HOSTING

Heart Internet Upgrades Windows Servers

Heart Internet has recently upgraded their Windows servers to use Windows Server 2012 R2, and PHP 5.6, as well as implement server clustering bringing increased performance and reliability.

Heart Internet has recently upgraded their Windows servers to use Windows Server 2012 R2, and PHP 5.6. The upgrade has been a long time coming, with many companies having upgraded to these versions a year or more ago. Furthermore, we are disappointed that they did not take the opportunity to offer the latest PHP 7 version, which offers considerable performance benefits over PHP 5.6. On the plus side, they are currently testing the implementation of Windows 2016, and have implemented server clustering for increased reliability.

The upgrades, which took place at the end of November 2016 were implemented in a multistage process.

Software Upgrades

The first task was to implement Windows Server 2012 R2, which took place in June 2016.

ISS 8.0 introduces a few distinct improvements, such as:

  • Security — includes the latest security patches, including built-in FTP login restrictions to prevent brute-force attacks.
  • Reliability — CPU throttling stops resource hogging by inconsiderate users.
  • SSL scalability — Server Name Indication, or SNI, allows virtual domains to be used as part of the SSL negotiation. This allows more SSL certificates to be installed on a server, including the ability to add an SSL certificate to a shared IP.

Also, version 2012 R2 includes the .NET 4.5.2 framework.

Hardware Upgrades

The second phase consisted of building a brand-new Hyper-V 2016 cluster. By clustering the servers, it introduced hardware redundancy, thus increasing reliability and reducing downtime. Also, the ability to balance the load of individual websites across a number of servers increases performance and allows for great ability to cope with load spikes.

A Dell Compellent Enterprise-class storage system supplies the storage to the server cluster over redundant 10G iSCSI links. This automatically balances virtual disks into RAID sets for optimal performance and redundancy.

Future Upgrades

Heart Internet is currently testing Windows 2016 on the new server cluster, with the aim of introducing the latest Windows Server version in early 2017. Windows 2016 has some excellent new features:

  • Nano Server - This allows for a scaled down, significantly slimmed down Windows version with a purpose-built operating system designed to run cloud applications as containers. It has a 93 percent lower VHD size than Windows Server, 92 percent fewer critical bulletins and 80 percent fewer reboots as a result of security patches. 
  • Container Support - This offers a lightweight alternative to full virtualization and allow applications to be packaged and moved more easily from server to server. Containers are becoming more common, with SiteGround moving to containers in late 2015, although this was for Linux (SiteGround does not offer Windows Hosting).
  • Hyper-V - Hyper-V functionality is one of the most anticipated of all the new features according to Spicework's IT pro survey, with additional features such as the ability to add nodes running technical previews (i.e. new versions), the ability to hot-add virtual network adapters and memory, and nested virtualization.
  • Storage improvements - This will allow web hosting providers to pool storage, which can be quickly scaled to meet demand without downtime.

While many of these upgrades and improvements will not necessarily be noticed by the average user, behind the scenes, it could improve reliability, performance, and make offering Windows Hosting for efficient, thus reducing costs.

Pricing

Heart Internet offers a number of plans, and being a mainly UK company, the pricing below is in British Pounds.

Heart Internet Windows HOstingThey also offer premium hosting with vastly increased resources, including SSD, starting at £29.99 per month.

Final Thoughts

Heart Internet has been very slow to adapt to the new technology surrounding Windows Servers, with many updating to Windows Server RC 2012 over a year ago, and companies like TMD Hosting already offering PHP 7 and SSD storage as standard.

That being said, we will be monitoring Heart Internet closely as appear poised to leapfrog, or at least become competitive with their own offerings. The new Windows 2016 server looks to have some sophisticated features that, if implemented correctly on the right hardware, could see some significant performance improvements.

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