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Old 7th February 2009
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Default Running your own web server

Do any of you run and maintain your own web server? For a small to medium site (mostly a personal site) is it worth it or is it simpler to just go with commercial web hosting? Do you find that maintaining the server becomes a hassle?

I have a site (that will work if I ever finish writing the html) that is coming up for renewal. I am debating whether or not to remain with my web hosting company or to to host the site myself using dyndns. I currently have a spare PC that can be used for a server, so that's not an issue.

I did some quick calculations and the cost of my current hosting plan and the cost of just the electricity to run the server 24/7 (based on 50 watts usage - and 10 cents per kWh) comes out comparable.

On the one hand, I like the idea of hosting my own site and having it run on NetBSD (I don't know of that many - if any - commerical hosting that uses NetBSD) and having the learning experience, but I'm busy and I don't know how much maintenance is required (setting it up initially is fairly straightforward) and how much hassle keeping up with security would be.
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Old 7th February 2009
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I run my own server, but mainly because I had quite a few sites and seem to keep adding more, so it made sense for me. Electricity isn't bad, but I live in Arizona so I'm used to high energy bills (especially in the summer). I think it adds about $5 - $15 a month to my electric bill, depending on utilization. Most tasks are automated, all I do is log in and read my email every morning (have root mail forwarded to my account so I can view the nightly task outputs).

It all comes down to how much you're willing to put in to it. It can be rewarding, but when there are problems there is nobody to complain to but yourself, so keep that in mind.
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Old 8th February 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cajunman4life View Post
I run my own server, but mainly because I had quite a few sites and seem to keep adding more, so it made sense for me. Electricity isn't bad, but I live in Arizona so I'm used to high energy bills (especially in the summer). I think it adds about $5 - $15 a month to my electric bill, depending on utilization. Most tasks are automated, all I do is log in and read my email every morning (have root mail forwarded to my account so I can view the nightly task outputs).

It all comes down to how much you're willing to put in to it. It can be rewarding, but when there are problems there is nobody to complain to but yourself, so keep that in mind.
Thanks for the information. That's about what I figured for electricity (though, $15 would be a little on the high side). My hosting costs around $4 per month - but I'm going to have to upgrade to the $8 per month hosting because the economy plan doesn't include perl!

The site isn't anything that important - it's a personal site that I'll probably also use to host some of my own projects. I'll probably stay with the hosting company for at least one more year, but I'll also set up my own web server on my home network to practice and learn.


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Originally Posted by cajunman4life View Post
but I live in Arizona so I'm used to high energy bills (especially in the summer).
On a completely unrelated note: how hot does it get down there? I have relatives in New Mexico that I might visit and don't know if I should go in the summer? I've heard from others that it is a dry heat and so isn't that bad - is that true? Also, how are the killer bees?
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Old 8th February 2009
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On a completely unrelated note: how hot does it get down there? I have relatives in New Mexico that I might visit and don't know if I should go in the summer? I've heard from others that it is a dry heat and so isn't that bad - is that true? Also, how are the killer bees?
It depends where in AZ, and it matters a lot. The northern part of the state is temperate, and gets snow in the winter. Phoenix, on the other hand, is really, really hot. Tucson is a tad less so.

By "really hot" it means that starting in April or so the daytime temperatures exceed 100, and that does not let off until October. The summers during July and August are typically 105 during the day and 95 at night, give or take. Before this monsoon season, it gets hotter, but is more dry. Highs earlier are closer to 110, though it does get up to 120. You would not believe the intensity of the sun, and one is constantly thirsty.

It is dry, relatively speaking, but there is a lot of water and lawns in Phoenix that add water to the atmosphere. There's a lot of allergens these days too, since people have brought their favorite plants with them and they have grown. And pollinated.

Many people make their peace with it, the others leave again. Count me in the latter group. I found the heat oppressive.

Winters are pretty nice, but it is odd to have the nice weather when the days are so very short. It is also not unusual for it to freeze at night.
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Old 8th February 2009
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In my volunteer work in [SAS], I'm in a postion where I'm stuck with the webmaster detail, but have no control over the actual webserver at the hosting company. At home, I run Apache, MySQL, PHP, and Perl off an OpenBSD machine; but it is used internally only (development, testing, playful projects, etc). The amount of maintaince I've had to put up with post-setup, amounts to upgrading packages and the OS (for me, this happens every ~6 months).


