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[UK] Run my own server for virtualisation - dedicated or 1U colocation
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[UK] Run my own server for virtualisation - dedicated or 1U colocation

I'm a developer with clients using VPS from different providers. One long term client wants to upgrade the OS on their servers but it would push them into a much more expensive contract with their current host. While looking around - an alternative came up- that I buy or lease a more powerful server and provide managed hosting of their VMs.

This would also allow me to spin up separate VMs for prototyping/trying tech.

Initially I looked for a dedicated server, roughly 8+ cores and 128+Gb RAM (the more the merrier), in the ballpark of £100/month, then have started to think that I could buy a server with more power, and colocate it - I'm leaning towards this as although the first year I'd be paying off the server, but it would be an asset I own.

Requirements:

  • UK based
  • Able to run Hyper-V or ESX
  • Running 4 Windows VMs and 2 Linux VMs (I'd handle the licensing)
  • Backup space
  • Moderate amount of traffic - I think tens of Gb/month

Dedicated

  • General maintenance is someone else's problem
  • Can stop or change specs if I need to
  • Less margin for me
  • Less work on the hosting side for me

Colocation

  • Bigger up front costs (to buy the server)
  • Better ongoing margin after the first year
  • I would have access to a better server which I could use for other projects
  • Learn more about networking and advanced server setup - I could create test VMs and load balance them etc.
  • Quality remote connection to the server & Remote support. I need to get there at least once (I'm in Scotland, but assume it's more likely I'd colo in England)
  • How to handle failover - what are my options if something drastic happens to the server? Or do I hedge by moving to two servers? Are redundant disks enough etc. or do I need spares of things on hand?

I think the specs I'm looking at are overkill for just now, but I'm also looking to the future, as a developer there are always things I need to host. I've taken a look at clouvider who pop up a lot on these boards, and OVH for cheaper dedicated hosting.

All recommendations, experience and pointers welcome - dedicated feels less hassle, but the colocation option seems more interesting to me just now! Thanks for reading!

Comments

  • I've never heard of an OS upgrade costing more money, unless the OS was being provided in the price of the service.

    But you're not factoring in your labour and now your new responsibilities. Now you're the support call when bad shit happens day or night, and your personal life will suffer.

    If you currently have loads of available time, sure, but if you're currently already working 40 hour weeks, then not worth it, IMO.

    Thanked by 2equality7_2521 bdl
  • Plus colo ain't just buying the server and shipping it off. Better have some spare parts on hand all the time.

    hm. I've lost a machine.. literally lost. it responds to ping, it works completely, I just can't figure out where in my apartment it is.

  • Providing managed hosting for your clients means you have 24/7 availability (just like large providers do). Buying the server and colocating, although it takes time and energy can be done during normal hours. What are you going to do when its friday night at 2 AM and you've tipped more than a few beers with the boys and your server goes down? Or your client gets the internet hug of death on a Sunday morning(due to tons of users and great publicity) for something that happened- hopefully positive with their company (example a great post on Ycombinator.com for instance). You get to fix it.

    I seriously would look at reseller accounts to hold your clients. Try 20i for instance 35 GBP and comes with everything Linux, windows hosting, and word press hosting. Along with billing, cdn and a bunch more. Why make your life overly complicated?

    Thanked by 1equality7_2521

    Nothing profound to say, so I'm on LET.

  • Have a look at ukservers.com. Datacenter in Coventry and prices are reasonable. 24/7 support. I've been a customer before, but they couldn't handle my anti-DDoS requirements, so I left. Everything else - top game.

    Thanked by 1equality7_2521
  • jhjh Member
    edited September 22

    Your margin will be higher with dedi unless you're running dozens of servers. I recommend Clouvider. You'll be able to find something good for less than your budget.

    Thanked by 1equality7_2521
  • @TimboJones said:
    I've never heard of an OS upgrade costing more money, unless the OS was being provided in the price of the service.

    But you're not factoring in your labour and now your new responsibilities. Now you're the support call when bad shit happens day or night, and your personal life will suffer.

    If you currently have loads of available time, sure, but if you're currently already working 40 hour weeks, then not worth it, IMO.

