Help?! In over my head with server administration

Discussion in 'Hosting Discussions' started by AChick, Mar 30, 2004.

  1. AChick

    AChick Neophyte

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    Hi. This site is new to me, but it appears to be an excellent resource. Kudos to the people who run it.

    I am the administrator of a fairly busy message board, which I run on behalf of a free music-related publication. I have very little budget with which to work, and have recently (yesterday) had to move the board to a dedicated server, as our traffic is significant and growing rapidly. I use Invision Power Board. We currently have ~374,000 posts and 2121 members (since the end of June 2003, when I set up our current board), and average about 130 - 190 concurrent users on the board at peak times of day.

    The dedicated server to which I moved my site is a P4 2.4 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 80 GB IDE hard drive, running RHE 3.0 w/ cPanel/WHM. Not the ultimate power setup, I know, but we should be able to survive with it for a while. The problem is this: I have never had to deal with any kind of server administration before, and I have no idea what I'm doing. I've never used SSH before, I have very limited Linux experience, etc..

    I think that the server could definitely use some tweaking, especially in the area of MySQL configuration. The server load for the first 24 hours on the new machine has been higher than I would like to see. I need to figure out what I can do to achieve better performance, and I don't even know where to begin. I'm also concerned about security and backup issues, of course. I plan to learn about all of this stuff, but while I'm doing so, I need help. Can anyone offer me any advice about how to get my server optimally configured in the most time-efficient way? Can anyone help me with a MySQL configuration file? EEEEK!
     
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  2. Dawg

    Dawg Always Working

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    I would check at webhostingtalk.com.

    A lot of these guys are very good.
     
  3. Kathy

    Kathy Tazmanian Veteran

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    I can't tell you how to do it short of hiring help. When I found myself in the same place you are in a few years ago...I searched to find a sysadmin that was knowledgeable and helpful...with a teaching ability. I found several and now have a short list of awesome people who I hire from time to time to help me.

    If you would like a name or two of men I could recommend to you to help, let me know. Perhaps one of the resident geeks will come along and provide "How to" for you too.

    :welcome: to TAZ!
     
  4. AChick

    AChick Neophyte

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    Thank you very much, Kathy. I'm not sure I have the budget to bring in an outside person (in fact, I'm pretty sure that I don't), but I may have to at least investigate that possibility. Any info you could provide on that front would be greatly appreciated, as would any tips that anyone else has to volunteer.
     
  5. Dawg

    Dawg Always Working

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  6. quentin

    quentin Habitué

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    do you have mrtg installed ? Why do you feel mysql is the part of the server that needs tweaking ? With a little more precise diagnostics we might be able to give you more precise ideas on what to do.
     
  7. AChick

    AChick Neophyte

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    Thanks for your helpful comments. Dawg, that link was very informative.

    I don't have mrtg installed (in fact, I had no idea what it was until I did a Google search). All I have right now are web stats and basic bandwidth stats through cPanel. The host has been trying to help me get the server better optimized, but today was a hell day. Yesterday, which was our first day on the new server, everything performed fine, the server load never went over about 1.5 (less than optimal, but the site's performance was still okay), and the memory usage never went over about 15%. Today, on the other hand, we had about the same level of traffic/number of concurrent users as yesterday, with the exact same activities going on, and the server load kept shooting up to 10, 12, even 20+. The memory usage hovered between 40% and 80%. The site kept becoming inaccessible, and the board kept generating MySQL "Too many connections" errors. Nightmare. I don't know why yesterday was fine and today was not.

    As I said, I know that a P4 2.4 GHz with 512 MB of RAM isn't the ultimate setup, but it should be able to handle a board with my level of traffic, should it not? I mean, if the configuration settings are tweaked properly and everything. I just hate that my users are having to suffer right now for my own lack of expertise.
     
  8. AChick

    AChick Neophyte

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    I'm sorry, I neglected to answer this question. All that I have on the server is my one site, and all that's on that site is my Invision forum. Each page load requires an average of about 10 MySQL queries, so I would just imagine that MySQL is the most important thing to optimize, since I think that the majority of the server load is probably caused by all of the database activity. Also, when I was on a shared server, and the web host told me that they wouldn't be able to let me stay on a shared hosting account any longer, they specifically mentioned that it was all of the MySQL activity generated by my site that was causing problems.
     
  9. Mike Feury

    Mike Feury Habitué

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    I can't help you with the tech side, but here's a stop-gap suggestion:

    1. Announce to the members that you're decreasing board features until you can get the system optimized.

    2. Go into IPB admin and switch off everything non-essential--eg all images [images, avatars, smilies], forum search, signatures, post count updating, PM, etc.

    3. Measure the load levels for a few days. Then start adding features back one at a time while monitoring load--this'll give you a better idea of what's hurting you and what isn't.

    That should give you some breathing space while waiting for a geek in shining code to appear, and I'd hope your members would bear with you for a few weeks if you explain the situation up front and keep them informed throughout.
     
  10. quentin

    quentin Habitué

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    yeah, turn down some features, but if you are positive mysql is the one giving problems (and it seems so considering your error message), turn down features that actually involve querying more the database. I'd suggest to start with turning down the who's online list, the showing up of forum moderators (don't know if you have this, what's your board's url ?), if you have it the online/offline status in topic browsing and potentially turn down the search when the load becomes to high.
    You should look at your various pages and see what features you don't really *need*, and either turn them down from the control panel if it's possible, or even if you have some coding capabilities turn them down directly in the code.
    Your server config should definitely be able to handle a board of this size, so after you quick-fixed it, it's probably a matter of configuring well your mysql server / apache, see the link mentionned above, and this one:
    httpd.apache.org/docs/misc/perf-tuning.html

    Good luck :)
    Quentin
     
  11. wizard1974uk

    wizard1974uk Tazmanian Gremlin

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    All that connections error is that there are not enough open connections in the mysql config file.

    You can always ask over at www.sitepoint.com or other developer sites for advice on tweaking the mysql config.
     
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