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I'll be honest, I have no experience when it comes to servers, so this is probably going to be a very easy question.

Anyways, I've had a web server for the past 6 months or so. The problem is that it only responds to queries made through PHP from a web browser. I'm trying to figure out what kind of server I would need to rent that would allow me to have programs running perpetually, such as a program that checked a website for change every hour.

What exactly would that be? I've seen the term "dedicated server" tossed around, mainly with video games. And it looks like a dedicated server is around $90 a month to rent, which is much higher than I'd like to pay.

Am I right that I need a dedicated server, and should I expect the cost to be much, much, higher than a normal web host, even if I only want to use it for simple, low bandwidth, personal projects?

Thanks.

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I think what you're looking for is a systems administrator... –  womble Dec 31 '09 at 0:20
    
or you could have a look at some of the thousands of beginner level tutorial sites. –  John Gardeniers Dec 31 '09 at 1:31
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closed as too localized by Mark Henderson Jan 22 '12 at 19:33

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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You could get a VPS which is a Virtual Private Server or a Dedicated Server as you say (www.ovh.co.uk charge me $20/month for my dedicated).

A Dedicated Server is basically a PC, somewhere in a rack, in a hosting centre, which you have full control over. A VPS is a virtual machine (rather than physical) that you have full control over.

This has good and bad points.

The good side is that you have complete and full control over your machine and all of the software that is installed and running there.

The downside is that you have complete control over the entire machine, and are therefore much more active within the Administration roll.

Rather than just being given somewhere to upload files that then gets hosted, you will need to install an OS (or atleast manage one installed by the hosting provider) and then set up, configure and manage a web server program on top of this. If you want to have SQL databases, then you need to install and configure some sort of SQL server, etc.

A lot of the cheap hosting providers (eg dreamhost iirc) give you web access to a CRON panel, which is the program usually used to schedule jobs, so that might be a way around it.

Failing that, you could always have your box at home access a special url on your webserver which sets off your scheduled job.


If you're not hosting anything especially critical, then setting up your own web server in a production environment is an immensely educational and fun and very frustrating thing to do; but it is well worth doing.

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Maybe you could describe a bit more what you want to do on this new server.

Simple tasks like checking a website for changes every hour are usually not done by programs that run all the time. Instead a tool like cron (included with every linux server) allows you to run a script or program at a certain interval, such as every hour. People use cron for all kinds of automation. This may be what you need.

Also, describe a bit more about your current server. Something you run at home, or a shared hosting account?

If you need more features than a shared hosting account, which I'll asume you have, the next step up is a Virtual Private Server (VPS). It's like a dedicated server, but shared by more people than just you. To all users the VPS appears to be a private dedicated server, hence the 'virtual' private server name. VPS accounts go pretty cheap these days. $10/mth should get you a good basic account, for example at http://www.gandi.net/hosting/ or others, but cheaper ones can also be found.

A dedicated server is a physical server that is used by you alone. Usually this is overkill and only needed for high-traffic sites, or people with specific needs. They're pricey.

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