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December 19, 2005 12:24 PM   Subscribe

Where's a good place to get cheap Unix or windows hosting, meaning a server that I have root/Administrator access too? I don't need much bandwidth, but most of the deals out there that give you admin rights are high bandwidth and high cost.

I'm just looking for something to play around with and put up personal services. I guess I'd prefer Linux. Anyone know of any good deals for something like this? A virtual server would be fine, as long as it had it's own IP and I could run whatever I wanted.
posted by delmoi to Computers & Internet (43 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Cheap meaning less then $300/yr, and the cheaper the better
posted by delmoi at 12:25 PM on December 19, 2005

Best answer: Sounds like you're looking for a linode. Shop around.
posted by seinfeld at 12:34 PM on December 19, 2005

Best answer:
I believe all of these run $20 or less. No personal experience.
posted by SpookyFish at 12:46 PM on December 19, 2005

The cheapest solution is to roll your own. I'm assuming you already have some sort of broadband access. Spend the 300 on a cheap box, season it with a flavor of linux you prefer. Go buy a domain and host it with a dynamic dns provider. The provider usually provides a script to update your entries should your isp change your address at any point in the future.

Be warned however that this can get into problems should you put up a page that becomes massively popular overnight. For experimentation and personal email though, your ISP will probably not care at all. If you want more detailed advice, feel free to send me an email.
posted by cmfletcher at 12:51 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: The cheapest solution is to roll your own. I'm assuming you already have some sort of broadband access.

I've gone down that rout before, and I definitely don't want to do it again. If I do come up with anything popular, it becomes a huge burden for me to deal with the server. Or if the hardware dies, or etc, etc, etc. Plus my internet connection isn't that reliable right now.
posted by delmoi at 1:06 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: w00t. that's definetly what I'm looking for. Keep 'em comming if anyone knows any better deals :)
posted by delmoi at 1:12 PM on December 19, 2005

Best answer: I'm using linode right now. I would stay away from jvds. Prior to being jvds they were, they sold me a couple of hosting accounts, were aquired and then shut down the servers I was using without notice and never even set me up anyplace else.
posted by substrate at 1:27 PM on December 19, 2005

Best answer: RimuHosting (linked above) is AWESOME! I've been on them for a few months now; the prices are good, the service is excellent, the guys who run it really know their stuff and are on the ball...I could go on. Just excellent.

This coming from someone who used to roll his own but wasn't really able to get afforable broadband which wouldn't limit a ton of ports, and was sick of not having console access to a server 5 hours away at his paren'ts house =)
posted by cyrusdogstar at 1:32 PM on December 19, 2005

Go buy a domain and host it with a dynamic dns provider.

I did just what cmfletcher suggested and happily put my old G4 on the net as a server to tinker with... until I moved, got a new ISP -- damn you bell sympatico! -- and could no longer do this. Caveat emptor.

posted by docgonzo at 1:33 PM on December 19, 2005

I've used Bytemark Hosting for a virtual Debian system for quite a while now and they've been affordable and great.
posted by LukeyBoy at 1:57 PM on December 19, 2005

I pay 8 bucks a month for a virtual server with 32 MB of RAM and 3GB of HD unixshell. For me the price is right, since it's about the same I paid before for a regular hosting account without root access. I totally recommend them.
posted by fjom at 2:03 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: fjom: damn that's cheap. Almost as cheap as plain (php+mysql) hosting as far as bandwidth goes.

Thanks a lot.
posted by delmoi at 2:27 PM on December 19, 2005

Note, I've heard some bad stuff about unixshell--they also looked great, but when snooping around, I found a whole lot of drama concerning them and their parent company, whose name escapes me. Search around for 'unixshell' and you'll see what I mean.

Not saying I have any experience with them one way or the other, but I was definitely turned away from them because of it. Most places with a history like that can still have great service much of the time, but I didn't want to take the chance.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 3:26 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: Okay, I worked up a little spreadsheet to compare various plans < $20/mo, and i was going to work up a formula that would let me 'weigh' different options w.r.t. ram/storage/bandwidth and cpu of the options presented so>
A few discoveries: 1) Linude and Vicolo were the only two providers that gave actual CPU cycle equivalents. Unixshell gave 'units' (portions of the time CPU time).

Of the two, Vicolo is strictly more expensive then Linode, meaning that that Licolo offered less then Linode in every measure.

Furthermore not counting CPU time, Rimu was better then Linode in everything but bandwidth, which is probably the most important.

And anyway, Unixshell's $14/mo plan offers more of everything except ram (just 64mb vs. 80) then Linode's, and a whole 64mb of bandwidth vs. 50. And that's vs. $19/mo for Linode. Unixshell's $18.75 plan matches or surpasses Linode's plan in all measures, and only gets beaten out by Rimu's 96mb of RAM.

