I’ve been running my site on a shared server for the last few years. It’s been adequate for the low volume it serves and I’ve never needed much space. Recently however, I’ve decided to put up another site and I’m not only expecting high traffic, but I’ll need other things like large amounts of space, data recovery, web applications, and more. In looking over the various deals offered by hosting providers I’ve started thinking about hosting my own dedicated server. Can it be done? Certainly, but should it be done is another question entirely.
I’ve done a lot of research over the last week or so and have found some interesting things to consider if you’re interesting in hosting your own server. Many of them should actually be considered regardless of whether you’re hosting it or someone else is.
Hosting providers offer unlimited bandwidth nowadays. Of course, it’s important to remember that this ‘unlimited bandwidth’ depends on several factors such as the T1/T3 lines of the provider, routers, and more. So while it may be unlimited, it may not necessarily be unlimited in the way it performs, especially under high stress. Hosting at home is dependant on the same factors and since the typical home runs the internet through existing cable or phone lines, bandwidth will most certainly be ‘limited’ and is definitely something to be weighed carefully.
Data backup and recovery
With a hosted server, your provider manages backups and recovery of data. Most providers also guarantee a certain state of availability. If your site goes down for whatever reason, they’re responsible for the recovery and ensuring it’s back online within a certain time. Many times, providers will offer an SLA (service level agreement). This agreement guarantees that they will provide a specific rate of up-time and if a server ever goes out, it documents the time they have to get it back online before facing repercussions. So you have many features here that will surely give you some peace of mind. By hosting a server on your own however, you’re responsible for all of this. Sure you can automate backups and such, but if for example your router goes out or you experience some other type of hardware failure, you’re likely to be down for a day or more. Not to mention the fact that you’re dependent on the cable or phone company to keep the lines up and running. If a storm hits and a line goes down, you could face similar down time. But hosting accounts have your back by offering, redundant battery backups, diesel power generators, redundant networks, and more.
If I hosted my own server I realize that I would have to be home most of the time in case something went wrong. This means taking a vacation for more than a day would be a potential risk to my site. If I left for work at 8am and my server went down while I was in route it could get ugly fast. First of all, I wouldn’t know it, second, if I did, I’d have to take an emergency day off to support my server. This is a hassle I could definitely do without. By using a hosting provider I’m rest assured that somebody will always be there in the event of a failure and take care of fixing it within the contractual period of time; and fix it right.
Hosting my own server would involve unforeseen costs involved in upgrading and fixing anything that might happen to break. A hardware outage for example, that’s my cost, and upgrading, that’s my cost too. When you factor in the maintenance and potential repair costs of using your own equipment, along with the costs for the line, it can really add up. The real problem is that while you can estimate what it would cost, you can’t foresee with any sort of real accuracy what is going to go wrong and what’s going to need upgrading until you get everything up and start traffic flow. With a hosted server, the tools are provided to monitor performance and usage. Unforeseen events are handled by them on the spot, and upgrading is usually a phone call a way. Did I mention the costs involved in running a server 24/7? Sure everyone has computers today and 90% of them rarely turn off. But they aren’t dedicated to serving up pages every minute of the day; our personal pc’s are calibrated and configured for energy efficiency. So when you’re not using it, it enters sleep mode and uses a lot less energy, which ends up saving you money over the long run.
Security in today’s world is more important than ever. Hosting your own server means building up your own security. At a minimum a strong firewall needs to be in place. Other consideration must be made to ensure security is up to or close to the standard of which you would get with a hosting provider. These standards are quite high by the way. With their reputation on the line chances are they’re taking it very seriously by using proven industry standards and best practices to reach and maintain high compliance levels.
In short, a hosting account will typically provide you with statistical and performance tools, utility applications, web applications, and much more. This is software you would otherwise have to buy for yourself which results in more and more costs.
Overall I’ve realized that it probably isn’t worth setting up and hosting my own server locally. Sure the idea sounds great and it is a little empowering I must admit, but seems to me the cons outweigh the pros in this case. In the end, I’d rather pay a minimal monthly fee for a hosting account than hassle with everything involved with hosting a server myself.