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  • Why Shared Hosting is a Bad Idea for Invision Community - Better Options for Server Providers


    We've said this for years. And years. And yes, even more years.

    Invision Community developers. Invision Community server providers. Folks just giving a hand where needed with server work. All of them, all of us:

    Using shared hosting to serve your Invision Community site is a bad idea.

    I'll grant you a point in shared hosting's favor if you are actually considering this: shared hosting is probably, almost certainly, better than it was back in the 00's. But it is still shared hosting. Very much shared, with server configurations you will not have control over, and sites stacked alongside your site, and of a number far larger than you probably realize.

    The best analogy around this, used many times, is housing:

    • A dense apartment complex is shared hosting.
    • Townhouses are Virtual Private Servers (VPS) hosting your site.
    • Single family homes are dedicated servers doing the same.

    With shared hosting you have no idea how many other sites are on the same machine. All these sites are not just using, but directly competing with your site, for the same bulk resources on this single machine. Maybe you are on a server with just a few low-traffic static blogs? Maybe you are not... 10 sites? 50 sites? More? You won't know. 

    Some shared hosting providers can be slow to allow newer versions of PHP on their servers and that can conflict with updated Invision Community requirements (and this can also cut both ways where you may wish to remain on an older version of the IPS software but your host is forcing an incompatible upgrade).

    IPS requires the primary CRON process run every minute but some shared hosting providers limit you to two minutes, or even five minutes for your processes. 

    Do they have all the extensions you require? Will they keep thing up to date? Remember this is broad-based hosting! They set a common target and whatever you are doing has to fit in to those requirements.

    The price is cheap but the limitations will cost you and when something is off and not performing well at all support responses from the hoster will be "the server is working fine it must be something on your end" and INVCOM developer responses are going to be along the lines of "why are you on shared hosting?".


    Better Option: VPS

    VPS (virtual private server) resources are mostly allocated in contrast to shared. You will be "guaranteed" x-amount of RAM, CPU, and storage space on a machine without the heavier costs of a dedicated machine. There are still some sharp elbows amongst the limited number of tenants on the underlying machine but bad actors are usually shuffled away rather quickly and computational work not compatible with this model of server providing - namely mining crypto and transcoding raw video/audio - is prevented outright. Those sharp elbows are usually only encountered when you begin pushing the limits of your allocation - or someone else on the server is. Expect to be able to use half of what is allotted to you for CPU and Memory (storage should be the entire allotment). If you routinely max-out to your specified CPU and memory limits they will either move you to another instance to handle the load or politely tell you to upgrade to a higher configuration. 

    The big advantage is having full control over the configuration of the server. Everything. The resources of a dedicated server are partitioned off into set-packages and those resources are yours to do with, and configure, as you please. Your choice of LINUX. Apache or Nginx - your choice. MariaDB or stock MySQL. All yours to decide. And the answer is yes - you CAN host more than one instance of Invision Community on your VPS. The difference here is you are in control of what is happening. If you put two high-traffic Invision Community sites on the same VPS and you under-provision the specs of the VPS to handle it expect the worse.

    Costs can vary for VPS rollouts, and "overselling" or over-provisioning is still a thing here, just on a much more limited basis. Check for reviews and recommendations (mindful of the usual bad experience reviews vastly outweighing people bothered to write nice things). Typically you can expect to come through anywhere from $10/month (manage your expectations...) to $30/month and be in a really good place. The more your community receives consistent, and higher traffic, just like with any hosting, your actual needs will be exposed and you'll adjust as needed. Be sure to roll with a provider that takes daily backup snapshots of your VPS as this mostly abrogates the need to worry about this yourself.


    Better Option: VDS

    The terminology around all this can get confusing at times. VPS stands for virtual private server and we've discussed those above, but there is also a variant casually known as VDS where the supplier is absolutely specific that you are getting exactly what is advertised with no over-selling of the underlying resources. VDS stands for virtual dedicated servers. All the same benefits of a VPS but with more certainty that what you are paying for is what you are getting 24/7. Pricing is more in-line with dedicated server costs, only sliced up into what portion of the server you are paying for.