So it looks like Unixshell is really the best value here. Now I just have to figure out which of the < $20/mo plans i want :pbr>
Here's the table, btw:
Plan Name	Disk Space (gb)	Bandwidth (gb)	RAM (mb)	CPU	Price
Unixshell 32	3	32	32	0.32	7.99
Unixshell 48	4.5	48	48	0.48	11.5
Unixshell 64	6	64	64	0.64	14.99
Unixshell 80	7.5	80	80	0.8	18.75
Unixshell 96	9	96	96	0.96	22.5
Linode 80	3	50	80	100	19.95
Rimu VPS1	4	30	96	0	19.95
Vicolo Opp	2	30	64	64	20

I'll check back tommorow and see if there's anything to add to the table.

Thanks a lot
posted by delmoi at 3:37 PM on December 19, 2005

Since Unixshell has month-to-month payments, just start out with the cheapest option, and upgrade if necessary.
posted by Sharcho at 3:58 PM on December 19, 2005

Haven't tried them yet, but I'm strongly leaning towards HostingZoom for a site I'm about to launch. If anybody has any experience yea or nea, I'd be interested in hearing it.
posted by willnot at 4:03 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: cyrusdogstar: That's a thing I'll consider. For some reason, I really like Linode. Of course, I wouldn't expect perfection for just $7.99/mo.
posted by delmoi at 4:04 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: Willnot: hostingzoom dosn't seem to offer cheap dedicated systems (virtual or no), so I can use what they put on the server, but nothing else. In particular they don't have J2SE or PostgreSQL.

In fact, it appears as though they don't even give you root with their $200+/mo "dedicated" servers. It's a pretty good deal if you're just going for PHP/mysql, though.
posted by delmoi at 4:09 PM on December 19, 2005

Sorry about that. I mistakenly assumed they provided root access. For what it's worth, PostgreSQL is included with 25 databases according to their site, but it does look like you'd be out of luck with respect to J2SE or other stuff that cropped up that you might want to add.
posted by willnot at 4:38 PM on December 19, 2005

More of a recommendation of avoidance - I would steer clear of Tektonic. I've been with them for a few years and have had loads of problems - my biggest gripe is their nightly reboot of my vps -!(this question is perfect timing for me because I'm just getting ready to shop around for a new vps).
posted by zerokey at 4:39 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: More research shows that looks a lot more professional. And while alexa's traffic rank is probably a terrible way to gauge the popularity of sites geared to Unix-heads, Linode scores a lot better.
posted by delmoi at 4:46 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: Linode also has a 'distro-wizard' that lets you select a distro to install. That's something that Unixshell definitely doesn't have.
posted by delmoi at 4:48 PM on December 19, 2005

Best answer: Ah, that was it - Tektonic is Unixshell's parent company, and from what I recall on the WebHostingTalk forums, they're both essentially this one guy running things, who was the centerpoint of aforementioned drama.

Linode looked pretty good too, I do not recall any bad press on their end; I think there was one or two things that caused me to go with Rimu instead, but they would've been personal preferences, so it matters not.

(Yes, I too did a shitton of investigative work when looking into VPS's =))
posted by cyrusdogstar at 4:50 PM on December 19, 2005

Best answer: Well, I just signed up with I have to wait for them to call me to 'authorize' the account. I was really looking forward to playing with this thing :P
posted by delmoi at 4:59 PM on December 19, 2005

Best answer: Ha...perhaps I should have stuck in one other thing about Rimu that stood out for me, I went from signing up to having a working VPS in literally, no fucking joke 5 minutes.

This was a few days after a similarly-timed period between me filling out their feedback form (e.g. "what would you like to get out of your VPS, we'll answer all your questions") and a no-bullshit, clearly-knew-what-he-was-talking-about response email.

Erm, anyway, sorry to keep plugging like this :o
posted by cyrusdogstar at 5:01 PM on December 19, 2005

You can set your own replies to a thread as 'best answer'? Well I never.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 5:02 PM on December 19, 2005

I like these guys, They are cheaper than all the rest, they don't send you confusing emails, its a snap to set up and they can withstand a slashdotting w/o suspending your account
posted by psychobum at 5:20 PM on December 19, 2005

> You can set your own replies to a thread as 'best answer'? Well I never.

I think that is actually the approved way of saying "my question has been solved."
posted by The Monkey at 5:41 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: Feel free to keep posting answers, guys. I've only paid for the rest of December, ($8) so if it turns out to suck I can always go somewhere else.
posted by delmoi at 7:37 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: psychobum: That site only provides hosting, not root access.
posted by delmoi at 7:38 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: By the way, the (up to) 48hr waiting period on Linode is only mentioned after you place your order. Rather cheap if you ask me.
posted by delmoi at 7:39 PM on December 19, 2005

Best answer: I suggest Server Pronto myself. They give you the box and you can do whatever you want with it. Also, they support several different linux distros instead of just throwing Red Hat at you.

