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I am kind of having a hard time making a server decision. I will be setting up a server which will drive a very small, information only, website (maybe 10 visitors a day) as well as provide a private webapp for the business owner. This webapp will be used by the owner only, and will have a MySQL database backend with a web frontend. It will be relatively basic from a database perspective. What I am getting at is that the hardware requirements for the server are very very minimal. A low-end tower computer will easily run the website/webapp.

So here's my question: Is it better to purchase the server outright or run everything through an online Cloud service such as Amazon's EC2/EBS?

There are pros and cons to each solution, but I am having difficulty deciding.

Any thoughts?

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To give you some perspective, I run a pretty similar system internally on an old Pentium 3 box. That was all that was available at the time and because it handles the load so easily I have never bothered to replace it. –  John Gardeniers Jul 28 '11 at 21:27
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4 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

You are neglecting a significant segment of the market: Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting.
This has many of the pros and cons of both types of hosting (It's on hardware owned by the provider, and is not dedicated, but you typically have full control over the environment, right down to picking the OS. Redundancy is usually not as good as cloud services though that varies from provider to provider depending on how they implement their VPS solution).

Ultimately this is not a choice anyone on SF can make for you - You need to speak to several providers in each space (Dedicated server, VPS, Cloud) and compare cost/benefit information between the three classes of hosting. The one with the best overall package that meets your needs should be the one you go with.

Depending on your situation you may also consider traditional shared hosting like @sysadmin1138 mentioned as well (this may be substantially cheaper depending on the provider, but I neglect it in my consideration because you give up a lot of control over the environment when you go this route).

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Wow, I had never explored the VPS option. This looks very promising. Thanks for the tip! I'm semi-new to running services/servers in the cloud and the VPS solution seems like a great (and simple!) way to go. –  Garfonzo Jul 28 '11 at 21:42
    
I use Dreamhost for multiple small sites and they have proved reliable and responsive. –  sreimer Jul 28 '11 at 21:47
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Agree with voretaq7, just go with a VPS from Rackspace Cloud, Slicehost (also Rackspace now) or Linode. You can get nightly snapshots for a modest bump which gives you a measure of "backup". (It's not backup per se as it's all or nothing but at least if you rm -rf / you can restore to last night's backup and you can also take an ad hoc snapshot before you roll out changes.) –  HTTP500 Jul 28 '11 at 21:48
    
jasondbecker - This is sounding more and more like a perfect solution. I will likely be setting up many more of these webapps, each must be private from each other, and each will only have around 5-10 people using them at a time (ie: small loads). Having individual VPS instances will be brilliant. –  Garfonzo Jul 28 '11 at 21:56
    
i also can recomend u hetzner.de vps server. they are very powerfull for thoose tiny cost. i nto like rackspace, it have low power, but have a option of fast migration to more powerfull one. linode is also nice, but more costly then hetzner. probably no sence use some "small company" or "very cheep" VPSes, becuase in most cases they give much less cpu power/bandwidth. –  arheops Jul 28 '11 at 23:26
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Honestly this sounds like something perfect for a small local web host not too concerned with storage or bandwidth. I host sites similar to what your describing for my clients and, as long as they don't go nuts on storage or bandwidth, usually charge 15 to $20 monthly. So if you can find someone like me local to you I'd say thats probably a better option than hosting it yourself.

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Keep in mind that for something like AWS the inelastic cost is the number of hours the server is running, the elastic costs are data-transfer and data-storage. Depending on how much server you need, it may not be that much less than going with old fashioned shared-hosting.

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Apart from the sheer fun of setting up and using a VMware Server guest for hosting a production app (these things are awesome, I use 3 or 4 of 'em internally for all kinds of services), you can move them around from computer to computer as if they were a word document.

VMware Server is free.

The guests barely take any resources if you can keep them small. I have NetBSD running on 64 megs, running with 22 processes and 0% 0% 0% cpu utilization, with 20 SMTP clients using it.

Give it a try, if you have a system with some spare capacity, and if you want to keep the server separated from the main network, create a separate subnet!

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