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Feedback: CPU Usage

February 9th, 2010

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Much in line with our previous post on upcoming MySQL quotas, we’re always looking for ways to try and improve the quality of our hosting for everyone. One of the things we’re currently looking at is the CPU usage of accounts that we host. Currently, you should be aware that within our AUP we have a limit on the running time of processes. If they exceed 60 seconds (such as a badly coded script that may generate an infite loop) it will be terminated. We realise that there are many instances where a user may wish to run extended tasks that may take longer than 60 seconds to run, such as updating a shopping cart with inventory, or for uploading reasonably sized files. Under the current system these processes will likely be killed. Usually when this happens, some of you have noticed anomalies and have opened a ticket. Usually we’re very flexible with this and have added exceptions accordingly to ensure that your scripts work, but we’re looking at better solutions.

The key area we’re now looking at is daily CPU usage per account. This gives us a far more accurate representation of single site resource usage consumption, than on a per-process basis where you may have a very high period of activity, but not much happening for the rest of the day.

This is a very difficult topic to write about and discuss, since it effectively hits at the very heart of a topic which is essentially “Is my site fit for shared hosting?” Many hosting providers in the past have put limits in place on resource consumption, and whilst we don’t want to do that, we do need to have limits in place which provide a guideline we can use to determine when a site has exceeded shared hosting placement and needs its own dedicated set of resources.

At this*, as you should know, we don’t oversell our servers. This lets your sites run very well in all but the most extreme of conditions. Whilst we don’t oversell, given the nature of shared hosting, it’s simply not feasible for us to host websites which by their nature or by the mere traffic they receive, out-consume others by many many times. Out anti-overselling policies simply aren’t in place to allow very popular and active websites to “get by” on a shared hosting account without needing to upgrade to something that better suits them.

Many people may instantly jump to the conclusion that “If you need to take action, you must be overselling!”. That’s simply not the case at all. To throw an (extreme) analogy your way; if we deploy a brand new server and had a single account running on it that consumed approximately 60% of the load (permanently) – that’s most certainly a site that needs its own server. It’s not financially viable for us, or any other hosting provider out there, to maintain a website that large at the cost of shared hosting.

We’ve been monitoring accounts for the past few weeks, and we think we have a good idea of a guideline on CPU resource consumption in a “minutes per day” measurement. The sites that have currently exceeded our approximate guideline generate (on average) at least 750,000 hits (and in some cases much more) every day. We feel that’s certainly beyond what you would expect from a shared hosting account, and we’re happy that the guideline is “fair”. If we were to implement a guideline or “limit” on CPU minutes, we would not take immediate action on websites – such as a suspension or termination. Instead, we would notify the user and offer them an alternative solution, or at least make it clear that action needs to be taken, whether that’s a VPS or Dedicated solution with us (coming soon) or another provider. Our intention isn’t to disconnect anyone and leave them without their website. Your websites are important to us, and ultimately we want you to be in the best possible position.

To be clear, this isn’t a package issue. We’re more than happy for our lowest package users to use exactly the same amount of server resources (CPU and RAM) as our highest package users. This is fundamentally a Shared vs VPS/Dedicated issue.

We’re looking for your feedback on this subject. Do you believe what we’ve outlined is fair? Do you have any questions or suggestions on this topic?

Ten Comments

  1. Darfuria

    February 9, 2010

    I think it’s very fair. I think if you proceeded by informing customers of their CPU usage and how that scales with their expectations and the average of other websites/accounts on the server, and then offer those who are consuming more resources than you are comfortable with for a shared hosting package a solution that suits them better, then that would work very well.

    Users who are getting that amount of traffic on their website have a huge opportunity to monetise anyway. Not that monetising is exclusive to large-traffic websites.

  2. Jules

    February 9, 2010

    Thanks for reading it in a positive way, Darfuria ๐Ÿ˜‰

    We have VPS and dedicated options planned in the near future, so there would certainly be other solutions available. If our solutions aren’t within budget, we’re more than happy to assist users moving elsewhere that is within their budget. Our clients are important to us, so we’ll do everything we can to ensure they’re on a solution that’s right for them. Websites (usually) only grow in traffic and popularity, so being on the right platform will make expansion much easier in the future.

    Agreed. If you’re receiving the kind of hits we expect to be over usage (~700,000/day), monetising your site should help significantly to fund an alternate solution.

  3. Darfuria

    February 10, 2010

    I think it would be a shame to see you guys recommend a third party host in that situation. Whilst that’s great customer service, right up until the end, seeing you implement a solution yourselves and continue to provide the fantastic service you do would be a much better option.

  4. Jules

    February 10, 2010

    Of course, we’d only offer services provided by us, but naturally customers may want to search around for other offers that are out there. Honestly, it’s hard to be price competitive these days so it’s understandable when you get to the increased pricing of VPS and dedicated options that people begin to want to try and minimalise the expenditure. Obviously they’d miss our amazing service though ๐Ÿ˜‰

    We just want people to know we’ll be with them until the end ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. mro

    February 10, 2010

    Some hosts are able to apply a calculation to their CPU usage and then specify a unit count for the server load from that site. How about introducing something similar so we’re all able to accurately monitor our usage and perhaps identify which of our scripts are putting the server on load.

  6. Jules

    February 11, 2010

    To be honest, with the approximate figures we’re looking at, very few people should be concerned with their usage. It’s certainly something we’ll look to add to their client area in the near future so people can get an idea how they fair.

    For those interested, we’re looking at a threshold of roughly 90 CPU minutes a day. To give you some idea of how much that is, the “average” site on our servers appears to use less than 30 in a 24 hour period. Naturally sites will differ greatly, but we’re confident this shouldn’t be something that should worry most people. As with the MySQL quota, if it was something that would affect more than only a very very small number of people, we would discard the idea immediately. Don’t forget, CPU usage is something that can also be decreased by way of caching or other optimisation. It’s not something we can implement for you, but there are plugins for various applications that can reduce this significantly.

  7. Pat G.

    February 13, 2010

    This seems fairly reasonable.
    @ The comment about Dedicated Solutions, do you have any ballpark figures for how much these will cost customers?
    Will they be in the range of Hostgator, or Blz.in?
    You most likely won’t answer my questions, but oh well. Gonna ask em anyways. ๐Ÿ˜›

  8. Jules

    February 14, 2010

    @Pat: It’s safe to say that they’ll be more expensive when compared to larger hosts, such as HostGator. The reason for this is that they can obtain significant discounts when purchasing in bulk, something we don’t have the privilege of right now.

    As a ballpark, our lowest specification server will be around $160/month. Expect to pay around $280 for a quad core server with 8GB RAM and all the other bells and whistles.

    Server management and advanced monitoring will cost extra.

  9. Svetlana Hallum

    May 12, 2010

    Very interesting post thanks for sharing I have added your website to my bookmarks and will be back ๐Ÿ™‚ By the way this is off topic but I really like your blogs layout.

What do you think?