Find the True Speed of Your Website

When running a website from a home server, viewing it locally will make it seem that the site is responding lightning fast and there are no issues. But what about the outsiders wanting a look at your content, are they getting the same performance? Chances are they are not, as a visitor’s machine needs to negotiate the internet and its equivalent of back streets and country roads to get to the home server’s location.

Where a home server can differentiate greatly from hosted solutions is the speed and relative location on the net. Visitors who view a website relies on the upstream connection at the server end to receive the content, and when this is via domestic internet connection the upstream can much smaller than the heavily advertised downstream connection. So it’s worth checking the theoretical upload speed to establish what kind of service and content can be served.

Viewing your website on a local network compared to the internet.
Viewing your website on a local network compared to the internet.

In terms of location, hosting companies are as close to the internet backbone as feasibly possible to get the best speeds and lower latency. The backbone of the net is handled by major operation companies that handle the bulk of all internet traffic between countries and continents, these in turn have datacentres where the traffic from countries are trunked to the different internet providers and down to the end user. As data makes its way from the backbone to the end user, it can hop between different servers as it meanders towards the final destination. For each hop the networking equipment has to read where to send it on, and route it on the right path. This all takes time, even though it is measured in milliseconds, an extended number of hops and the volume of data packets needed may produce a noticeable wait for a user to see the desired page.

All home user’s computers need deal with negotiating its way through the service providers’ local infrastructure to get to most sites, but when visiting a site hosted on a home server, data may need to navigate another service providers’ network to reach the site. This is where visitors may experience slower loading times compared to mainstream sites.
So how to tell if your home hosted website will be speedy when out in the wild? There’s a few different ways to check:

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Raspberry Pi Torrent Server – From Scratch

As requested, this is a guide to taking a Raspberry Pi and turning it into an always on Torrent box, complete and self-sufficient with its own mass storage meaning it needs no help from other computers. Also, as the Pi consumes such little power compared to a full desktop PC, money can be saved by using the Pi for overnight transfers while other computers can remain off.


For this project I recommend a RPi 2, as its powerful enough to perform the transfers up to its maximum 100Mbps network speed, and is a cheaper choice since the RPi 3 superseded it last year. To get started, you need the following hardware:

  • Raspberry Pi 2 board.
  • Micro USB wall adaptor – Needs to be capable of 2Amp output.
  • Micro SD card – Minimum of 8GB, class 6 or above, plus SD adaptor for connecting to a PC.
  • USB Portable Hard drive – USB powered is preferred, I use a Toshiba Canvio Basics 1TB.
  • Ethernet Cable – And spare port on the modem/router for internet connection.
  • A PC – On the same network as the Pi for connection and configuring.

The Pi was designed to as low cost as possible to the user, so apart from the Pi board you may already have everything to run a Pi, and if not these are cheap and easily available online.

With a RPi 2 at hand, let’s get started…

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2 Servers, 1 UPS

2 Servers, 1UPSWith the new server up and running it seemed fitting to connect it to my UPS, and thanks to the low power consumption of the HP Microservers I still get around 40 minutes of battery only time with both servers running before the UPS runs out of juice.

Unfortunately, the UPS in use only has one monitoring port which is connected to my original server, meaning during a spell of prolonged power outage, the new server will not know when to shut down safely and will continue to run until the UPS runs out of battery supply, leaving it vulnerable to data corruption that affected the original server prior to battery backup.

But with a simple script and some setup both servers can shut down safely before the batteries run out.

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New Server

My trusty HP Microserver N36L has been ticking along nicely for years with Windows 2003 at the helm, but with support for 2003 coming to an end an alternative was needed.

Recently I have been using Amazon EC2 cloud services for all my website hosting, new customers to the service get a 12 months free teir1.micro instance with myself opting for Windows Server 2012 R2 as my OS, and I’ve taken up this offer since October last year when an extended spell of server woes left me unable to serve websites.

A caveat with the free EC2 instance is the billing process, while the instance is free you have to pay attention to what is included as part of the offer, network usage, hard drive capacities and security keys are subject to charge over certain thresholds, so be aware.

With the trail due to expire in a few months I preferred to avoid an ongoing monthly cost and bring website hosting back to my own server, but not my current server as I didn’t want a box that served the web as well as store all my personal files. The logical conclusion was to get a new server.

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Want A Faster Network? Check Your Cables

I have been running Gigabit Ethernet on my network for a few years, the speed from my everyday laptop was good enough at 40MBps but wasn’t running close to capacity when moving large files to the server, I assumed that this was down to the 5400rpm Hard Drives on the laptop not being able to fill the bandwidth on the network.