    Ha, did you never worked on a large corp? Good old days of shameless money milking. OS upgrade, app installation, even simple log investigation can and will be charged.

    hostwp.net -- Wordpress Hosting for Developers.

  • edited September 22

    @TimboJones said:
    I've never heard of an OS upgrade costing more money, unless the OS was being provided in the price of the service.

    But you're not factoring in your labour and now your new responsibilities. Now you're the support call when bad shit happens day or night, and your personal life will suffer.

    If you currently have loads of available time, sure, but if you're currently already working 40 hour weeks, then not worth it, IMO.

    Just now I'm the support person when bad shit happens - it's just that when it's HW related I then escalate it with the hosting company. You're totally right about it being extra work - something I need to factor in to the decision.

    For the OS change, you need to provision a new server and they've had their account long enough that the payment structure has changed over the last few years, so it would mean a jump in price.

  • edited September 22

    @Unbelievable said:
    Providing managed hosting for your clients means you have 24/7 availability (just like large providers do).

    Part of the idea to do my own thing and get a much more powerful box is that I deal with some of this already - managing hosting in terms of changes, server issues, server monitoring, fixing setup or database problems, etc. and it's been like that for the last 8 years. I figured if traffic or CPU picks up, I'd have capacity to upgrade what resources I give to the VM.

    Just now I deal with the software side though - adding hardware adds another point of failure and I'm less comfortable with it than SW. If hardware issues were rare and could be supported by someone on site then it looks more attractive, but that's the great unknown!

    I totally appreciate I'd be adding complexity - as a developer, having a load of extra online computing resource is attractive for my own projects, but balancing against the downsides of doing it.

    Thanked by 1axelblaze
  • jsgjsg Member

    @equality7_2521

    My advice: Stay away from colocating less than 10 HUs ("quarter rack") at the very minimum. Reason: the way things work.
    If you look for a dedi you'll find that a dedi and 1 HU colo cost about the same. Reason: colocation is a question of scaling and e.g. a half rack costs much less than 20 x 1 HU.
    Second reason: it's not just the "hands" but much more, and again, with just 1 or 2 HUs you are smallest fish in the pond and last in line when you need help.

    Use a hoster! They know the colo guys, they have their arrangements, and they are under enough competitive pressure to offer you a better total product and deal than what you could achieve yourself. Plus, you have peace of mind; if something in your dedi breaks it's their problem, and they have enough experience, reserve parts available and usually even a replacement server.

    My second advice is to rent a 2nd dedi, probably a smaller one, to have some redundancy. It might be wise to get that 2nd dedi from a second provider.

    Re "England": I don't think that that's important because everything below 50 ms (between the dedi and you, and between the dedi and the customer or his customers) is 'damn good enough' (TM) for almost all use cases and not being limited to one country (with high energy costs ..) may open interesting opportunities to you.

    My personal first instinct would be to look at @Clouvider for the primary dedi and to OVH and @Hetzner_OL for the secondary.

    Thanks no.

  • tjntjn Member

    @jsg hit the nail on the head.

    I'm with @Clouvider in London and @Hetzner_OL in Germany - both great hosts.

  • My advice: Stay away from colocating less than 10 HUs ("quarter rack") at the very minimum. Reason: the way things work.
    If you look for a dedi you'll find that a dedi and 1 HU colo cost about the same. Reason: colocation is a question of scaling and e.g. a half rack costs much less than 20 x 1 HU.
    Second reason: it's not just the "hands" but much more, and again, with just 1 or 2 HUs you are smallest fish in the pond and last in line when you need help.

    I really appreciate the feedback, your whole comment makes a lot of sense! I guess my logic was that I could see great prices in the EU where colo and more powerful dedi were closer. I think I realised I could get my own really powerful machine and since I have a constant need for it, it would get paid off with hosting for this client, and be an extra resource.

    My personal first instinct would be to look at @Clouvider for the primary dedi and to OVH and @Hetzner_OL for the secondary.

    That's a great point - maybe I need to look at things differently, and could use the Hetzner secondary for some of my own projects. I looked at them and they have great prices, just a few clients prefer UK hosting - but a secondary (that I use for my own stuff) makes a lot of sense.

    I also think maybe I'm thinking of CPU cores and vCPU as similar - there'd probably be a big jump to have any dedi machine just running my stuff/client stuff.

