InetSolve Solutions/Web Serve Pro
I am the systems administrator for InetSolve Solutions and its web hosting division, Web Serve Pro. In addition, I also own the company with my partner, Erika Stokes. InetSolve started out as a network consulting firm who also dabbled in computer sales. Erika was a web designer who was becoming increasingly frustrated with the fact that she could not find a decent, clueful web host among the various companies out there. As a ‘power-user’ it can become extremely frustrating when things don’t work the way you expect them to or clueless admins cannot fix a problem. In addition, we found that most web hosts charged unbelievably high prices for this poor service.
After thinking about the logistics we decided to try our hand at web hosting. One of the first questions that comes to mind is ‘what kind of boxes?’. As a small company in a sea of multibillion dollar hosts, conserving money is a top priority. After looking into various solutions ranging from IBM RS/6000’s to SUN Enterprise Servers, we finally settled on PC hardware and Slackware Linux.
Some of the reaons for this are obvious, others not so obvious. PC hardware is dirt cheap. As a computer reseller through InetSolve it is even cheaper. After doing some testing we found that we could get suitable performance on Cyrix 200-333 chips or AMD 300-450 chips, provided the machines were decked out with at least 128MB of RAM. Although starting out with IDE drives, we have sinced moved on to more expensive SCSI solutions to increase disk I/O performance. The low price of the hardware allowed us to start out with 2 servers at very little investment cost.
The choice of Slackware was obvious once PC hardware was decided upon. FreeBSD was a strong contender but was disqualified because we had more experience with Linux. Linux had been designed and grew up with the Internet, making it an appropriate solution for an Internet-based company. I have been dabbling with Linux since the early 1.0 kernel days. In all that time I had always used Slackware, since Slackware had been the dominant distribution at the time. When we started Web Serve Pro, other distributions such as Red Hat had long gained popularity, but we decided to stick with Slackware, using 3.5, later 3.6, and now 4.0. Slackware has provided us with an extremely stable base system upon which to build. The design philosophies of Slackware, ‘Simple, Stable, Solid, Sensible’ also fit in well with our philosophies.
Simple because less complexity leads to a stronger, faster operating system which is easier to customize to our specifications. Red Hat failed in this respect, because despite its touted user-friendlieness Red Hat is anything but simple. In addition, I found Slackware to be more like traditional UNIX systems that I had administration experience with. Stable and Solid are important factors in the Internet industry where uptimes of over 99% are keys to success. Our Slackware boxes run for 4-5 months without any kind of glitches. They perform consistently and strongly, far exceeding my initial expectations.
I think that the choice of using Slackware Linux for our business is one of the keys to our success. While Web Serve Pro is not yet a multi-million dollar company, we never had plans to be. We have tried to stick to our initial goal of providing stable, solid web hosting with strong customer service. Slackware has allowed us to do that by providing a clean, solid base operating system that can provide 99.9% uptime for our clients. The low cost of PC hardware combined with the Open Source Slackware Linux operating system allowed us to grow our business to host over 500 domain names across 25 countries in only 9 months. Although we have branched out into Windows NT hosting and have other flavors of Linux for dedicated or co-located servers, Slackware will remain the core of our hosting business.