There used to be two choices for web hosting. You could get a dedicated server for several hundred dollars each month. This would give you complete control of your machine letting you schedule automatic jobs to run, upgrade packages, etc. Or you could share a server with a bunch of other people. This would keep your expenses low (sometimes under $10 per month or even free), but you were restricted to basically just uploading static pages or PHP.
There is some software out there called user mode Linux that lets you create virtual machines on one physical box. This means hosting companies can put in one server and share it among several users. The users get complete control (including root access) at low prices. For people who want to host small to medium sites, this is perfect. They still get complete control and shell access, but they don’t have to pay for an entire machine.
- Easy Co — Currently I’m hosting www.markwshead.com at EasyCo. They have good service and telephone tech support. I pay about $15 per month for their base level package.
- Redwood Virtual — I host blog.markwshead.com with Redwood. They don’t have telephone support, but their prices are even cheaper. It is only $8.33 per month if you pay for a year upfront. They recently added an interface that allows you to reboot your system if it gets hung, so this makes the telephone support less of an issue. It will also let you reinstall everything back to the original settings which can be nice if something gets terribly messed up.
- Open Hosting — I just ran across this company the other day. Instead of limiting your virtual machine to the resources you’ve paid for, they will give you a base package and then charge you for the extra usage at the end of the month. If you are like me where your machines sit idle or just serving http 95% of the time, this may be a good way to get a lot more power while still keeping costs down. Currently with Redwood and Easy Co, I’m running into limitations because of the amount of RAM I’m paying for. I can’t run some of the tools I need, but it is hard to justify upgrading to the next level when I only need to run the tools once or twice a month. Right now it is cheaper to do it offline and upload the results. A setup like Open Hosting might work very well because I’d have the extra resources when I needed them.