I’ve been looking round for the best hosting deal for my web games and it’s not easy. I’m writing my own game processing engine, which needs to run perodically, fetch data from a database, process it and update the database so that a logged in user on the website can retrieve it. My requirements are:
- Root Access to Linux to install and run my own server software
- Multiple LAMP websites (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP)
- At least 512 Mb ram
- Reasonable traffic limits
- Be affordable but also scalable, so if I make money then I can easily upgrade my server
In other words, I need some kind of Virtual Private Server (VPS) around the $20 a month mark. This is a halfway house between a full dedicated server ($60 a month minimum) and a website reseller account (about $7.50 a month). Reseller accounts don’t usually let you run your own software, while dedicated servers are nicest but quite costly.
The scalability seems best satisfied by Xen VPS. This is an open source package that runs multiple versions of Linux, Windows, etc., on powerful hardware so that each instance looks like a real server. It’s run as a cloud server VPS and is offered by many companies.
A cloud server means that the resources are configurable and can be scaled up or down according to demand. Normal servers don’t scale, you get them with fixed memory, disk space, etc.
With Xen VPS hosting you can start with a single instance but change it to use more memory, disk space, CPU etc. The good thing with most VPS hosting is that you don’t have long contracts, but pay by the month and can change vendors quickly.
There is a lot of difference in what’s on offer, including:
Traffic Data. This can vary from as low as 5 GB to a whopping 5000 GB a month. More is always better. If one player uses one MB of traffic each day then 1,000 players will use 30 GB in a month, 10,000 players will use 300 Gb a month. Don’t even think about the super platforms (Facebook, BigPoint.com) unless you can support a minimum of a million players (30 TB a month!) or have some way of controlling access and are financially well backed!
Backups. Some hosting companies give you unlimited snapshots of live data, others do daily backups, and some charge extra. If a game crashes, how far back do you need to restore, how quick can it be restarted? It’s a business so customers, especially the paying ones demand that your game service be reliable.
Control Panel. Are you an Apache expert and can configure extra websites, databases, etc.? If not, then look for hosting that includes cpanel, plesk or virtualmin. These are easy to use control panels that simplify setting up multiple websites. Many hosting companies charge extra for these. If all else fails, install Webmin (free from http://Webmin.com), which is excellent but needs a little bit of techy skill to get the best out of it. There are other open source admin tools, such as Kloxo, but that works with just one flavor of Linux at the moment.
I’ve short listed it down to one or two and will put an order in in a few days.