    Thanks again- I'll scout around for options!

  • jsgjsg Member
    edited September 22

    @equality7_2521 said:
    I guess my logic was that I could see great prices in the EU where colo and more powerful dedi were closer. I think I realised I could get my own really powerful machine and since I have a constant need for it, it would get paid off with hosting for this client, and be an extra resource.

    Nope, hosting your own server actually tends to be more expensive than simply renting a dedi. This changes (for people who are not well established in hosting) only north of around a half rack.

    Look at it like this: What you want and need is a level of performance and resources and a level of control. A dedi is the proper response, a dedi gives you that and at the best cost..
    Second point: You are the one who adds value with your hosting, your software or services. Also again, hosting and colo is a business that's pretty much all about scale of operations and with 1 - 4 HUs and 2 dedis you are bound to be on the ugly end - simply renting a dedi and then adding your value will virtually always be the better - and cheaper - solution.

    I also think maybe I'm thinking of CPU cores and vCPU as similar - there'd probably be a big jump to have any dedi machine just running my stuff/client stuff.

    Warning: I often see people with utterly wrong performance expectations (which btw. is the probably largest source of income for hosters).
    Do not make the error of thinking from your desktop perspective where a passmark of say 10000 is considered mediocre! A server (usually) doesn't run X and a ton of other crap that, to make it worse, more often than not is ridiculously bloated too.
    Example: I own a dual E5-26xx v2 with dual 8 core Xeons and 64 GB memory and its passmark numbers look poor and even in my own vpsbench it looks mediocre and way slower than a Ryzen. In reality however that box is a beast. If I wanted to use even half of it's power I'd need multiple rather big dynamic web sites with heavy DB use.

    Based on my experience I'd say that it's not the CPU but the memory and the disks that make a good server. Example: having NVMe drives for database and some web caching is by far more decisive than having a v2 vs. a v3 (or even newer) E5-26xx.

    Btw., you can get a (checked and good) 2nd. hand machine like mine for about $350 (plus disks which you want to buy new) so if you are serious you may want to get one (in addition to your dedi(s)) for testing, some useful jobs in your company and getting some hands on experience.

    P.S. to my original post: Be absolutely sure to only rent dedis with 24/7 IPMI availability and no mucking around with having to ask for a KVM being connected.
    Hint 2: look whether a dedi comes with dual power supplies. Providers whose dedis come with only a single PSU may be cheap but not the best choice.

    Thanked by 1equality7_2521

    Thanks no.

  • @jsg said:
    Nope, hosting your own server actually tends to be more expensive than simply renting a dedi. This changes (for people who are not well established in hosting) only north of around a half rack.

    ...

    Example: I own a dual E5-26xx v2 with dual 8 core Xeons and 64 GB memory and its passmark numbers look poor and even in my own vpsbench it looks mediocre and way slower than a Ryzen. In reality however that box is a beast. If I wanted to use even half of it's power I'd need multiple rather big dynamic web sites with heavy DB use.

    I agree about the importance of memory and disk - my rough plan was to do the same as you: buy a big powerful used server with new disks and lots of memory. I'm not sure if there's a geographic cost difference - my maths was based on a decent power server with 64GB and multiple disks:

    Colo:
    £50/month
    £1200 buying server
    = £150/month year 1
    = £50/month year 2

    Dedi w/ 64GB
    £130/month

    Example dedi is one I found on @Clouvider website. In the UK at least it looks like if you move on up the amount of memory or multiple solid state disks, the cost increases pretty fast.

    It looks like like even a couple of smaller dedis from there might make more sense than trying to get everything on one big box.

    My original thinking was that the client pays more than my costs and in year 2 there'd be a bigger difference to me, and I would own a powerful server. Of course you're right to point out that time/effort/stress of doing the work has it's own cost, and all things considered I want to spend my time developing web and mobile apps rather than hosting things - but in my maths it looked like the basic numbers mean it would be financially better, but with more responsibility/time.

    I probably would have ignored the colo idea and gone to Hetzner if there was a comparable way of getting an older powerful dedi cheaper here in the UK, as their prices mean I could get a pretty solid server for that £50/mth. I think an element of it is higher electricity costs in the UK.

