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I've decided that it's time to get my own domain where I can nonprofessionally communicate on the web. More or less, I would like to set up a blog on a similar level as Coding Horror, and would probably use something easy like Wordpress.

I've set up many a site with generic, cheap web hosts and been disappointed. I am willing to spend a little money but am still very budget-conscious about the features I buy into.

The option that I've most closely been looking at is VPS from a2hosting, for example. They offer "128 MB Dedicated RAM (256 MB Burstable), 10 GB Disk Space, and 100 GB Monthly Data Transfer", with SSH access, for about $9 a month. Being a UNIX-capable person, I believe that it's important to have root access to some (virtual) server that runs your site. Also, I think that doing this is wise because while all sorts of vanilla hosting services have claims of unlimited traffic, they don't guarantee that a certain amount of RAM will be allocated to your site, or that you will have your own php process. Since it'll be a blog, I don't expect to push many GBs. But in case I did have popular content, I don't want to be embarrassed by the server going down because of low processor allocation.

But I'm second guessing myself, so my concerns are as follows:

  1. Certainly a vanilla web host might set me up with Wordpress and "unlimited" traffic for about half that price. Is it really worth having SSH/root access, or are the 5-minute Wordpress setups okay? (in other words, are my trust issues unwarranted?)
  2. Am I looking at a good web host provider? Will they scale if I grow popular?
  3. Is the "dedicated" RAM (only 128mb, but it's something) a real point of value relative to vanilla web hosting?
  4. I would have to sign up for an extended contract to get a good rate. Do you think that 10gb storage/100gb traffic will be a lot smaller than it is now in three years?

Remember that I really don't have huge requirements, just want a good-looking site. Thanks.

marked as duplicate by Jenny D, 87cd25770a, voretaq7 Jul 17 '13 at 16:35

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  • I am going to reiterate that I'm currently a student and have little cash. – Notmyfault Jul 3 '09 at 19:09
  • Please don't put (keywords) in the title. That's what tags are for. – Paul Tomblin Jul 3 '09 at 20:54
  • "As much as you need" - we have no way of determining that. If your requirements aren't substantial any host will probably suffice. – voretaq7 Jul 17 '13 at 16:36

I've hosted with a number of places, including putting my own hardware down at a colocation facility for thousands of dollars per month.

You stated that this is a non-professional/hobby site. That makes things easier for the simple fact that you're not mission-critical and if you pick a "bad host" you can simply move on.

There are several threads here that talk about hosting, etc. The short answer is:

Its all speculation, nobody knows who the "best" host is or what the "best" solution is. Only YOU can be the judge of that (obviously).

That being said... here are a couple places you can check out:

1and1.com - I've recommended them to several clients for small hobby sites. They seem to work fine and (in my personal experience) seem to have good uptime. Shell access is a bit limited but I haven't found it to be a huge deal breaker.

dreamhost.com - These guys seem to have a "good deal" running several times a year. There appears to be a 4th of July deal going on right now... a YEAR of unlimited web hosting for $9.24/year. I personally bought a 2 year deal a few months ago for around $20.00 and they've been a pretty decent little host. Shell access is pretty good but it is still shared hosting. That being said, I haven't had anyone on my box crush the server and bring me down so I think they're a GREAT place to start for the money and get your feet wet.

To answer your questions directly:

  1. There is ALWAYS going be me some sort of risk or trust issue with any shared hosting or any hosting where you are not 100% in control of the hardware. BUT... even when you are 100% in control of the hardware, if something is compromised its YOUR fault and YOUR fix. For a hobby site I'd just keep a good backup and purchase a nice cheap hosting package.

  2. If you get popular and need to scale you can THEN decide if you want to work with your existing host or if you want to move to a different (most likely more expensive) provider. If you become SUPER POPULAR you would probably want to get dedicated hosting or host on your own equipment. Personally, I'd cross that bridge when I come to it. ;-)

  3. Depending on what you're doing, 128mb RAM is probably plenty. We set up various small virtual machines all the time with 128mb and rarely need to bump them up. Once again, depends on what you're doing.

  4. Prices are dropping ALL THE TIME and I would predict that its only going to continue to get cheaper as time goes on. Perhaps this is a poor comparison but take a look at hard drive prices and CPU prices over the last 5 years. Bandwidth prices over the last 5 years have also been going down (at least in my area and most of my clients). I personally wouldn't lock myself into anything for 3 years unless the price was so dirt cheap that I could walk away and not care anyway (for example my 2 yrs with dreamhost for $20... who cares if I walk away and lose $20)?

Hope this helps. :-)

  • Holy cow. I had to bite on the $9.24/yr deal. Absolutely no risk at all. Looks like Google CO is taking care of the payment so I'm not worried about them knowing my vital numbers or scamming me. thanks – Notmyfault Jul 4 '09 at 0:29

The thing about your question 4 is that every VPS I've ever seen gradually increases RAM, HD and bandwidth over the years without increasing the cost. If you're lucky, it will match your own growing needs.

I used a VPS for a number of years, but finally gave up because there just wasn't enough memory for what I needed. If I had waited, I'd probably find the amount of RAM I needed then is now in the basic VPS packages. Instead, I bought a 1U box with 2 gigs of RAM, put a terabyte of hard disk in it, and set up 3 Xen partitions. The first one has 1 gig of ram and half the disk, and others have 512Mb of RAM and 250Gb of disk, and I rent them out for about half what I'm paying for the rack space. Works out nice for all of us, except when one of the renters decided to start bittorrenting something that HBO didn't want them bittorrenting.

  • So what you are saying is that I should find a nice guy like you and avoid corporate. Anybody matching Paul's offer? – Notmyfault Jul 3 '09 at 19:08

If all you're looking to do is write a blog, and use something like wordpress - why not set up a free blog on http://wordpress.com? It costs $15p.a. to point your domain to your blog, and if you want to customise the look & feel of one of the 30 or so templates it costs another $15(?) to edit the CSS.

When your site starts to take off and you're feeling a little flush you can export wordpress to some other hosting/VPS if you need it.

If you want to host the blog yourself because you want to play:

Are the 5 minute wordpress setups ok?

Yes. Make sure you can mod_rewrite so that your URLs are SEO-friendly though and Google for securing the installation too e.g. Matt Cutts'3 tips

  • You can see the dilemma. Wordpress offers a great service but $15 to change CSS is an insult. – Notmyfault Jul 3 '09 at 20:46
  • You change the CSS, and it costs you about half what what a VPS would charge you for one month. I'm not seeing that as so horrible. – Paul Tomblin Jul 3 '09 at 20:53
  • Went with standard hosting. But I thank a lot for the wordpress and apache tips – Notmyfault Jul 4 '09 at 0:30

Start on a VPS, host it through your own domain name. If it takes off, and you can get some money from it, you could migrate it to a dedicated box, then a server farm, then take over the world. Maybe not the last step though -- I'm only up to step 2 ;)

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