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I'm building a site that I plan to grow to the size of SO.

I'm only planning to have one prodcuction server to start off with. This will host everything including the database.

I know it's very hard to say but am I likely to run into trouble quickly (if the site takes off) and if this is the case should I start out with more than one server so I can load balance everything from day 1?

If no, should I be looking for something a little bigger than this spec?: http://www.123-reg.co.uk/dedicated-server-hosting/

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Dec 24 '10 at 22:24

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I think you're going to have to supply some more details than that :-). –  John Mueller Dec 25 '10 at 12:27
If I remember correctly, SO started on one server but I don't know the specs on it. –  Beth Whitezel Dec 26 '10 at 6:59

2 Answers 2

Getting more than one dedicated server for starting a site (no matter if you expect it to grow to size of SO over time) would be a waste. (Consider that SO itself has taken years to grow to its present size).

I would even suggest start with a VPS (virtual private server). If there are even the slightest hint of growth, you can go for dedicated.

You might have heard of cloud computing. It works out better (cost and ease of scaling) in the long run for some type of high traffic sites but is more expensive (both in terms of cost and bootstrapping time) to start off with it.

Might be interesting and even helpful to you: Check out the Alexa traffic history graph of stackoverflow: http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/stackoverflow.com# (mind you these are not accurate for small sites but fairly okay for large sites). Go to Reach or TrafficRank or PageViews and select Max in the drop down menu to see the nice, rapidly increasing curve from 2009 to 2010. If you are really curious, you can check out graphs for some recently successful web startups.

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IMO, a production web server should not be running Ubuntu (even the server edition). I'd personally go with a scalable VPS like Rackspace or a cloud hosting provider like Amazon EC2 so you can easily allocate more resources as your needs grow or accommodate unexpected sudden traffic spikes.

That server looks fine to me, but without any knowledge of traffic expectations or info about the kind of application the site will be running, that doesn't really mean much. A server like that could serve 10,000 pages per second with one application but might only manage 100 requests per second with another application.

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Could you give a reason why you shouldn't use Ubuntu on a production server? Any other distribution you don't like? Or just Linux in general? –  Jürgen A. Erhard Dec 25 '10 at 19:51
I've personally had bad experiences with Ubuntu Server Edition, which compared to Debian was incredibly slow. I've also never seen Ubuntu Server deployed on a production server up until now. It may be a fine distribution for bringing Linux to the desktop, but it's a very odd choice for a server OS IMO. –  Lèse majesté Dec 26 '10 at 2:00
Why is it an odd server choice? Wikipedia runs on Ubuntu and they don't seem to have THAT many issues meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_servers –  Piers Karsenbarg Dec 30 '10 at 11:54

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