    Warning: I often see people with utterly wrong performance expectations (which btw. is the probably largest source of income for hosters).
    Do not make the error of thinking from your desktop perspective where a passmark of say 10000 is considered mediocre! A server (usually) doesn't run X and a ton of other crap that, to make it worse, more often than not is ridiculously bloated too.

    I know that some of the VPS I have I get vCPUs and that there's a ratio on the actual underlying cores, I don't have enough experience to know what this means - is dedi 2x, 5x, 10x better?

    Thank you for the responses, I think it's made me see it's more sensible to have the hosting handle by a hosting company, and maybe I'm just being greedy looking at big multicore servers with oodles of RAM etc. and the sweet spot may be to do that with a cheaper dedi for playing around with.

  • jsgjsg Member
    edited September 22

    @equality7_2521 said:
    I agree about the importance of memory and disk - my rough plan was to do the same as you: buy a big powerful used server with new disks and lots of memory. I'm not sure if there's a geographic cost difference - my maths was based on a decent power server with 64GB and multiple disks:

    Colo:
    £50/month

    I got my server for my lab - not for colo.

    £1200 buying server
    = £150/month year 1
    = £50/month year 2

    Dedi w/ 64GB
    £130/month

    Example dedi is one I found on @Clouvider website. In the UK at least it looks like if you move on up the amount of memory or multiple solid state disks, the cost increases pretty fast.

    It might indeed be cheaper to colocate your own server when you have uncommon or high memory or disk requirements. On the other hand memory cost seems to be a lot lower for older servers (read: DDR3). A friend of mine for example has a dual 8 core (older) Xeon dedi with 32 (or even 48, sorry I forgot) GB memory for a rather low price.

    It looks like like even a couple of smaller dedis from there might make more sense than trying to get everything on one big box.

    Plus they give you redundancy. Telling a customer why his site runs slower for some days (because it's run from a secondary server) is a lot easier than explaining why it's dead and not running at all (due to the single server being dead).

    My original thinking was that the client pays more than my costs and in year 2 there'd be a bigger difference to me, and I would own a powerful server. Of course you're right to point out that time/effort/stress of doing the work has it's own cost, and all things considered I want to spend my time developing web and mobile apps rather than hosting things - but in my maths it looked like the basic numbers mean it would be financially better, but with more responsibility/time.

    Sorry, No, your original idea seems to have been an amalgamate of actually two things, (a) what you just explained but also (b) to get a "loaded" modern box. It's that combination that makes your approach expensive and unattractive.

    I think an element of it is higher electricity costs in the UK.

    Similar (even more expensive if I'm not mistaken) in Germany. France and Norway to name two examples, are a lot cheaper. And keep in mind that electrical power consumption is a major cost factor in hosting.
    But there are other factors too which unfortunately make France less attractive. One factor is that English is spoken much less in France than e.g. in Germany. Another factor is that hosting in France largely boils down to a few large to very large players (with little flexibility) and all the minor players, most of which are not too attractive. For you NL probably is the best alternative to the UK. In NL you'll find a large variety of players most of whom do speak English quite well, excellent connectivity, and low latency to the UK.

    I know that some of the VPS I have I get vCPUs and that there's a ratio on the actual underlying cores, I don't have enough experience to know what this means - is dedi 2x, 5x, 10x better?

    It varies wildly but 1 core ~ 1 vCPU is probably kind of rare. I'd guess that cores times 2 or even 4 is about average.
    But it doesn't matter much anyway because it doesn't make a lot of sense to compare even VDS to dedis. One reason being that storage performance is quite sensible to sharing and even a very nice and performant disk will look considerably worse on a box with dozens of VPSs.

    Thank you for the responses, I think it's made me see it's more sensible to have the hosting handle by a hosting company, and maybe I'm just being greedy looking at big multicore servers with oodles of RAM etc. and the sweet spot may be to do that with a cheaper dedi for playing around with.

    You are welcome. And yes I think it's the desire for a powerful server that's the problem, because (among other reasons) more powerful servers means newer servers which translates to very considerably higher cost. If one needs it it makes sense but if one doesn't one sails well - and much cheaper - with say a dual E5-26xx v3.

    Thanked by 1equality7_2521

    Thanks no.