In my personal opinion, webservers are one of the few things it actually pays to have hosted -- if you have a decent host that is, lol. If you can run one at home in a manor that is secure (and efficiant) enough for your needs/budget, feel free to give it a go; preferably before your renewal date passes by.
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Old 8th February 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrJ View Post
It depends where in AZ, and it matters a lot. The northern part of the state is temperate, and gets snow in the winter. Phoenix, on the other hand, is really, really hot. Tucson is a tad less so.

By "really hot" it means that starting in April or so the daytime temperatures exceed 100, and that does not let off until October. The summers during July and August are typically 105 during the day and 95 at night, give or take. Before this monsoon season, it gets hotter, but is more dry. Highs earlier are closer to 110, though it does get up to 120. You would not believe the intensity of the sun, and one is constantly thirsty.

It is dry, relatively speaking, but there is a lot of water and lawns in Phoenix that add water to the atmosphere. There's a lot of allergens these days too, since people have brought their favorite plants with them and they have grown. And pollinated.

Many people make their peace with it, the others leave again. Count me in the latter group. I found the heat oppressive.

Winters are pretty nice, but it is odd to have the nice weather when the days are so very short. It is also not unusual for it to freeze at night.
I lived in Tucson for 5 years. Unfortunately I had to relocate recently because I have a new job. Tucson has fantastic climate. It probably has over 330 sunny days a year. The temperatures are not exceeding 90 during the day from mid September till May. Nights are very cool due to the low humidity (less than 10%) which means that temperatures go down 30 degrees as soon as Sun comes down. May and June can be bad with day temperatures from 95-105 and humidity of about 25%-30%. Monsoon season usually starts around 4th of July and lasts until late August. It brings daily rainfalls and humidity of around 50%. The worst time in Tucson is right before the monsoon starts when the heat very high and temperatures remain high during the night due to the elevated humidity.
If you have enough money to live high in foothills of Mount Lemon Tucson it is nice year around.


Large portions of Phoenix are in depression (in the whole) so the heat is much worse and monsoon is much weaker. If you have money to live in Prescot things are not that bad.

Flagstaff is fantastic year around since it is 8000 ft above the see level. The same goes for White Mountains in the eastern part of the state.

Western desert (west of I-10) is inhumanly hot. The only larger town is
Yuma better known as the winter paradise and the summer hell. Even places around Lake Havasu are incredibly hot for about 5 month a year.
I am talking over 120 during the day.

New Mexico has fantastic climate especially north of Albuquerque, around continental divine and Rio Grande.

The worst climate of all Sun belt states (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado,
Utah and Nevada) has Nevada with exception of places around Lake Tahoe. The worst climate and shittiest city probably on the world at least of what I have seen so far (40 states of U.S. and about 60 other countries) is Las Vegas Nevada.
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Old 8th February 2009
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As someone who works for a webhosting company, I can tell you there are ups and downs to hosting with a provider. However, perhaps a VPS is something that would be a compromise... virtual private servers cost much less than dedicated servers and provide more flexibility than a shared hosting plan. Does your current hosting provider offer VPS?

However, if you are determined to host it yourself... why not?
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Old 8th February 2009
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Quote:
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perhaps a VPS is something that would be a compromise... virtual private servers cost much less than dedicated servers and provide more flexibility than a shared hosting plan
FWIW, that's what I do. Unlimited sites, unlimited email, physical and electrical security, no muss, not bother. It runs Linux, but I can live with that. About $15/mo.
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Old 8th February 2009
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Quote:
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The worst climate of all Sun belt states has Nevada with exception of places around Lake Tahoe.
OT: Tahoe is great, but you gotta love snow. Six to ten feet on the ground in the general area is not uncommon. Makes for great skiing, but everyday things can be a challenge. That's one reason I live an hour down the hill from there -- below the snow line, but above the valley fog.