    Better Option: Dedicated Server

    Hosting your Invision Community on dedicated hardware means you are owning or renting a single machine outright, with the server room costs being folded into the cost of rental, or in the case of owning outright, borne by yourself. No limits here, all the control and power, but also no limits on costs. Deeper pockets can buy a server outright and just pay for server room costs and bandwidth. Backups are on YOU so keep that in mind as well. If you are at this level of need, you probably have staff on hand and an IT department at the ready.

    On the very-low-end, an unmanaged dedicated server might set you back $75 a month (this can be much lower but temper your expectations, including uptime), and $100 to $200 is more typical. Once you've out-grown VPS hosting you'll really need to examine needs/costs/benefits of managing your own servers vs. IPS Community in the Cloud. However, if you have special needs that IPS Community in the Cloud hosting cannot provide (and there may be certain requirements with your 3rd party custom apps/databases/features that conflict here) this is your only option outside of creating your own clouded-instance.


    Provider: SSD Nodes VPS

    The sales never end. Let's just start there. And that countdown timer is a joke as well. Ignore it. The NVMe SSD speeds are legit. The storage amounts are real. Your memory amounts are (probably) a hard 6GB (or so) with shared flex to your specified amount as needed, when needed. Your CPU? Yes, but in reality the performance is likely to be a bit slower on machines fully loaded with clients. The pricing though will not be beaten by anyone anywhere anytime soon. 

    A related entity called Strasmore provides the same offerings but priced higher and likely(?) VDS based (so actually dedicated slices of resources instead of shared slices).

    I'm using them for three sites. This one, a private one, and a relic gaming site. None of them receive heavy traffic. Two of them are on the same server. I've bought servers from them since 2018 or so.

    Uptime? As of August 2023 it will be a solid uninterrupted two years. It would be longer if that wasn't when I created my last batch of servers.

    No you do not get a cPanel control panel (or any other) and yes if you want the best pricing you buy in one or three year terms. Feel free to use the one year pricing to test the waters. You can always bail out after a year or if things are going well, push on to a three year plan early and they will apply any balance left on your one year plan to the new term.

    You get a lot for little and unless your site is really cooking, these guys are a fantastic option for starting out or managing costs for small to medium sized communities. Three year plans (paid in full) with amazing specs (note limitations mentioned above) come in around $10 to $15 a month for NVMe storage. Less for standard SSDs. Yearly billing expect $15 to $20 a month. Server hardware is Intel Gold/Silver e-class; no AMD as of yet. 

    Check out SSD Nodes


    Provider: VULTR, Linode, DigitalOcean, Others

    Larger, more well-known players. The nomenclature may be different but whether it is a VPS or Cloud Compute or whatever you'll still be getting a CPU with a few cores, some storage (not as large as SSD Nodes), and adequate bandwidth outbound. You'll have better consistent performance across your purchased specifications but pricing is in the range of $20 to $60 a month. No you do not get control panels, at least not cPanel.

    OVH, Hetzner, LiquidWeb and countless large, well known, players exist.

    I can also recommend Cloudfanatic and HostHatch. Feel free to look around. You'll do fine.

    DigitalOcean Linode Vultr



    Directories: LowEndBox/LowEndTalk

    If you want to play there are hundreds if not thousands of folks making a buck with VPS, VDS, and dedicated server offerings. Server providers have to start somewhere. Poke around, have fun, but buyer beware!

    LowEndBox LowEndTalk


    Bottom Line

    A VPS needs to be the minimum to ensure your site has the base resources to perform at all times. With IPS new-pricing for self-hosting at $200/year for the whole suite, add in VPS costs and couple bucks for yearly domain renewal and you can have it all for $25 to $50 a month all together. If you can handle a minimum of server commands manually I don't think this can be beat.

    This article is a BROAD OVERVIEW, nothing more. I'll post more in the coming months as this site fills out.


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