  • @LTniger said:

    @TimboJones said:
    I've never heard of an OS upgrade costing more money, unless the OS was being provided in the price of the service.

    But you're not factoring in your labour and now your new responsibilities. Now you're the support call when bad shit happens day or night, and your personal life will suffer.

    If you currently have loads of available time, sure, but if you're currently already working 40 hour weeks, then not worth it, IMO.

    Ha, did you never worked on a large corp? Good old days of shameless money milking. OS upgrade, app installation, even simple log investigation can and will be charged.

    Large corps have their own IT to upgrade OS's, like I'd expect them to upgrade their own VPS. Just a cost of doing business. But I'm referring to the VPS referred to by OP. Some details missing, like switching from OVZ6 to KVM to get modern OS's might cost more, but whatevs.

  • @equality7_2521 said:

    @TimboJones said:
    I've never heard of an OS upgrade costing more money, unless the OS was being provided in the price of the service.

    But you're not factoring in your labour and now your new responsibilities. Now you're the support call when bad shit happens day or night, and your personal life will suffer.

    If you currently have loads of available time, sure, but if you're currently already working 40 hour weeks, then not worth it, IMO.

    Just now I'm the support person when bad shit happens - it's just that when it's HW related I then escalate it with the hosting company. You're totally right about it being extra work - something I need to factor in to the decision.

    For the OS change, you need to provision a new server and they've had their account long enough that the payment structure has changed over the last few years, so it would mean a jump in price.

    Well, getting a new server (service) isn't usually described as upgrading the OS.

  • @TimboJones said:
    Well, getting a new server (service) isn't usually described as upgrading the OS.

    I think the hosting company have set images and OS licensing for their VPS. You might be right that there’s a way to bring in a separate license, we enquired and it looked like we needed to setup a new instance and transfer to it.

    Thanked by 1TimboJones
  • @jsg said:
    Sorry, No, your original idea seems to have been an amalgamate of actually two things, (a) what you just explained but also (b) to get a "loaded" modern box. It's that combination that makes your approach expensive and unattractive.

    When I say powerful, I was thinking more of an older machine with a lot of cores, memory and disk space. Allowing me to run more things on it, rather than powerful in terms of it being a modern box. You make a good point about DDR3, maybe that’s partly why I was seeing much more RAM in previous generation servers that I was looking at.

    I know that some of the VPS I have I get vCPUs and that there's a ratio on the actual underlying cores, I don't have enough experience to know what this means - is dedi 2x, 5x, 10x better?

    It varies wildly but 1 core ~ 1 vCPU is probably kind of rare. I'd guess that cores times 2 or even 4 is about average.
    But it doesn't matter much anyway because it doesn't make a lot of sense to compare even VDS to dedis. One reason being that storage performance is quite sensible to sharing and even a very nice and performant disk will look considerably worse on a box with dozens of VPSs.

    Good point, maybe my judgement is clouded by the VPS experience, that I’m looking for a server with more resources than I need because I’m basing it on shared VPSes, and a way to get those kind of resources was to go to previous generation servers that could run several of the things I’m doing. I think it makes sense to do two things, main dedi in the UK for what my client is doing, and backup dedi in EU where I can also experiment with some things.

    Also, it will give me experience of a couple of new hosting companies, and also give me experience of running a few dedicated servers and take it from there.

    Thanks again for all your help, it’s made it more clear that I should stick to the software side, and if I want to get into hardware, do it in a lab!

  • jsgjsg Member

    @equality7_2521

    Yes, that. If you can afford it you should start by buying a second hand dual Xeon server.Here are some hint that you might want to think about:

    • usually dealers are willing to "throw" more memory at you for a very low add-on price if you find some server you like but desire more memory.
    • go for a 2 HU (rather than 1 HU) box; they are less crammed and have larger fans which is good for both life time and for lower power consumption.
    • details. Look for them, e.g. is there a not dead battery for the SAS/SATA controller? Does it support all modes you might be interested in? ...
    • Brand. This is somewhat "religious" but I for one have found Dell servers to be better designed and built than HP.
    • Be sure that the box has enough drive caches for your needs.
    • If you want NVMe you'll have to buy a somewhat newer generation which is more expensive.