Where are you now, OKO?
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Old 8th February 2009
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Quote:
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OT: Tahoe is great, but you gotta love snow. Six to ten feet on the ground in the general area is not uncommon. Makes for great skiing, but everyday things can be a challenge. That's one reason I live an hour down the hill from there -- below the snow line, but above the valley fog.

Where are you now, OKO?
We moved in August to up state South Carolina (Greenville) but we hate it. The only good thing is that kids are happy that we can now drive every 2-3 months to their grandmother who lives in Cleveland. We would move back West in a blink of an eye but it might not be possible until economy picks up a bit. Are you down in Reno on Nevada's side or you live in Sacramento?


@JMJ_coder
Running a web-server is trivial with right tools and little knowledge about security. Realistically speaking most people do not have the second one so they are better of paying host companies. From what you said your company is charging very reasonable fee. On the another hand
you should have in mind is that unless you have a physical control over
machines you really do not have real control of their content. Just see
what happened with BSD forums or Gentoo wiki. Make sure you have back ups.

I am surprised that nobody mention so far that one issues that people have when starting their own web-server is lack of the static IP address and their own domain. For most people using the services of DynDNS will
be as good as having a static address and paying for the domain name.
Normally Static address might cost $6-$60 more a month from your IP provider if they are available at all. In Arizona Qwest DSL was charging only $5.99 extra a month for fixed IP address. Over here is crazy. One has to get small business deal which is $100 a month (over $60 more than residential rate). Domain name last time I checked is about $10-$15 a year.

In summery, running own web-server is more expensive than what most people are paying to their host companies.
I like the advice you got from Al-danno very much. That is probably way to go.

Last edited by Oko; 8th February 2009 at 05:19 PM.
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Old 8th February 2009
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Quote:
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Are you down in Reno on Nevada's side or you live in Sacramento?
Between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. SC is different, and sorry it is not to your liking. NC might be better, as there is more business, stronger Universities and a more diverse population.
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Old 8th February 2009
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I too, run a little tiny home web server (along with a variety of other services) on OpenBSD. Since the box is a catch-all for many services, and runs 7/24, it makes economic sense for me to run web on it as well; in my case, web is mainly static pages plus one simple CGI app.
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Old 8th February 2009
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If you are going to choose VPS, the next logical question is "Who?" Because of my position, I won't name names, but look up about 4 or 5 well-googled places and then consider in choosing-

- price. Prices change so I won't name a dollar amount here, but it should be in line with your other compared hosts.

- backups. Ask them about their backup policies and procedures. Most important to know is the frequency of the backups and the process in restoring one (and if there is cost involved.) Then, test them. Whomever you sign with, within the first month ask them for a restore from backup. See if they can do it (some hosts lie about their capabilities) and how easy it is- if you aren't satisfied, leave them.

- connectivity. One of the plusses is supposed to be that they have multiple connections and low latency to where your potential audience would be. I know, everyone wants worldwide scope under 150ms (unrealistic), but how's the latency to their network from various domestic carriers? Goto ops.rogerstelecom.net (it's a looking glass) and perform traces and pings from the 20 or so carriers listed there (which have worldwide reach, but focus on US and Canada.) Then learn to use BGPlay, and see if they really do have redundant connections to the Internet (again, if they lie, this is one place they normally do it. A company that simply connects to ONE other company with multiple carriers is a sign of weak infrastructure, both in hardware and technical manpower. Robust companies don't outsource this kind of thing.)

- customer service. Every company has lackluster support resources (just being realistic here- you can be 'unhappy' anywhere), but do they at least have them 24/7? And can the frontline staff process backup/restore operations, or does that need to be escalated up the chain? Can you call them? How long does it take to answer an email request for a non-essential or essential item? Do they have live-chat?

- check the rumors. Go to webhostingtalk.com and see if there is any dirt on them- if they are large enough but notoriously horrible, you're bound to see a complaint or more about them here. And be sure to filter an angry immature poster's rant with a truly valid complaint. Some people rant, and some just tell it like it is.

- flexibility. Do they offer your platform- and are they flexible enough to allow you to put yours in place if they don't offer it per se? All VPS back-end infrastructures (VMWare, Xen, MS, etc.) can host *BSD technically, but some providers won't allow them if they aren't in a cookie-cutter ready-to-provision template, and others won't allow them if they don't have people that can support those platforms. Tell them up front that you want it UNmanaged, which gives you a slightly better chance that they may allow you to load up a non-templated BSD OS.

