Should I Choose a Host With More Servers?

Intac's Server Infographic

Few hosts will readily admit how many servers they have. But this recent infographic from Intect gives us some idea.

Intec made an educated guess as to the number of servers used by 15 of the biggest companies in the industry.

The numbers are based on estimates from Data Center Knowledge and provide an intriguing clue as to the scale of some hosting companies’ data centers.

Remember: the size of a hosting company is no guarantee of quality, but knowing these numbers can help you put things in perspective.

How Big Are The Biggest Companies?

The largest company on the Intec list was Google. It has an estimated 1 million servers – maybe more.

Intel, the next largest competitor, is thought to have 100,000 servers. Facebook has an estimated 30,000 servers in operation.

How Big Are The Biggest Hosts?

In terms of web hosting companies, 1&1 Internet is the clear leader with an estimated 70,000 servers. OVH is thought to have 65,000, and Rackspace (including Rackspace Cloud) is estimated to have more than 56,000 servers.

The Planet has just over 48,000; it provides data center facilities to HostGator.

Other popular web hosts on the list include Softlayer (21,000), Apple’s iWeb (10,000) and Peer1 plus Serverbeach (about 10,000 between them).

Note: Many of the better-known big hosts or companies were not included in the list; there’s no data on Microsoft, Amazon (including its S3/ CloudFront service), GoDaddy or Yahoo! Web Hosting.

Does the Number of Servers Matter?

Perhaps not.

Server numbers can only tell you so much. Computer specifications vary wildly, and not all servers should be considered equal.

More powerful servers may not be the best option, either.

Google is known to buy cheap, expendable servers so they can be replaced without huge expense. Its philosophy is this: replacing inexpensive servers provides better uptime and reliability than buying fewer costlier machines.

If that’s the case, Google’s network of cheap servers is not going to be thirty times more powerful than Facebook’s network, despite being thirty times larger.

Also, consider how servers are used.

  • Google’s network powers its own tools and websites, including its search engine. At The Planet, servers handle millions of sites on a shared hosting platform.
  • Companies that specialize in dedicated hosting, such as Peer1, could have a 1-to-1 ratio of server to sites; shared hosts will allocate one server to thousands of sites.

This makes comparison very difficult.

Does Size Mean Security?

In general, companies that have more servers are better equipped to cope with hardware failure. If a server or other piece of networking equipment fails, larger hosts will usually have more parts, more staff and more resources for a quick fix. This exactly why Google uses huge numbers of servers.

Should I Care About Server Numbers?

It’s interesting to note how many servers a company has, especially when you consider the environmental impact of running all of these servers 24/7.

It may make you think about your own choice of hosting company. Green Web hosting is becoming more prominent as companies look to be more eco-friendly.

As a customer looking to buy hosting, size doesn’t always matter. Other factors, such as location and customer satisfaction ratings, are almost always more important.

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