical component of the machine and software is anything which operates it, ergo hardware is anything you can grab hold of and software is the anything operational, instructional and non-physical.

For the sake of simplicity we will only discuss the primary hardware resources which are available to you and also work in the background serving your data to the world in whichever form you should so request:

Motherboard

The primary circuit board of a computer, the motherboard of your server (and indeed of any computing device) is the hardware into which all appendages are slotted. Essentially, it provides a platform on which the hardware interfaces can communicate with each other, along with ports to facilitate control over external output devices which would be found in home computing systems such as monitors, keyboards and mice. The motherboard will typically have extra ports for expansion.

Basic Input/Output System (BIOS)

The BIOS of your server contains the primary in-built software which dictates through code what a computing device can do at a base level. Although it contains software, the BIOS remains an integral piece of hardware as it is a physical chip which ‘lays the ground rules’ on the server, and not server application software.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

Often referred to as the ‘brains’ of a computer, your CPU is the power behind your server. It directs every component of the server to execute any stored instructions, processing instructions from any software programs which require action from the server hardware. The lynchpin of the machine, it is the CPU which is kept cool to ensure optimum performance. Increased CPU power can increase the speed of your website or application: more CPU cores equate to more power which in turn makes for a more robust hosting solution.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

RAM refers to the amount of memory within a server. If you’re running your website or application on a shared server, the amount of memory available is shared between all clients on the server, and so can run low as demands on the server grow. Virtual Private Servers allocate a portion of their RAM to each client to use as entirely their own resource, whereas if you’re running a dedicated server the RAM available will be much greater as it is all allocated to you. The more complex your hosting requirements, the larger the RAM you’ll need.

Hard Disk Drives (HDD)

One hardware component for data storage on a server is the hard disk. You may recognise this as a piece of hardware which is likened to an old vinyl player. Your stored data is written magnetically to a series of rigid disks which are stacked together and look like CDs. The data is both written and read by small magnetic arms which move backward and forward over the disk at high speed.

Solid State Drives (SSD)

Hailed as the ‘next generation’ in server storage, SSDs are up to 56% faster than HDD at reading and writing your data, which can increase the speed and efficiency of your server existentially. As SSDs have no physical moving components they are less prone to physical damage and run silently.

While processing power, memory space and methods of data storage are all integral parts of hosting infrastructure, you’ll find there’s plenty more to find out about what goes into web hosting. This web hosting dictionary could help you clarify any terms that you’re finding it hard to understand, but don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss any of the technical intricacies of our services – we’re always on hand to help out!

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