At the moment ServerBear is a website, we’re hoping that eventually we can build it into a business. It’s something that both myself (@thegyppo) & my co-founder John (@ponny) are passionate about, we also think there’s a huge gap in the marketplace for what we’re doing.
We’ve both made a conscious decision that the best way to run our site is through openness & transparency, which is why we’ve decided to reveal our data every month here on the blog, so you can see what we’re doing, how we’re performing & whether or not we’re failing or succeeding (hopefully not the former!).
For the record, ServerBear is not our fulltime gig. We both work full time jobs & our startup (Crowd9) has a number of other websites that we maintain. These generate income for us, but we don’t have the same opportunity to make an impact like we do with ServerBear.
With ServerBear we have to try & get the point where we reach a critical mass. We want to be the goto place that people trust to find accurate data about web hosting. This is not an easy task, but we are approaching this from a different perspective. We feel that we need to build something that is primarily useful for web hosts, we want you to want to work with us & we will do whatever it takes to add as much value as we can, we have the power to make people think twice about your company if you provide a better level of performance & quality than a big name hosting company (and we’ll mention a few of these host that we’ve worked with this month).
We also have to make a living, the world is becoming more expensive, both John & I both have familes, kids & mortgages. We need to make a serious impact if we’re ever to both consider working on ServerBear full time.
We launched officially on 24th July 2012, the site itself has been live from 22nd June 2012 but we’ve been iterating based on feedback.
In total we’ve had 5,561 visits since launch, which has resulted in over 4,500+ visits to web hosts (which is an incredible click through rate, we do suspect that search engine bots might be inflating our internal numbers).
You’ll see that we’re getting close to no search engine traffic yet, we probably don’t have enough links for the Google gods to trust us. Konstantin from VPSeer kindly linked to us from his VPS SSD Performance Chart last week (Thanks!), as with all good products we hope that these types of links will just happen naturally over time.
Low End Talk: I stumbled across this awesome community whilst doing some research, there’s a lot of smart people here who run their own hosting companies (a few I’ve spoken with: Tim from Hostigation, Nick from RAMNode, Elliot from Virt.io, Kevin from URPad, Simon from MiniVPS, Corey from Front Range Hosting, Jacob from EaseVPS, Joe from Secure Dragon & Jack from DotVPS) – they have provided great support & have almost adopted us as their standard test when launching new offers or plans. We really need to continue to provide value to communities, especially those that care about the performance of their servers.
Web Hosting Talk: This forum is where the industry hangs out, it’s been a great way to network with web hosts & answer questions. Again we’ve been trying to provide value in every post here, but WHT (as it’s known for short) is similar to Digital Point in that there’s a lot of uneducated people that just reduce the quality of this forum to mush. You’ll see more posts about people complaining about downtime, or too many pointless filler posts from hosts trying to inflate their post count.
Hacker News: One of John’s good friends posted the site to Hacker News, and whilst we got only about 8 up-votes I was quite surprised about the amount of traffic it sent us. I think we could have done more justice with the title of the post, but alas we weren’t in control of posting it. We also didn’t get much feedback from this particular set of users, so we probably need a different angle like (showing the web hosting choices of the latest YC batch).
Twitter: We’ve been getting into Twitter a lot lately, it’s been useful to announce when we add a new host & benchmarks. We’re getting good traction from hosts also retweeting us to their followers when we give them some nice data. Here’s a good example of Joyent retweeting us after we benchmarked their plans (to over 9k followers). Don’t forget to follow us if you use Twitter
We’ve been working pretty hard, mostly in the evenings & weekends to improve our stats. For me the single most important metric is new benchmarks, the more coverage we have the more & more valuable our dataset becomes – which in turn to should to authority within the industry (or so we hope):
- 456 New Benchmarks
- An 85% success rate contacting web hosts & asking to provide benchmarks (or an account for us to run benchmarks). To me this really validates that we’re providing some sort of value.
- 62 Hosts have contacted us directly via our contact form
- 143 New Hosts Added (2.38 per day)
- 1089 Hosting Plans Added (18 per day)
- 13% of the links to hosts are currently affiliated (i.e have the chance to earn us revenue)
- 80k+ Lines of Plan Data (This includes RAM/HDD Size/CPU Cores, all the data that will make it easier for you to filter by a specific need)
- 71 Hosting Coupons (quite a bit less than we’d like, we’re planning to improve this part of the site)
- 79 Tweets & 43 Twitter followers (we only started this on 8th Aug)
Popular Hosts & Plans
Here’s some interesting stats for the month based on the most popular plans:
Most Benchmarked Plan: Linode 512
Most Popular Benchmark: OVH Free Beta BHS
Most Popular VPS Host: Hostigation
Most Popular Dedicated Host: Secured Servers
Most Popular Cloud Host: Joyent
Most Popular Plan: Wizz:160 from WizzVPS
Most Popular Category: VPS (followed by Low End Boxes)
Most Popular Blog Post: Our Amazon High IO Benchmarks
We’re tracking how many signups we send hosts that we’re affiliated with, we eventually want to automate this. Our average conversion rate is about 5.5% which means we should have sent ~100 sales in this first launch month if we extrapolate it out to our traffic:
We really have concentrated on signing up to affiliate programs, we also don’t have deep linking integrated – so we’re not currently getting credited when we link directly to the plan signup link in WHMCS. Remember that if a host has an affiliate program we will sign up to it (it’s a invisible way for us to generate revenue), but this does not impact any of our reports. We only report on benchmarked data.
