Freelance self-hosting needs for complex apps

Big on Hosting. Unlimited Space & Unlimited Bandwidth

Looking for thoughts and ideas.

I build web based apps usually for larger SMEs – often second or third generation systems. I’ll tend to work on any one system or with a client for a period of years, as their needs change and evolve rather than “make a deal and look for the next one”.

Some of those clients have their own dedicated servers and hosting arrangements. They will from time to time want marketing tools such as blogs, for which I’ll tend to recommend WordPress.

All my stuff is in .NET. I have no real experience of Linux/MySql. So the blogs go onto virtual hosting packages.

The client apps get hosted on a couple of cheap test boxes I have until it’s ready to go live, then it’s deployed e.g. to somewhere like Rackspace (if the client is paying). I’ll tend to maintain a test/dev copy.

One had a HDD failure and the other a power failure recently. No resilience: cheap boxes. But only for testing, so that’s fine.

Except I can’t be bothered with reinstallation and nannying them. Although I’m an OK Windows server admin (used to manage 4 dedicated boxes of my own though quite “out of touch” with the market now). I don’t want to “do hosting”. I want to develop stuff.

I don’t mean that as a slap in the faces of the very people I’m asking for help from. I just “don’t do that bit”. Someone else does that bit. Someone on-site with a team, with a love of doing this sort of thing with the ability to deal with stress.

Nor do enough clients want the sort of environment that would merit a couple of dedicated managed boxes at Rackspace to “resell”. They’re sort of “in the middle” – too big for variably performing virtual hosting and too small for dedicated managed. (The “managed” part, especially. I’m not managing it.)

All clients have their own email and DNS, I don’t go near those areas.

My ideal is:

1. A good home for clients who are start-ups/smaller SMEs so not quite so business critical and who do not have the money to spend on their own managed – dedicated nor the need.

2. Root access for the above.

3. Somewhere to put all the blogs and other Linux stuff (“install and forget”).

What I don’t want:

1. To be responsible for any aspect of hardware (alerting, reporting, liaising with data centre, reinstalling, etc)

2. Rackspace prices. I don’t intend “pushing” hosting as a part of my business so it’s unlikely to ever justify that spend. It would be more like a “labour of love”.

Based on all of this, I think something like a Hybrid windows server set up is the best option. Because the data centre deals with the HDD array, the backups, the physical kit. Doesn’t mean it won’t go wrong, but if it does, I don’t have to deal with it, at least to the same extent. I assume that if the entire disk array fails on a cluster with hundreds of hosts, the hosting company has a vested interest in getting it working again ASAP.

Along with that perhaps a reseller package that caters for the blogs on Linux virtual packages. I know I probably could get PHP and MySql to work on Windows, been there, can’t be bothered: if you can’t do something well, don’t do it at all, it will cost you more money than you will make.

The downside is the possible variable performance/processor power/contention ratio. That bit bothers me. On the other hand it could easily outperform two cheap boxes some/most of the time.

I’ve looked at “cloud hosting” (which is what I interpret Hybrid hosting to be “a type of” except without the scalability) but the prices I’ve seen from the “top flight” providers are quite high especially where databases are involved, my kit is heavily database driven.

I can look around at providers (Uk based, primary provider not reseller) so this is a more general question: does the above make sense, is my analysis sound, and have I missed anything important going down this road?

Thanks for reading all that!

Mark

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