[sf-lug] Something to consider for hosting--RFC

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun Jan 1 22:54:30 PST 2006

Further thoughts:

Quoting jim stockford (jim at well.com):

> * T-1 is better than sDSL is better than aDSL.

Sure, but don't forget the driveway effect.

Imagine a guy with an hour-long commute every morning.  He decides
to fix it, by putting banked, 50MPH-rated curves into his 1/4 mile
driveway.  And of course that really does no good, because the real
bottleneck is the 45 mintes he spends going 15MPH on the freeway, 
not those 30 seconds reaching the street.

Being on T-1 instead of aDSL is great if the site is heavily loaded,
or if it routinely moves big bulk transfers of data.  E.g., when my
machine lived on T-1:

o  The building's LAN didn't break a sweat when I got slashdotted.
o  I maintained a full Debian package mirror (which was then "only" 
   about 15GB).

On aDSL:

o  The house LAN gets clobbered when I get slashdotted (but 
   survives and is reachable, if barely).
o  No more full Debian mirror.  (I don't have enough disk space,

Web servers that _aren't_ heavily loaded are rather like that guy with
the long driveway.  Most remote users, under most circumstances, will
have at least one slow hop intervening that's sufficiently pokey that
they'll have no way to tell the difference.

Mind you, that's not to say that incredibly sucky aDSL can't be found.
Try putting your Web server on typical SBC service, for example.  ;->

> * Discounts for the charitable are great.

People often think getting tax-exempt status is a lot easier than it
really is.  You more-or-less need to incorporate (or be under the wing
of a corporation).  The corporation must be non-profit.  (Strictly
speaking, you can alternatively use a trust or an "unincorporated
association", but, a lot of the time, incorporation is involved.)
_Also_, you must appeal to the IRS for a "determination letter" under
Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) or one of the other similar categories.
And then you wait for them to get around to you, which can take quite a
long time.

There are a bunch of responsibilities before and after the determination
letter.  For details, read IRS Publications 4220 and 4221.

> MediaTemple is in Culver City. Web hosting
> presents the risk of cost overages if storage or
> bandwidth exceeds specs. What's the value of
> being able to drive to the boxes and hang out
> with the in situ wetware?

Well, think about it:  If you can visit the colo (which might or might
not be restricted to certain hours), then you can hard-reboot.  You can 
connect up a monitor and keyboard to diagnose.  You can load stuff
directly from CD-ROM, DVD, or USB flash drive.  

Absent that physical access, if the box becomes unreachable, you can
telephone or e-mail the colo and have them send a rackmonkey over to 
power-cycle it or do some very rudimentary types of investigation.  
If that doesn't work, you can only (as appropriate) either have them 
PXE boot the box and overwrite it with some distro default load, or 
unrack it and FedEx it somewhere for investigation.

The nice thing is:  If you can live with those limitations, you can have 
your box (or virtual machine) be wherever on Earth offers you the best 
prices and most reasonable terms.

Fancy colos with 24-hour hot-and-cold-running rackmonkeys, laughable
for-show "high security" airlock-like mantraps and bullshit NDA-signing
requirements imposed on all visitors add a lot to the monthly fees, and
basically equate to "Customer has more money than brains, and copies
what his golf buddies / resident VC overlord do."

> There's a guy down the street from me who
> has a T-1 line and wifi antennas all over his roof.
> His clients are dozers who read their email and
> sports in the evenings. He claims most of the
> bandwidth is available and doesn't care if I hog
> it somewhat. He claims I can have a static IP
> address (don't know if that's a 10. etc.--let's
> assume it's public). My bottleneck would be the
> wifi connection between my back deck and his
> roof. Given our good relations with him, we
> could make our connection available to others,
> too, for some consideration (money or help or
> smiles). I'm not yet good enough to sysadm
> the box, security, and entire set of servers.

Sounds promising, though I'm not sure what the "make our connection
available to others" bit refers to.

I hope you do realise that people "reading mail and doing Web browsing" 
are the bandwidth vendor's dream customer.  That's exactly the target
market that the ISPs have tried to suck up to for years, while trying
to discourage any serious-Internet-user customer who, say, pulls down
lots of Linux/BSD ISO images, or runs a Web server -- let alone, say,
streaming video.

The ISP business (like the hosting business) has often involved
overcommitting and overpromising limited bandwidth and machine
resources, while hoping that most of your customers will (1) use 
very little of what they're paying for, and (2) not notice the impaired

If _you_ as a service provider don't do that, the other guy will, and
will be able to undercut your prices.  Which means, as long as it's 
a market where most of the customers have no idea what they're doing
and can't tell good service from bad, you have a race for bottom dollar
and consequently terrible service for everyone.  More at:

> Opinions?

Just pick something.  It won't be perfect, and a whole bunch of people
will tell you should have done something else, but their preferences
would have had drawbacks, too, which they might not even be aware of.

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