Several years ago, I started an experiment to see if self-hosting would be better than shared hosting for some of my websites. I promptly split my websites between self-hosted, shared hosting, and a managed WordPress service. I also tested out Amazon’s EC2 service, and RackSpace.
Self-hosting is by far the cheapest way to go. You are probably already paying for an internet connection, so why not use it?
I setup a mac mini as the web server and served up several static websites over my DSL line. I can’t express how much I like having full control, and the ability to fiddle with the system to improve performance. I could also see automated hacking attempts flood in all over the world (but mostly from China).
However, when Qwest was bought out by CenturyLink, I started having problems. I had a few DSL outages, then the billing issues started. They stopped sending me billing notices and terminated my automatic debit for my naked DSL connection.
By far the worst DSL outage I had was a day and a half, where the fix was to reset my DSL modem to factory settings and setup the DSL modem from scratch. Second worst outage I had was the result of a power outage while I was on vacation in Florida (the mac mini won’t automatically restart after a power failure).
Conclusion: Self-hosting isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
My experience with them mirrors my experiences with other low cost shared hosting providers — you are put on an overtaxed server with very little memory and disk space and reliability is an issue. For the first year, the site would go down about once a month.
On a side note, shared hosting does NOT affect your Google search ranking, but response time will.
Conclusion: Shared hosting is not for me.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Next, I setup an instance on Amazon Web Services. Since I am an existing customer, I couldn’t get the one year free tier. After setting up an instance, my first month’s bill was roughly $60, then $102. Experiment over.
Conclusion: AWS is too expensive.
RackSpace Cloud Hosting
Finally, I tried RackSpace Cloud Hosting (formerly SliceHost). RackSpace offers a service similar to Amazon’s EC2 service, complete with on demand provisioning of systems. Refreshingly, they offer Gentoo.
So far, the virtual image has only gone down when I rebooted the image. I can highly recommend RackSpace.
If you are building an SAS application and don’t have any customers or traffic, I would recommend shared hosting. Most likely, the hosting provider will have a bigger pipe to the internet and power backup. It will also be cheaper than a dedicated setup or even a virtual machine.
There is no reason to spend a lot of money until you start getting some traction.
Thereafter, I’d step up to a virtual host and finally, if I was making money I’d opt for a dedicated server.