I've been plowing thru the last few pages of archives here, and I still feel like I have some questions. This is my first time evaluating dedicated hosting, and I'd appreciate any help!
I've been hosting my own couple meager sites (mainly used for staging/developing web projects for my freelance clients) on my DSL line. I'm right now in the midst of a 9 day+ outage, and I have declared it "the last straw", DSL just can't be relied on. In fact, I just ditched the DSL and switched to a cable modem.
It just so happens that I am also working on another project which involves a custom multiplayer game server -- needless to say, not something I can host in a shared environemnt.
So, I decided to take the plunge and get a dedicated server, and pull in a couple friends to help defray costs. Figure I get 10 people (each with their 1-2 low traffic sites), we each chip in 20/mo, and we can cover a 200/mo dedicated server.
apache, php, mysql, latest java R.E., some kind of mail server, and, if possible, one of those control panel do-dads.
1. I know this is unanswerable question of this forum, but I'm having a lot of trouble seeing what causes the huge price differences I see... eg here are two examples:
Host bandwidth/mo cost/mo
pair.com 30GB/mo $250/mo
nocster.net 300GB/mo $99/mo
...and thats for comparable machines. People here mostly seem to like nocster, but why are they $150/mo cheaper AND x10 the bandwidth? I saw some evidence that this had to do with who they purchased their bandwidth from, but I'm still confused about the real difference. Good business sense would indicate that nocster has to be cutting some kind of corners, or pair is sending a crate of caviar with their invoices. I really don't want to go over $200/mo, but I also don't want to get screwed.
2. Could someone please explain the way bandwidth accounting works? Do they simple meter the amount of traffic per month? Do they care about high usage in a short period? Is that what places mean by "burstable"? There has to be a FAQ about this somewhere...
3. Is there some apache mod I can use to shut down my sites, geocities style, if I get flooded? (to avoid a surprise $1000 invoice). I don't want to be deathly afraid of accidently posting something of interest to slashdot readers.
You may want to rethink your plan. Server sharing is not as easy as it sounds. First of all, there is the question of who get root access and who can install what (no, don't even think about "sharing" root access), then there is the question of who provides the support (when apache breaks, who fix it, etc...), there is also the question of ownership, as only the owner is supposed to deal with the upstream host and submit trouble tickets. (there was once a person who got screwed when his partner went to vacation and the server was down, right in the middle of an ad compaign, the host wouldn't reboot the server because he wasn't the official contact).
While finding 2 to 3 people maybe easy, finding 10 people is hard. So you have to factor in the cost of time you spent looking for partners. Furthermore, it doesn't sound like you know too much (not meant to be an insult) about dedicated server, you also have to find a person to admin the server (and thus add to the cost).
As you can see, sharing server is not as simple as it sounds.
A good way to understand bandwidth accounting is to imagine a pipe. Some provider give you a relatively big pipe, but charge you by how much water has gone through it; other providers charge you by the pipe size, in that case, the pipe you get would be smaller and slower, but you can push as much as you can (slowly). Burstable simply means the connection can go up higher (I know, its actually quite meaningless).
I wouldn't worry too much about getting hit by slashdot-style traffic, because it is simply unlikely. (if getting traffic was that easy.) However, this *is* a concern if you are sharing server. (imagine a warez site owner sneak in, pay $20 but pull off $800 worth of bandwidth, and just leave). You can ask your provider to cut your connection when it exceeds the allotment, or throttle it.
I should clarify, while I'm a newbie with dedicated hosting, I am a coder, and I'm comfortable with apache admin, I'm unix literate, etc. More importantly, the only people I have lined up to share the server are people who I am friends with and do freelance work with. If I only get 5 people, I'm also fine with covering the rest (who needs food, right?).
Point taken about not sharing root, and I'm aware I'm biting off a good bit if work by becoming a server admin, but I'm hoping trade-off will be worth it.
The problem with going with a shared server environment is our game server. We need to claim a port on the server to listen to. More importantly, to cheat our way around firewall restructions at offices, we may very well want to claim a port intended for something else (443, for instance). Obviously, not something someone with a shared server would be happy about.