100 Signups roughly equates to $3k or so in monthly revenue for us (depending on which host & whether it’s a once off or annual commission). We don’t have enough data to really dig into this number but from my calculations we need to be aiming for 1k+ signups (which is around 50k visits/month at our current conversion rates).
Our Technology Stack & Tools
Our setup is quite unique, ServerBear is a whitelabeled frontend that we’ve built in Ruby, it’s extremely flexible & customisable. If we ever wanted to scale out a similar site with a different theme we can do it easily.
We don’t actually store our data on ServerBear, we have a management platform that acts as our data storage engine (it’s also developed in Ruby). We can sync data from the data management platform to ServerBear, the advantage of this is that the data inside ServerBear is static – which allows us to do lots of cool caching tricks to make the site super fast.
Our technology stack looks something like this:
- Dual E5506 with 24GB of RAM
- RAID10 HDD’s
- Percona build of MYSQL
- Ruby on Rails
- Coffeescript (for filtering)
- Mailgun for SMTP email
- Bootstrap (we’ve modified bootstrap for our theme/skin)
- Node.js (for our new Uptime Benchmarks)
- MongoDB (for our new Uptime Benchmarks)
- Amazon AWS backups
- Secondary Dropbox backups
- Third redundant backup server
- Scoutapp for application monitoring
- Tumblr (for the blog)
- Bufferapp (for scheduling Tweets in US time)
- Google Analytics
Development & New Features
We’ve been working hard on development (John is dedicating 1 full day per week), since we’ve launched we’ve added a fair amount of new features:
Benchmark Reports: When we launched we were only sending a .txt benchmark attachment, we still do this (although I’m not entirely happy with the format). We now create a comprehensive report that gets emailed for every benchmark that you run.
IO Benchmarks: We originally only launched with UnixBench & Network speed. We’ve added dd, IOPS & yesterday we just pushed the first version of FIO (Sequential Read/Write IOPS).
Filtering: We got a lot of feedback that we need to allow filtering, on any of our comparison pages (like KVM VPS) you’ll be able to filter by whatever your requirements are. Need a certain amount of RAM, only have a specific budget, or need the server in a certain location? We’ve got it all covered.
Plan Info Tooltip: We had a lot of complaints that clicking a plan was taking you to the host every time. So now we provide some useful information, this is an area we want to improve even further.
New Categories: I’ve been working on building out new categories for filtering. Here’s what we’ve added in the last 2 months (please suggest more categories below):
- VPS – Benchmarks, SSD Benchmarks, Low End Boxes (Under $7), Cheap VPS (Under $12), Budget VPS (Under $20), KVM, OpenVZ, Xen, SSD, Unmetered.
- Dedicated – Benchmarks
- Cloud – Benchmarks, Australian Cloud Provider Benchmarks
Distro Support: We’ve added support for Debian, CentOS (plus fixed bugs with the script failing in CentOS 5.x) & Red Hat.
New Homepage: We’ve added more depth to the homepage with the Top & Best Value UnixBench/IO Benchmarks. We’ll be improving this further in the next month.
More Metrics: We have a tonne of metrics assigned to each plan that we don’t show yet like Uplink (10/100/1Gbps), CPU Cores, Processor Type, Burst RAM & a load more.
Column Filtering: Click on a column to sort by that metric, a great way to sort anything ascending or decending.
Help Tooltips: Need help understanding what a particular metric is? We’ve added some help tooltips to show you.
We’ve still got a lot to do, we’ve validated the idea enough that we feel like we can continue to add value. Here’s some of the stuff we’ve got planned:
Uptime Benchmarks: We’re pretty far into this project at the moment & hope to have something rolled out in September. We currently have 10 redundant nodes which will monitor the uptime of multiple servers per datacenter per host (where possible). Reported downtime from 3 or more nodes to 1 or more servers will classify a particular host as down. We’ll have a leaderboard just like we have for everything else that will go into detail of outages.
Plan Information Pages: We’re building out individual pages for each hosting plan, this will provide more detail that ever before including benchmarks, locations, CPUs per server & location, uptime & heaps more.
Location Information: We assign GEOIP information to benchmarks, we’ll make it so you can see how plans benchmarked in different locations (so you know which location to choose).
Public Reports: At the moment you can’t see the reports for most of the benchmarks on the site, we summarise the data. Eventually we’ll allow reports to be public or private, if it’s public it’ll be browsable on the site.
WHMCS Plugin: We’re toying with the idea of a WHMCS plugin that’ll allow hosts to add uptime nodes & see their current status via WHMCS (plus a number of other features).
Partial Benchmarks: Were getting feedback that sometimes users don’t want to run the full benchmark, we’ll be rolling out the ability to choose particular parts of the benchmark eventually. if you just want to run a quick IO test or network test for example.
Without you guys giving us feedback & using the site then we’re just a fancy application with data. So from both John & myself we thank you for using us & giving us a reason to keep making ServerBear better.
Hosts: Benchmark your plans, share your reports with potential customers. Link to your reports from your website.
Users: Benchmark your current host, see how it stacks up. Don’t settle for poor performance!
Benchmark Your Host