Redundancy and Hosting

What is meant by redundancy and hosting? Redundancy is often a negative term but not when it comes to web hosting. Read this article to find out why redundancy in a web hosting company is a good thing and discover the pros and cons of small vs. large web hosting companies.


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Many webmasters wonder if there is a difference in using a small town web host, or a web host in a larger city, or if the location of web host's data centers will effect how a website is hosted. The answer is yes. To understand just how important these factors are we must review how the Internet works and learn a little about redundancy.

How the Internet Works- A Quick Review
The Internet itself is one big bunch of networked computers working to network other computers together. In order for information to travel through this vast system of networks a lot of machines and systems must be in place and functioning effectively.

For example: For your web site to be visible on the Internet, first of all the server at your web host's data center that stores your website files needs to be 'up' and running. Then that server needs to be connected to larger networks via fiber optic lines and/or satellite to reach the Internet's main network, or backbone, for your site to be available for request from any other server in the world.

Let's take a closer look at the path information takes, from your computer to the Internet.

The Great Journey
When I think of information traveling through the vast network that is the Internet, I like to relate it to taking a trip. Imagine for a minute traveling from a remote island… You can't jump on a jumbo jet from a deserted island to get to Europe. However, you could take a row boat to a bigger island, and from there catch a small plane or helicopter to the main land. Then you could get on a 747 and fly across the country, maybe taking a few layovers and connection flights along the way, and then finally jump on the big plane for your flight overseas.

Keep in mind that if you started your journey in New York City it wouldn't take so many other methods of transportation to fly across the ocean. (We'll discuss how this relates later.)

Making the Connection
Our imaginary trip is similar to how information travels via the Internet. Your computer can be seen as the small deserted island and your web site files the traveler. First you upload your files to the web hosts' server (take a rowboat). The web host is connected to a larger network, which will help you get to the next portal for your site files to travel across the Internet with greatest ease and efficiency. Maybe passing through several smaller networks along the way, until the files reach the Internet backbone.

The Big City Difference
Data centers in major cities of the US and countries in the world comprise the main network of the Internet, or the backbone. The closer you are connected to that backbone the better. (Think of starting from NY instead of the little island.)

The better the web host's connection to the backbone of the internet the faster your information will travel. An OC-48 is currently the fastest fiber optic line used to transmit data between networks. (Much faster than the once fastest, OC-3) Transmitting via OC-48 is like taking the Concord to the other side of the world. It is fast!

Small time web hosts are connected to the backbone usually via smaller lines that connect to networks that connect to larger lines- like taking a flight with more layovers instead of a direct flight. This can lengthen the total travel time and provide more opportunities for downtime.

Don't Get Stranded
So what if your web host's server is down, or fiber optic line is cut? If your web host is only connected to the Internet via that one line, your website will be down and not available to viewers on the Internet. In which case your online business is halted and you don't make money from your web site. This would be like you are at a very small airport that only has one plane to get you off the island and that plane is broken. See a problem?

Redundancy to the Rescue
Web hosts that have employed redundancy have a back-up in place for their web hosting clients. Redundancy is the existence of more than one means of accomplishing a given task, where all means must fail before there is an overall failure of the system. Larger web hosts are connected to the Internet via various lines and networks. That way, if any hardware malfunctions they can easily transmit data along another line without every halting progress. Using our airplane analogy, you would just hop onto another flight if your flight was cancelled and still get where you needed to go on time.

A Side Note about Using Hometown Web Hosts
Have you ever heard the phrase, "don't put all your eggs in one basket?" If you are using a web host that houses its servers in your home town you are 'putting all your eggs in one basket'. Meaning if you drop the basket all the eggs will break. Or, similarly, if your fiber optic line gets cut your Internet connection, and the web hosts' data center's connection will be down. Smart webmasters use a web host with multiple data centers, in cities away from their own to protect themselves from shutdown in case of hardware malfunctions.

Learn the Lessons of Redundancy and Don't Get Caught with Your Site Down!
I hope our little analogy helps you understand the importance of using web hosts with redundant fiber optic lines. Using web hosts with data centers in large cities, or with multiple data centers can improve how your site files are 'served' to the rest of the world.

Click here for hosting on an OC-48 line with multiple data centers in key network locations.

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