    TL;DR Have a list of what you need/want and find the best beast for you.

    Thanked by 1equality7_2521

    Thanks no.

  • ClouviderClouvider Member, Provider

    It’s not as simple; especially with older machines.

    Diagnostic and parts replacement cost can stack up very quickly, harshly wiping away and savings vs a modern dedicated server

    Clouvider Limited - Leading Hosting & Connectivity Partner || Dedicated Server Sale from £39/m - Our Latest LET Offer

    Cloud Web Hosting | SSD & SAS HA OnApp VPS | US, UK, NL & DE Dedicated Servers | Network Services | Colocation | Managed Services

  • jsgjsg Member
    edited September 23

    @Clouvider said:
    It’s not as simple; especially with older machines.

    Diagnostic and parts replacement cost can stack up very quickly, harshly wiping away and savings vs a modern dedicated server

    On a large scale, yes. But anyway he wants a dedi which boils down to "it's the providers problem". My advice wrt a box was for his lab.
    That said, I had my reasons to recommend you (among others the fact that AFAIK you don't play the "let's buy 2 pallets of 10 year old boxes, rack them and sell them as dedis" game).

    Thanked by 1Clouvider

    Thanks no.

  • OP, your value is not in cost I presume. With machines in the single digit, I would recommend a good dedi or VDS. If UK is an absolute requirement, go for Clouvider as a primary (they have a pretty good sale going on). If the secondary has to be in the UK too, consider Zare, LeaseWeb and OVH. Otherwise, outside the UK, Hetzner is the best (consider the AX61-NVMe).

    Thanked by 1equality7_2521
  • edited September 23

    @AC_Fan said:
    OP, your value is not in cost I presume. With machines in the single digit, I would recommend a good dedi or VDS. If UK is an absolute requirement, go for Clouvider as a primary (they have a pretty good sale going on). If the secondary has to be in the UK too, consider Zare, LeaseWeb and OVH. Otherwise, outside the UK, Hetzner is the best (consider the AX61-NVMe).

    My main value is the apps/sites I develop, but also I manage and maintain the servers for clients. It looks like moving to dedi/VDS is more sensible and avoids me getting stuck partially in the hardware game, @jsg has a point that the things I want to play around with might be best suited to a lab and then the older/cheaper hw makes a great deal of sense there.

    Very good point on the UK vs EU, personally I don't have a preference, I just know that most of my clients have hosting that is already in the UK, so might be seen as an advantage to keep it UK based. Possibly it's a historical perception from when there was a more noticeable difference, or SEO based that it used to be a ranking factor for the location you were in.

    I don't think having the secondary in the EU would be an issue. I'll investigate the options for dedi/VDS with the best service and the most bang for the buck.

  • @equality7_2521 Bang for buck wise, NetCup RS and Hetzner AX line are pretty much unbeatable. The RS G9 line of VDS is based on Epyc and enterprise SSDs, while the AX line is based on Ryzen and NVMes.
    I did a bit of research into the CPU scores, and the RS 2000 G9 is the best for CPU performance per dollar, while the AX61-NVMe is the best for CPU performance, and the cheapest option among the high end dedis.
    All of them are very generous with bandwidth, RAM and disk space.

    Thanked by 1equality7_2521
  • edited October 7

    Just as an update - I've started out with Clouvider - service has been really great so far, so things have been smooth as I get setup, and made me realise how grateful I am that someone else can take care of all the stuff to let me get on running the things that I build! So thanks to them and thanks to everyone who gave me input to steer me in the right direction!

    Thanked by 1Clouvider
  • ClouviderClouvider Member, Provider

    @equality7_2521 said:
    Just as an update - I've started out with Clouvider - service has been really great so far, so things have been smooth as I get setup, and made me realise how grateful I am that someone else can take care of all the stuff to let me get on running the things that I build! So thanks to them and thanks to everyone who gave me input to steer me in the right direction!

    Thanks for the feedback and welcome aboard!

    Clouvider Limited - Leading Hosting & Connectivity Partner || Dedicated Server Sale from £39/m - Our Latest LET Offer

    Cloud Web Hosting | SSD & SAS HA OnApp VPS | US, UK, NL & DE Dedicated Servers | Network Services | Colocation | Managed Services

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