My Hosting Conundrum

I’ve had the fortune of hosting some extra sites on my little Rackspace Cloud Server over the past couple of months, and now I’m starting to run into the limitations of running many sites on a single VPS. Bandwidth has now doubled for the past two months, and it is time to look for something a little better.

So, I thought I’d take some time to look around and see what is available. I first started looking at other VPS providers to see who else was out there after being with Rackspace and have settled on Linode as my next provider if I go the route of switching to a larger VPS to handle the new demand.

However, I’ve always had the idea of hosting my own stuff on real servers (as opposed to the virtual goodness of VPSs). For that, I have really two options: co-location or hosting at home.

To start, I’m fully aware of the problems that can arise from hosting only my own bare-metal hardware. We do it at work, so I have a little experience doing it, even though Mr. Spike happens to handle most/all of the sysadmin duties on campus. So it comes down to these factors:

  • price
  • service level
  • distance for emergencies

Co-location

This can get expensive, especially when I’m only looking at hosting maybe a server or two for a while. It becomes less of an issue when you are talking about someone at the size of 37signals working to get the most out of their applications, but that’s a laughable idea at this stage. I’m just trying to host some websites on a server, not serve hundreds of thousands of customers each day … yet (cue laughter).

How expensive? For a 5 Mbps dedicated connection for 1/3 rack (14U, lockable) I’m looking at about $715/month.

Right.

That’s not going to work at all. That price is currently WAY out of my league, even if I hope to get there one day. Add to the fact that the closest place I can get space at is over a half-hour away, and it becomes a little more of an issue.

There are huge advantages, like redundant connections to the world wide web, an actual data center where the rack is stored, 24/7 staffing at the facility, etc. However, as of right now, it is way to much to pay.

Maybe one day.

Home Hosting

Probably the craziest idea, but one the DIYer in me likes the most. I have to temper that part of me so that I don’t make any rash decisions.

Price per month is a little more realistic, even if the initial costs would be MUCH higher. Here is just a basic list of what I would need to find before I could even begin:

  • server rack
  • UPS
  • network switch
  • firewall

That doesn’t include running cable through my basement for purchasing the server hardware. Needless to say, I’d be on the hook for quite a bit of money just to get started.

The connection would not be redundant, but at about $100/month I can have a 22 Mbps down/5 Mbps up connection to my house. Granted, that connection would (at least at the beginning) be shared between the hosting network and my home private network, but that would mostly affect the down speeds (but is something to be aware of).

However, no raised floors here, no 24/7 staffing (since I work full time away from home), and no industrial strength fire suppression system, climate control, or power failover.

However, per month cost is about 1/5 that of co-location. That’s a major difference. Even on the high end of providing what I need to get started, after just three months I’ve already made up the difference in startup costs between co-location and home hosting.

The other major advantage would be the distance I need to travel. It would be my basement. On any normal day, I’m no more than 5 minutes away for an emergency. However, when I’m away from home, there is no one else on-call to come and fix things.

All things to think about.

So what’s the decision?

For now, I’m sticking with VPSs. The plan, for now, is to switch to Linode before the end of the year and then move up over there. As the bandwidth usage increases, Linode becomes more and more reasonable in comparison to Rackspace (they are comparable otherwise, if even a little cheaper to start).

The reasons? Money. I don’t have the money to get home hosting started, and not nearly the customers I would need to justify the $700+/month price to co-locate my servers in a data center. So, I’ll run with a VPS for now and see what the future holds.

Along with that, I still plan on contacting my ISP to ask if I can get a static IP or two to just use for a test server at home and maybe an email server as well. If they don’t allow that, oh well, no love lost, but it is worth a shot.

I’ll hopefully have more to post on that in the future because it also relates to my backup situation as well.

7 Replies to “My Hosting Conundrum”

  1. Why can’t you just find some shared host reseller plan that support RoR and then you don’t have to worry about anything and it’ll be cheap? But I really no nothing about RoR, or your business so you probably do have reasons for more expensive VPSs.

    1. Good question.

      RoR really calls to have complete control over the stack because of how quickly updates to the framework can come, and a lot of times shared hosts use something old and out of date. If I would use anything, it might be Heroku.

  2. Hey Bob,

    I might have some small (more portable) server racks that we are no longer using for broadcasting, if and when it comes to that. Possibly can get you a good deal on it, if it’s what you are looking for. As for firewall, would something like the Astaro security gateway free home edition work for this situation? I’m not sure what the home license allows, but it might be something to look into.

    1. That might work in the future, I’ll be sure to let you know if I’m looking for anything.

      As far as firewall goes, I’d be using pfSense to handle anything I need, would just need to get a decent-enough 1U server to set it in and I’d be good from there.

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