By Mark Zeitler


Choosing a server, and why we made a video about it

Thursday, August 21, 2014

As a company that provides hosting with its products, we’re constantly discussing servers with people. There are a lot of very important discussions to have about servers, but we find that too often people want to know about a server’s specifications: the processing power, how much disk space they get, and how much RAM it has. These things affect what kind of performance a website will get, but when taken out of context, they mean almost nothing.

Think of a car; knowing a car’s horsepower is meaningless unless you also know its weight. A car with 500 horsepower sounds like it must be really fast, but it won’t be if it weighs 8,000 pounds. Knowing how much RAM a server has is exactly the same — because there are so many other variables involved, the number by itself is meaningless.

The reality is that when people’s servers aren’t performing as well as they’d like, we have to tell them to upgrade, even though the site is only receiving a moderate number of daily visits. With all the variables, we say, there’s no way to correlate any server spec with a metric like pageviews. At that point we list all of those variables, and then it usually makes sense to the person we’re talking to.

But we’ve found ourselves repeating the same things over and over again; as a company of software developers, we know that when you continually do something, it should be automated. So we decided to make a video.

We wanted to make it entertaining and informative, but didn’t want it to be too technical. If it was, we knew we’d lose a lot of our audience. So we needed a good metaphor. A car isn’t quite right, because the car doesn’t crash when it runs out of horsepower. And what about disk storage? We needed to think of something else.

We just had coffee before our meeting, and we realized that a coffee shop is a perfect metaphor. It has finite resources (like employees and cash registers), and different orders take a different toll on those resources. It also has limited space, like a server.

Keith, the owner of a great local shop called Perq, was gracious enough to let us film there, so one morning, before their big rush, we all showed up, and brought some friends along. The shoot was a lot of fun, we got nice and over-caffeinated, and Jared shot a lot of footage.

We think this video will help people understand why we focus on a server’s real-world performance rather than its specs. Please watch it below, and let us know if it clarifies things for you.



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