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How to benchmark hosting provider?

I'm about to choose some hosting provider for my project. Is there any way to get information about speed of their servers, network speed?

I think it would be very interesting to see such (average) data for let's say 1 year.

Do you know some places where I can find such information or perfom some simple benchmarks by myself?

With all other mentioned caveats (geographic dispersion, intermediate network latency, time of day in relation to traffic etc), there are a number of specialist websites which solve this problem:

http://host-tracker.com - returns Location, Result, Page Size, Response time, KB/sec, IP, Partner

http://www.dotcom-monitor.com - returns Monitoring Location, Monitoring Date and Time, Duration(msec), Status, Error Description, Error Number, Reason

I find host-tracker the most comprehensive. Of course, you will need to know some hosts on the providers you are testing to use this method. Alternatively (assuming they're eating their own dogfood and host themselves) you could try testing their homepages, although it's likely they'll be prioritising traffic to their own domain.

edit: and another - http://wheresitup.com/ - very simple but effective interface

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Testing the performance of a provider's network is a tricky task. You would need to have multiple test locations spread across the country on different network performing various tests such as download, upload speed tests, packet loss, and jitter tests.

A simple ping test will not reveal anything useful, since a provider has no way to control the route your provider takes to reach them, and they can only optimize the Internet paths they take to deliver packets of data to you.

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    • This is exactly what I thought and that's why I also asked for some statistical data gathered for longer time by some organization/company/blogger. This would be great information I think.

You have to attend a forum specified in this subject. Generally speaking, it's very difficult to come to a conclusion, as the data you want, is location-specific..

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The kind of performance, and therefore the kind of data you need depends partly on the nature of your project. If you're doing something simple like a blog, the best indicator for a viable provider is a slew of favorable customer reviews dealing with keywords like uptime and support. If your project involves a lot of data and/or heavy and widespread use, then you can try a test site like http://performance.toast.net/ (which I found just now through a Google search). Top 10 lists are great resources as well, though they often don't tell the whole story or even an approximation.

P.S: whatever data you're gathering, be sure it's from a genuinely independent source. Milquetoast Systems will always tell you that Milquetoast Systems is the best provider, even if everybody else says otherwise. On that note, best to avoid performance.toast.net...

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Some providers do offer large files for you to download from their networks to prove their speed. Of course this isn't reliable because that'll be one of the most optimised machines/connections on their network and it's only one file which is liable to be cached somewhere en-route, but it's a start.

Benchmarked speed of the hosting provider is also going to vary over time, and other issues are just as important. Speed to respond to critical issues, value for money and uptime are all just as vital as network and machine speed.

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Many hosting providers now offer virtualized servers where you just pay for time used. This can be very affordable if you just need a system for an extremely short period. You'll have a whole server to load network diagnostics on, and then you can decommission it when you're done.

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I agree with you that hosting benchmarks are crucial to picking a host. Too many people just give biased opinions. I want facts!

To test for uptime, use a service like Pingdom or UptimeRobot. They will hit the website every minute and record downtime for you to see.

To test for page speed, try a tool like WebPageTest.org. It's a free tool that not only shows page load time, but also a waterfall chart of where things are taking the longest to load.

To test for download speed, lots of hosts have a static large file that you can try to download. Ask them for the location and they'll let you see how fast it is. Just be sure that you consider that there may be a file size difference between hosts.

I actually benchmarked a bunch of popular hosts and shared the results on a website I created. If you want more details, check out the numbers at http://www.hostbenchmarker.com

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