DSL/Cable Webserver - Server RAM and CPU Usage
September 10, 2005

In this brief article, I'll present some interesting info about my website, the hardware, the traffic, etc.

I get a lot of emails from people asking if their particular computer is fast enough to host their website, specifically how much RAM and how fast a CPU is necessary.  Do I have enough RAM, is my CPU fast enough?  Others ask me details about this website and what kind of hardware I use.  Here's the answer to 99.9% of you: Yes, your hardware is fast enough for your site.  Even if you have a 486 66 Mhz, you can run a website.  Of course if your website has thousands of concurrent visitors, you'll need more CPU power, but for most of us who run small to medium websites, BANDWIDTH is usually the limiting factor, not the CPU or RAM.

For those of you who haven't visited my Site Info page, here are the stats of my site.

Site Specs:

  • Website: DSL/Cable Webserver + others
  • DNS: ZoneEdit.com
  • Connection type: ADSL - Fujitsu Speedport DSL Modem
  • Speed (down/up): 384/384 Kbps - Verizon
  • Router/Firewall: Linksys Etherfast Cable/DSL Router
  • Mail Server: Cobalt Qube 2
  • Webserver Server: Dell PowerEdge 500SC
  • CPU: Intel Tualatin 1.13 Ghz with 512k cache
  • Motherboard: Dell
  • Memory: 1024 Megs PC133 Registered ECC (1x 512 MB, 1x 256 MB, 2x 128 MB sticks)
  • Hard disk:
    • Boot: 1 x 20 Gig Western Digital 200BB 7200 rpm 2 MB cache
      Data: 2 x 80 Gig Maxtor D740 7200 rpm 2 MB cache in RAID 1 on a Promise Fasttrack TX2000
  • Network adapter: Onboard Intel NIC
  • Server Software: Windows 2000 Advanced Server with Internet Information Server 5.0 (IIS 5.0), PHP, MySQL, PHPBB

  • UPS: 2 x APC 350 ES, 1x Cyberpower 575
On an average day, my site has around 3000 visitors and this translates into about 1 gigabyte of bandwidth being served up on my DSL line.  Not bad for a 384/384 line eh?  For most people, this site loads ok, not particularly fast, but not too slow either.  Pages with a lot of images such as my Step-by-Step tutorials obviously load slower, but generally it's still acceptable.

For a long time, my server had 512 Megs of RAM.  Being an upgradeaholic (sp?) I wanted more RAM and eventually upgraded to 1 GB.  I think I just liked the way "1 GB" sounded versus "512 MB".  I wondered if the performance of my server would change.  So I took screenshots of the Windows Task Manager before and after the upgrade. 

512 MB

1 GB

At the time of the screenshots, the server had a fairly typical load.  When I log into the server, this is load I usually see.

As you can see, there is very little difference between the two RAM configurations in terms of CPU and memory usage.  The amount of available memory is obviously different, but it appears that for my website traffic, the upgrade made very little difference.  It would be a very different story if suddenly my website traffic suddenly increased, I would obviously need more RAM, but for the present amount of traffic, 512 MB or 1 GB makes little difference.

What is interesting is the CPU load.  Most of my website is static content which isn't very CPU intensive.  However, I do have a few things that require CPU time:

  • PHP/MySQL forums require a fair bit of computation power. 
  • PHPBB is being compressed on the fly (gzip)
  • Symantec real-time antivirus scanning
  • Analog stats log file analysis - 100% CPU time for about 2 hours a night
The low average CPU usage is partially explained by the fact that our forums aren't super busy.

In any case, a faster CPU makes administering the server much easier, but it may not do much for your visitors.

I've had this server for over 3 years now and while I am itching to upgrade the hardware (pretty much just for fun), it is quite apparent that the current server can handle the current site just fine and then some.  What needs to be upgraded actually is my BANDWIDTH.  My current service of 384/384 can bog down at times.  Unfortunately, I'm still on the old frame relay DSL, not the more common ATM DSL, which limits the DSL plans I am eligible for.  My DSL company said that I could transfer from frame relay to ATM, but the transfer would take over 2 weeks.  No thanks.  Unless this site suddenly skyrockets in the number of visitors, I'll live with it.

Hopefully this article gives you something to gauge your own website and server hardware against.