Should You Self-Host Your Blog or Website?

Two 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.

Self-Hosting

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).

Shared Hosting

I had one website hosted at DiscountASP.net.  The website was originally written in ASP, but I’ve since rewritten the site in an html/css/JavaScript site generated by Perl templates.

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.

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.

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.  Refreeshingly, they offer Gentoo.

So far, the virtual image has only gone down when I rebooted the image.  I can highly recommend RackSpace.

Conclusion

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.

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