In our previous article we’ve covered hosting plans, now it’s time to take a closer look at configuration of your server and nice-to-have features.

Hardware

Magento is very resource consuming, so the more powerful server you can afford – the faster will your site will work (though properly configured weaker server may perform better than improperly configured powerful one), and it would affect both conversion rate and google ranking. The most important components of hardware performance are processor, memory (RAM) and disk storage.

Processor(CPU) should be powerful (surprise). More cores, threads, cache, higher clock rate will never be too much:).

Memory – for Magento webshops it is not recommended to run with less than 512Mb RAM, desired at least 1Gb. For small or low traffic stores we still would recommend 2Gb for comfortable work, adding more while the traffic or number of product grows.

Disk Storage – nowadays you can hardly find server with insufficient disk size. Average size Magento site would run very comfortably  with 5GB, but extra space wouldn’t cost much and may be needed for example to store backup or data import files, product images, so it’s better to order more space. For better performance it’s desired to use SSD storage instead of HDD

Server location

The closer you customers to the server the faster the site will load, so you should host your site in the same country where your clients are. For sites oriented on global market using CDN would be a great idea – static content will be delivered from server closest to customer.

Administration and Support

If you have a dedicated server you can have your own system administrator or hosting provider’s staff to take care of your server. In both cases the technical staff must be very experienced with Magento setup and troubleshooting. If you would like to do certain server operations yourself you would need a convenient server control panel, such as cPanel (unless you have good Linux administration experience and can do everything using SSH command line), which is provided by many hostings.

Important tip: when selecting hosting provider check their reviews about support staff – responsiveness, competence, reaction time.

Security and Reliability

Firewall, SSL certificate, DDoS attack protection can be offered by hosting provider. Another important features are server monitoring/alert and backup tools/services – if your provider offers them it’s great. Many hosting providers offer RAID 0 data storage – which also increases system’s reliability.

Operating System and Web Server

Magento is built to work on a Linux platform and we would suggest CentOS for a dedicated server because it is an enterprise level OS. As for web server – there are holywars about what  is better – Nginx or Apache. We haven’t seen much improvement when switched sites from Apache to Nginx, but Apache is much easier to finetune/configure, so we would recommend it for most of Magento stores.

Server performance utilities

Magento requires solid caching in order to perform well, so either your admin or hosting provider should set up the following tools on server:

  • Memcached
  • APC
  • Redis
  • Varnish (more advanced tool, should be configured very carefully)

It is not necessary to have all these tools, sometimes APC will be enough.

We hope the picture became more clear now, if no these guys would be happy to help you and answer your questions:

http://www.rapidservers.com

http://www.properhost.com

Back to the article “How to select hosting for Magento. Part I