So I told you to do this with 4 or 5 well-Googled hits- once you've done that, you understand the landscape. Personally, I wouldn't go with one of the big boys that define the landscape. I'd take that knowledge and go to a smaller provider that is hungrier for your business- often you will find their customer support is actually GOOD and FRIENDLY and QUICK and SMART... large outfits don't know how to accomplish this without 14 departments. Also, smaller outfits are often much more flexible in their offerings- if a really large VPS provider gets 40 orders a day for pre-templated supportable platforms, why would they consider being flexible with you on *BSD? But a smaller provider with 3 or 4 orders a week (hopefully more than that though LOL, this is just to illustrate a point) is definitely going to consider *BSD even if it isn't a direct platform offering.

Hope this mini-guide helps- if it is helpful to anyone, I can republish it in the guides section.
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Old 10th February 2009
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Thanks everyone for all the suggestions. I've decided to totally abandon my current hosting company because I can't stand the parent company. But, I'm not going to host my web site myself -- I don't think I'm ready to take that plunge. I am going to switch companies. I've looked at a half dozen or so companies up close and I'm leaning heavily toward bluehost.

I'm still planning on running a web server (and maybe some other server software, like cvs) on my spare box so that I can have a learning experience, but with a commercial company I'll have that security of not being able to ruin my public website(s).
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Old 10th February 2009
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Quote:
I've looked at a half dozen or so companies up close and I'm leaning heavily toward bluehost.
My personal experiences with bluehost are so-so, it's not bad, but not great either ... I had an account for two years and the main thing is that the server I was on was pretty overloaded, which of course didn't do any good for the speed (bandwidth and execution).

It was good enough for my purposes though (Remote backup, some light file-sharing), the price is also good.
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Old 10th February 2009
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I use Westhost (also in Utah), and I've been pleased so far. They've been acquired by an English firm, but so far I've not noted any change in service. Our four web sites are not complicated, but they all are responsive and update easily.
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Old 10th February 2009
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I use Westhost (also in Utah), and I've been pleased so far. They've been acquired by an English firm, but so far I've not noted any change in service. Our four web sites are not complicated, but they all are responsive and update easily.
Thanks, I'll give them a look over.

I've viewed a lot of hosting companies. I looked at Dot5, which looks good, but the reviews were so consistently negative that I ruled them out.

Since I'm mildly environmentally conscious, I looked at some "green" hosting companies. Dreamhost claims such, but that is because they just buy credits. That's better than nothing, but not by much. Pair networks looks promising, but they are just priced out of my league (their bare bottoms package is not good enough for my needs). Thinkhost seemed like a good prospect, but the assault of popups annoyed me out of there! Go Green also looks promising, but I can't seem to find any reviews or such on them - though I'd still consider them if I could learn more.
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Old 11th February 2009
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No one has mentioned free web hosting services. There are a lot out there, and most are probably not very good, but are they all bad? For a smallish personal site, could one of those be a good choice? It would give a chance to check the quality before potentially upgrading. It's not something I've ever tried, just wondering what comments people have.
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Old 11th February 2009
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Free hosting services serve one goal- to entice you to eventually become a paid customer. They give you just enough to be 'hosted', but not enough to really do anything interesting- no, for that you have to pay for the service

So it's just a marketing tool. Free hosting is designed to not do things that they could get you to do by paying for it... or most people would just choose and stick with free hosting.

For fun, I even signed up for free Google hosting- I thought, "Google's big, they got their search and Gmail and Google Docs all together, this is probably awesome, too."
But I ran into so many problems with registration (and yes I other google services heavily) and getting other users added properly that things didn't work correctly (in their 'automated' systems) for a week and a half.

Welcome to free hosting.
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Old 12th February 2009
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No one has mentioned free web hosting services. There are a lot out there, and most are probably not very good, but are they all bad? For a smallish personal site, could one of those be a good choice?
If there IS, I have NEVER met someone who has found one ;-}
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