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How We Built the Industry’s Highest Performance SugarCRM Hosting Platform

by Bill Harrison on January 19, 2009

6 minute read

W-Systems has just rolled-out a new Performance Hosting Service for SugarCRM. In the coming weeks we'll be blogging about the new service and what makes it so cool. At the risk of talking too much about us and not enough about you, here's the background story on how and why we developed the service and what makes it unique.

Like many good ideas, this one developed out of a customer request. Last year one of our SugarCRM customers wanted to significantly improve CRM system performance. Their instance of Sugar is hosted on a dedicated server in a data center in Texas. But users are located primarily on the East Coast of the U.S. and in Europe. This made delivering consistent application performance a real challenge. Our client asked us to figure out how to make Sugar run faster and more consistently. We figured there would be some small opportunities for improvement but frankly, we didn't expect to see huge gains.

We were wrong.

It turns out that huge performance improvements were accomplished simply by customizing the configuration of the SugarCRM server to meet the specific needs of this customer. We also investigated some innovative ways of delivering content to European sites using content delivery networks. When we finished this project, our customer was experiencing 50% to 100% improvements in response times on typical CRM tasks. We were thrilled with the results and so was our customer.

Virtual Private Servers

But in the following months, we started thinking about other ways to make Sugar run faster. We became a little obsessed with the topic as we investigated server tweaks, third-party software add-ons, alternate hardware configurations, and myriad other schemes for making Sugar perform better. We looked at different hardware options from the major hosting providers but weren't impressed. Some of the largest hosting providers with the best reputations had average or poor performance stats. And their prices were typically some of the highest in the industry. So we set out to find a commercial data center that could deliver flexible server configurations, outstanding performance, and enterprise-grade security and reliability. We searched and we searched. And after lots of testing and experimenting, we were thrilled to find a commercial data center that offered virtual private servers that were high performing, easy to manage, and based on state-of-the art technology. If you are not familiar with server virtualization, a virtual private server (VPS, also referred to as Virtual Dedicated Server or VDS) is a method of partitioning a physical server computer into multiple servers such that each has the appearance and capabilities of running on its own dedicated machine. Each virtual server can run its own full-fledged operating system, and each server can be independently rebooted.

We like virtual private servers for web-based applications like SugarCRM because they offer a great balance of high performance and low cost. With a hardware platform based on quad-core processors and RAID10 storage, we had the foundation to deliver SugarCRM better, faster, and cheaper than just about anyone. It was looking like this project would result in a great business opportunity for W-Systems.

And so we decided to roll out our own Performance Hosting Service for SugarCRM.

Faster Performance

But we didn't stop there. With a solid hardware foundation in place, we redoubled our efforts to squeeze as much performance as possible out of SugarCRM. We deployed PHP accelerators, HTTP compression and caching, and tested a variety of other technologies, including caching proxy servers and content delivery networks.

After several months of work, we were able to double or triple the performance of our in-house instance of SugarCRM. In the late fall we moved our hosted customers to our new hosting infrastructure that was custom-tuned for SugarCRM. Right away they benefited from the performance improvements, as well.

Flexiple VPS Sizing

Next, we expanded our virtual private server offerings so that customers could purchase any size virtual server they need. And we made sure the appropriate management tools were in place to upgrade a customer easily to a new, larger (or smaller) virtual server within a few hours of an order being placed. We wanted customers to be able to move between server sizes at any time and with no deployment or upgrade fees so that customers can be confident they will always have the server they need and won't be spending more than is necessary.

Beefed-Up Data Security

We also developed a menu of enhanced services to go along with our CRM hosting plans. These include backup services, redundant servers, and hot-standby configurations. We knew customers need to feel that their data is safe 100% of the time, so we established a relationship with a commercial data center located more than 1,000 miles from our primary center. Then we developed an automated offsite backup service that sends daily backup's to our alternate facility. And since this whole process is automated, we can offer it very inexpensively, typically less than $100 per month for an average-size CRM system.

We now have a very comprehensive hosted application service that can meet the needs of just about any enterprise, regardless of its size or complexity. And we can deliver SugarCRM quickly and securely around the globe for organizations with highly distributed user groups.

We are continuing to enhance our SugarCRM Performance Hosting service. In the coming weeks and months, look for more performance enhancements to make Sugar run faster, plus additional value-added services.

Do you have feedback on our hosting service? Features you'd like to see? Kudos or criticisms? Please feel free to post a response.

W-Systems has updated it’s hosting offerings since the original publication date of this blog post. To learn more about our cloud hosting, click here.

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