08 Nov

Can My Web Host Make My Website Faster?

Can My Web Host Make My Website Faster?

 

As websites become more and more feature rich, and users demand more functionality from their sites, it’s often hard to find the right balance between satisfying those user requirements and getting the pages to continue to load quickly.

Say you’ve built your dream website, but maybe it’s a little on the slow side. Should you just accept that latency as an inevitable consequence of having a great looking site?

speed

If you don’t want to sacrifice performance, what are the options available to speed things up?

Well, for any website to perform quickly it depends on three core factors;

  1. A Well Built Website.

Efficient code, with no unnecessary plugins or scripts running. Well optimised content, with front-end caching, and/or a CDN if appropriate.

  1. Good Server Hardware

Enterprise grade Solid State Storage (not traditional spinning disks), with sufficient processing power and memory to handle the intensity of the website.

  1. The Server Stack

The server stack is essentially the operating system and installed software. For example, commonly referred to is the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). How the stack is set up can influence website speeds.

 

So how can your hosting company help improve the speed of your site?

Well, in our experience, the factor that has the biggest impact on speed is actually number 3, the server stack.

A lot of web hosts configure their servers with default settings, making no changes to the standard parameters of the stack.

In fact, the stack can be tuned significantly to help improve performance of applications like WordPress, Magento, Drupal etc.

The truth is it’s so important, that it’s actually possible to get a website running faster on lower specification hardware, if the stack is tuned properly.

If you think your website could use a speed boost, then SharpStack can help you. All our servers are fully optimised, and never configured to default settings. Our stack works hard to make your sites run quickly.

Furthermore, and at no cost, we’ll be happy to set up a replica of your website on our platform, and present you with independent website speed benchmark results, so you’ll know just how much faster your site will be.

Contact our sales team to get your free trial and benchmark test

sales@sharpstack.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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24 Oct

The Linux ‘Dirty COW’ Vulnerability

_92012960_linuxcow

Last week a particularly nasty vulnerability nicknamed ‘Dirty COW’ was disclosed to the public. Designated CVE-2016-5195, This privilege escalation vulnerability has existed in the Linux kernel since 2007, and exploits a race condition in the memory management subsystem (specifically copy-on-write) which could allow an attacker to gain root access to a Linux system they are able to reach.

TL;DR: This bug means that an ordinary, unprivileged user can write to any file they have read access to, potentially allowing them to escalate to root access and further compromise a system.

The good news- as a security-focused hosting company, Sharpstack has already secured all our servers against this exploit. We pro-actively patch and secure our fleet against known security vulnerabilities to ensure your data is safe. If you’re interested, you can check out our Shared Hosting plans here and our Managed Dedicated servers here.

 

How do I know if I’m vulnerable?

Many kernel versions above 2.6.22 are affected by this issue. If you’re running anything below the following, you should patch immediately:

  • 4.8.0-26.28 for Ubuntu 16.10
  • 3.16.36-1+deb8u2 for Debian 8
  • 3.2.82-1 for Debian 7

 

Redhat/CentOS users are also affected, and Redhat have provided a script to test if you are vulnerable. Run the following commands (as root) to verify:

wget https://access.redhat.com/sites/default/files/rh-cve-2016-5195_1.sh
bash rh-cve-2016-5195_1.sh

The script output will tell you if you’re affected.

 

How do I protect myself?

Most major Linux distributions have released a fix for this issue, so protecting yourself is just a matter of updating. Unfortunately, you will need to reboot your system to do this.

Debian, Ubuntu and variations thereof can simply run:

apt-get update && apt-get upgrade && apt-get dist-upgrade

and then reboot their systems.

CentOS and RedHat (which our cPanel fleet runs on) need to apply a temporary fix using a Systemtap script to disable the ptrace syscall. This is fairly straightforward:

Install kernel-devel and debuginfo packages for your system:

 yum install kernel-devel-$(uname-r)
 yum install debuginfo-$(uname-r)

Save the following into a plaintext file with a .stp extension:

probe kernel.function("mem_write").call ? { $count = 0 }
probe syscall.ptrace { // includes compat ptrace as well $request = 0xfff }
probe begin { printk(0, "CVE-2016-5195 mitigation loaded") }
probe end { printk(0, "CVE-2016-5195 mitigation unloaded") }

Run the file:

stap -g [filename from step 1].stp

More details on this method can be found here: https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=1384344#c13

Once RedHat releases a full fix for this issue we’ll be sure to apply it across our fleet.

 

In summary- this is a serious vulnerability with a known exploit in the wild. As a hosting provider that takes security seriously, Sharpstack has taken preventative measures to protect our customers.

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28 Sep

Free SSD’s

SharpStack officially now offering Solid State Storage free to ALL customers

server

SharpStack Hosting in the UK are a fully managed hosting provider offering all-inclusive hosting services to web design agencies and eCommerce customers.

The decision to only use Solid State Disks (SSD), means that ALL shared, reseller, VPS and dedicated server customer’s benefit from these high performance disks.

So what is the difference between SSD and spinning drives?

Well, older SATA/SAS traditional spinning disks, consist of mechanical parts and these are prone to wear over time. There is lots that can go wrong. We often say spinning disks are like light bulbs. They can blow at any time, and it’s not necessarily the age of them but rather how they’ve been used that determines when they will fail.

Solid State Disks are different. There are no moving parts. This means there is less that can go wrong. It also means they are much, much faster. The enterprise grade SSD’s used by SharpStack offer up to 30 times faster read and write speeds than older conventional drives.

The cost for SSD’s has dramatically reduced in the last few years, particularly consumer grade SSD’s that would usually be installed in PC’s, laptops etc. Many hosting companies use these same consumer standard drives in their hosting infrastructure. The reliability and performance of these is often not that great, and there is a considerable difference between those cheaper drives and the enterprise grade disks offered by SharpStack. For Dedicated servers, customers can benefit from disks ranging from 120GB to 1TB in size. RAID arrays can be provisioned to offer customers larger logical drives for storage.

If you’re looking for a custom dedicated server with enterprise grade SSD storage, there are some sample packages available to view on the SharpStack website here; https://www.sharpstack.co.uk/managed-servers/

For a customised quotation and a tailored server specification, contact the SharpStack sales team at  sales@sharpstack.co.uk

 

 

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