You may be tempted to try a "Virtual Server" package, but from everything I've heard, they usually suck.
posted by drstein at 9:21 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: drstein: Holy shitballs. The bandwidth I'd get with them is about the same as what I'd get with the virtual server for that price ($29), but with a whole box to myself. I had no idea you could get a true dedicated box for that price. Wow.

That said, Linode offers many distros.
posted by delmoi at 10:45 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: Also, if it turns out to really suck after a couple months I'll probably give Server Pronto a shot for $29. Damn. I'd really like to try some CPU intensive things anyway.
posted by delmoi at 10:46 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: drstein: one thing I'd worry about with SP is their price going up. They'd kind of have you by the balls, and you can't get a contract for longer then a month.
posted by delmoi at 10:50 PM on December 19, 2005

Response by poster: Just got activated. Any advice on what distro to get?
I can choose between:

What do you think?
posted by delmoi at 7:15 AM on December 20, 2005

I'm pretty happy with Slackware 10. (10 or 10.2?) It's fast, stable and pretty easy to configure even for a dabbler like me. Plus, anything you want from, ready to install. No worries about "is this RPM really, really meant for my build?" My only gripe is that by default it runs Apache 1.3 instead of 2.0, but there are 2.0 packages for Slack10.2 out there now.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:25 AM on December 20, 2005

Best answer: I have a tektonic account. It's $28 a month for 256 MB ram, 20 GB disk, and 2 Mbit upload / ~10 Mbit download. Bandwidth is rate-limited but unmetered--think of it as a very fast DSL line. The download bandwidth might be higher but I haven't tried to measure it. The virtual server runs 'sum' faster than my 2GHz G5. Disk i/o feels sort of sluggish. I am root and can do pretty much anything except recompile the kernel. Also, IRC is strictly forbidden. Tektonic VPS

I love this account. But that's probably just because I'm lucky and haven't had any problems. I get the feeling that Tektonic a a one man shop with some nifty software. Everything is automated and smooth until the shit hits the fans and you find nobody's home. Keep you own backups.
posted by ryanrs at 7:31 AM on December 20, 2005

BTW, I don't use tektonic for web hosting. It's more like my personal proxy / vpn endpoint / ssh tunnel. I've saturated the uplink at 250 Kbytes/s around the clock for days at a time. Figure 650 GB a month if you run it 24/7. And the downlink will sustain over 1 Mbyte/s. For my usage, it's much cheaper than a burstable link with fixed GB/month quota.
posted by ryanrs at 7:43 AM on December 20, 2005

You want gentoo. It's a complete snap to administer remotely, and gives you a really amazing spread of software to use. Just type "emerge the_program's_name", edit the config files, and you're set to go.

Of course, you'll get at least a dozen responses urging you otherwise. Enjoy the show.
posted by Netzapper at 11:16 AM on December 20, 2005

Debian was made to be a server OS. You can get rid of all the GUI crap you don't need (and don't want on a server), apt-get is a lot easier (and quicker) than compiling and the security updates are frequent. Debian is designed so that you never need to reinstall (unlike certain other distros...) when a new version comes out.

Slackware is also good as a server OS. Like Debian, it is conservative enough to run on a server.
posted by QIbHom at 2:41 PM on December 20, 2005

Unless your total RAM allocation is going to be greater than, say, 128MB--or unless you have a lot of patience--I'd definitely suggest Debian over Gentoo. Having used both a lot, I can say they both have their strengths and weaknesses, but I'd never run Gentoo on a VPS account or a lower-end server. Then again I'm not horrendously patient either ;)

Debian is also going to be a lot more stable (even on 'testing' or 'unstable') than Gentoo. Again, this is personal experience talking, not just me reading the general hype--I have had and witnessed a lot of things messing up in Gentoo, even without mucking around with overt optimization (e.g. USE flags, compiler flags) or using the unstable packages.

Debian, while ostensibly more out-of-date and unorthodox in some ways, really is quite stable. I was pleasently surprised to see that their versions of Apache, Python, PHP etc were only a handful of bugfix or minor revisions behind the newest stuff (in 'testing', anyway).
posted by cyrusdogstar at 6:32 PM on December 20, 2005

Best answer: I installed debian. It was an order of magnitude smaller (95 megs, gentoo was 550mb, and I only have 4gb. By the way, the first time I installed Linux they recommended at least a 100mb drive :P) then anything else. It didn't even come with apache installed. I installed apache tonight. apt-get rules!

This is the first time I've actually had fun playing just around with a computer in a long time :)

The server is online here with it's new apache install!

btw, dselect. wtf? that is the goofiest package manager I've ever seen
posted by delmoi at 7:51 PM on December 21, 2005

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