Web Server Upgrade, Part 2

Dennis Faas's picture

After pumping out that 3-part series on Shopping for an LCD monitor, I've decided to take a break and let you all know what's happening with the web site.

I mentioned a few newsletters ago that I had to fork out some serious $$ for a new web server. I ordered it at the beginning of this month and have been waiting patiently to register my own nameserver.

Nameserver? What did you name your server?

Actually, a nameserver is a technical term for a database record which points to the location of a web site. I have two nameservers for my web site and their names are ns1.infopackets.com and ns2.infopackets.com (ns = name server).

Each of these "web sites" is a domain name record which resolves to an IP address. Usually a web host provider controls the nameserver entry, which then points to the IP (Internet Protocol) address of a web site. You can think of an IP address as a mailing address to a house. Since I'm hosting my own dedicated web server, I also have control over my own nameserver records.

How it all works

The process of connecting to a web site from your computer to the infopackets web site looks something like this: You type in http://www.infopackets.com in your browser; The domain name is resolved to an IP address for infopackets.com, which is now pointing to This is called a DNS lookup -- short form for Domain Name Service; Your computer is then directed to the infopackets web site.

Technical hoo-hoo of 'who'

As far as I understand it, the nameserver record is the "master record" for the DNS lookup. If a DNS server does not know the whereabouts of a web site, it probes another nameserver that might know until the answer is found. This is referred to as propagation.

When a nameserver record change is to take place (such as when a web site needs to move to another server), the change must be propagated to all machines which control DNS lookups (usually your Internet Service Provider). Usually it takes about 72 hours for the entire Internet to propagate a nameserver record change.

Our new web server is a Pentium-4 1.7 GHz machine with a 60 gig hard drive and 512 meg of RAM. The old server was a dual processor setup but was severely limited in the amount of processes that it could handle at any given time. In fact, the old web server had a limitation of 42 concurrent Apache processes and up to 92 system processes. The new web server can handle something like 2048 system processes and a heck-of-a-lot-more than 42 concurrent Apache processes (actually, I'm not sure of the exact number).

Apache what?

Apache is the name of the software which runs the infopackets server. Apache runs on top of the operating system and handles all of the Internet requests such as (FTP, HTTP, emails, etc) of a web server. Having a limit to the number of Apache processes puts a cap on the amount of users that can access the infopackets web site at any given moment. The Apache processes are also referred to as concurrent processes.

Before moving over to the new web server, infopackets.com was hitting close to 42 concurrent Apache processes. I knew that as the Holiday Season grew closer, the server was sure to hit the ceiling. The end result is that the server would timeout with delays and users would be waiting a few seconds or even a few minutes for a page to come through to their browser. That's not good!

Rate this article: 
No votes yet