Recently while shopping for network cables to connect my new server I though it time to get a new line for the laptop since the plug clip on the current one was broken. I decided to go for Cat 6 cables just to keep up to date and nowadays there is not such a price premium over Cat 5e.

The first transfer of data through the new cable and instantly got 70MBps, nearly double the 40MBps I was getting before. Wondering why there was such a difference I looked at the replaced cable:

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Why I hate the cloud!

Call me cynical, but I’ve always hated “the cloud”, maybe it was due to my love of personal servers that a person (me) would have complete control over. Or maybe that it was the fact that you have to essentially hand over all your data, user base, posts, comments etcetera over to a third party company that unless you comb through the terms and conditions, can do what they like with it.

My first venture into this came about before it was even called “the cloud”, I was setting up a guestbook system to work on my otherwise static only website, this meant signing up to one of those “guestbook websites” such as Html Gear, which later became part of Lycos. In those days of 2001+ my biggest bugbear was the adverts that always accompanied a free guestbook setup.

Even though the static web pages I created with links to guestbook sites have long past, I have enjoyed reminiscing the past posts on the guestbook of my creations, made possible only by looking through the backups of old websites and extracting the obscure URL from the HTML.

Alas, on my recent nostalgic trip of past websites I was met by this handy message:

So my data has gone?
So my data has gone?

Thanks I thought, my piece of data that I thought would carry me till my twilight years has been suddenly ripped from my heart. A bit dramatic, but that’s what I thought.

Travelling back to early 2001, I simply didn’t have the resource to host a guestbook locally, whether it be with hosted solutions that did not allow dynamic code (remember Geocities), or my own first home server that did not have the power to process code without time-outs.

Since then I quickly learnt to try my best at hosting forums (the then next step after guestbooks) locally on my own server, free to dispose of the data as I wish. In the years that follow I realise it may be a pain to find/write the code to display the data as it was, but I will always have that data close to me, free to read the raw database and exercise my nostalgia.

Furthermore, this event takes me back to when me and my peers used a service called MSN Groups, those of you that remember the acronym MSN assume that it is now doomed. It is, with all of our social commentary and all photos since deleted “cos it’s on MSN so we don’t need to keep our own local copy”.

Be warned, the cloud may be a quick, cheap and easy alternative to learning things properly, but rest assured the data you create WILL NOT be around forever, or even long enough for you to get bored of it.

If you run a website where you are dealing with data, guestbook, forums etc. Get your own server! Or least a service that allows you to pull all the data to a local copy.

Major Internet Outage

Last week my websites suffered their first major outage since I got my new server in April 2011. Luckily it wasn’t the server itself, but twas the internet connection that let me down.

I took delivery of a Netgear FVS318N router to replace a basic hub, installed it and did a bit of cable management which involved unplugging my Sagem F@st 2504 that I use as a modem.

However upon powering up the Sagem after tidying cables, it has no life, apart from this strange arrangement of light on the front:

Power Supply failure on Sagem F@st 2504
Power Supply failure on Sagem F@st 2504

I called Sky (my ISP) support who happily informed me that there is a common issue with the power supply to the Sagem router that caused them to fail. Wanting to get back on the net immediately and conversation about a replacement power supply giving vague delivery lead times, I opted to purchase the new Sky branded router (dubbed the Sky Hub):


The outage lasted 5 days as I waited for delivery of the new modem. An annoyance of this is that I had a spare, working ADSL modem but this could not be used as Sky does not give out the credentials to log on to their network, instead choosing to pre-load them on the modem before shipping.

Overall its an example of the unexpected issues that can arise when running a home server on a budget.


It has been mentioned in many Sky internet forums that using an unapproved Sky router, i.e. one not supplied by Sky, will be in breach of the Terms & Conditions. However whilst on the phone to Sky broadband technical support the representative told me that it was acceptable to use a 3rd party router if the user was confident and acknowledged that no support would be given unless a Sky provided router was used.

The case may be that you still need to hand over the cash to Sky for one of their routers and keep it to hand, but after that the choice is yours!


Welcome to the blog of James Batchelor!

This blog is here mainly to accompany my other website over at There you have a guide to building, setting up and enjoying your own personal home server, while any updates and new tricks I learn from the net will appear here.

Apart from that, this blog will also house my usual ramblings about the world and just what I find absolutely absurd about it.

Feel free to check in, maybe you will find something interesting and new, but probably, you will work out how different we really are.