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Cobalt RAQ4The Cobalt RAQ 4i

In January 2002 I acquired a Cobalt RAQ 4i and placed it in a data centre. My knowledge of Linux was very basic at the time (it still is!) but I decided to install the server and start by hosting a few domains for myself, my family and my friends. It was very simple to use for the administrator, and before long I had 10-15 domains running from it.

Owning my own server had many advantages - I never had to call anyone for technical support, though I now had to figure everything out for myself with the help of a couple of friends and Google. I could commission new domains very quickly, and provide good support to my friends when they needed it. Even though web hosting was (and still is) a fairly cheap affair it was still satisfying to administer my own server, and have a much more precise level of control (i.e. shell access).

Installed software

Time went by, and after fixing one issue after another I started to learn my way around the box. I started to install all sorts of extra packages and functionality for the users. Some of these things included:

The response from the users was good - they appreciated the extra features like having their mails automatically stripped of viruses and spam. Even though it was taking me a lot of time to figure out how all this software worked, each new piece of functionality brought not only benefits for me, but for all of my users.

I also regularly install security updates and patches, as well as trying to keep the existing software up-to-date whenever I can.

The upgrade

ASUS RS120-E3Asus RS120-E3

In early 2006 the server was starting to show signs of overload. Traffic had grown on several key sites, and the old hardware could no longer keep up with the increasing number of PHP/database requests. The RAQ4 had performed well, but it just wasn't fast enough anymore. To make matters worse the entire software platform on which the RAQ was built was outdated, software was difficult to update and even the die-hard RAQ support sites were starting to go elsewhere. The main problem was that it wasn't possible to upgrade the hardware - I was stuck at 500Mhz.

I decided that the future server should remain independant of hardware, so I used VMWare to run a new Centos-based server running the BlueQuartz software for server management. This meant that I could run the server from any platform I liked, as long as it was running VMWare. I then purchased an ASUS RS120-E3 for the replacement hardware and tested all the software components on the new server. After extensive testing I migrated all the sites to the new server, and performance has been excellent ever since. It was quite a lot of work to rebuild and migrate everything to a new server, but it was worth it.

The specifications

The server

The ASUS RS120-E3 is a barebones server, 1 standard rack unit (1U) high. I equipped it with a 2.8Ghz dual core Pentium processor, 2GB RAM and 2 x 36GB WD Raptor S-ATA discs (mirrored). It runs Centos, which is a free version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux based on the version 2.6 kernel. Centos runs as a virtual machine inside the host operating system which is Windows Server 2003.

The location

The server is located in a secure data centre in Zurich, Switzerland. This includes all the usual trimmings - air conditioning, backup power supply, secure location, multiple links to other peers, etc. The server has a 100Mbit/s unrestricted link to the provider's network.

Traffic statistics

I make the key statistics available to everyone in real-time. Simply check the traffic statistics page to see key information for the entire server. As an example here is the ratio of spam and viruses to normal email in the last 24 hours

spam to virus ratiospam to email (green), virus to email (blue)

Future plans

Now that the hardware and software upgrades are done, I don't really have any future plans for this server. There is plenty of capacity to host further sites and for the existing sites to grow

Hosting services

If you would like to host your domain on this server I can offer this service for 100 Swiss francs per year (equivalent to around 65 Euros). Contact me for further details if interested.

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