McGill Guide: Server Hosting

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Another option is to have NCS host your physical server for you in one of McGill’s two datacenters – either downtown in Burnside or at the MacDonald Campus. Although the documentation mentions virtual servers as well, it isn’t clear what this means in relation to the VM. In practical terms, it’s for actual physical servers which mean 24/7 monitoring and support. The Data Hosting Service is governed by a SLA with NCS.

This means giving over your machine to NCS, and hooking it up inside the data centre on a server ‘rack’. This has several advantages, including access to SAN or Storage Area Network, a way of adding disk space to networked machines – so you probably could buy your own server, then add more disk space, if needed, from NCS’s own resources, for a fee.

As with other options, NCS operates using a SLA or through an established fee schedule. Network connection fees to the server, set up etc. are all costs involved in hosting, as well as monthly network fees. Two port speeds are available – 100 MBps and 1 GBps.
The full list of fees is contained within the request form at

It is important to note that as of August 2009, there is insufficient space in the Burnside Data Centre to house additional machines. In all likelihood this means using the MacDonald Centre, which has a fibre connection to the downtown campus. For all practical purposes, there is no computing difference other than ease of physical access to the machine.

Many departments use this service, as to large research projects, in particular CFIs.

In some instances clients have SLAs with NCS for server admin, incurring additional cost and fees for technical support. NCS will also arrange purchase of a server for you, again for a fee. These additional tasks are governed by separate SLAs.

Some issues to consider:
Initial cost of the server.
Recurring costs.
SLA might involve similar authentication issues with the VM and VHost programs since McGill uses LDAP (ie mcgill user IDs) for server admin purposes.
Consider usage – which connection will provide enough bandwidth for your activities? 100MBps should be fine for websites, though 1GBps is better for handling large images and video files etc.

Most flexible McGill option since clients own the hardware and simply pay for the connection to the McGill network.
Servers can be backed up on tape.
Few limitations on content management systems, software / packages, modules etc.

You must provide the server yourself – buying a server is not an easy process if you are unfamiliar with the market.
Requires a skilled server administrator to be of much use. Servers must be configured and maintained on a continuing basis, this is not something a regular computer user can normally do. Server Administrators can be costly and are in high demand.
Limits on physical space in McGill Data centres might be a problem for some users.

Ideally for:
Well-funded research teams or departments with data-intensive research.

All audiences – servers can host both private and public information, as well as systems that can manage individual user content etc.