Web Hosting Question for BB and friends


I am looking for recommendations, and thought BB might have useful ideas in the old collective consciousness:

For reasons involving an art project I’m assisting with(details may be negotiable if one of them is the only thing between me and The Best Deal/option Evar; but are otherwise dictated by the project requirements), I need to arrange a bit of web hosting.

Expected duration, not 100% sure; but probably less than a year. Expected size, depending on how many pictures end up being involved, maybe a few GB. No server-side scripts or databases should be needed, this’ll just be (sometimes moderately frequently updated) static files with some client-side javascript.

Caveats/reasons I didn’t just use a free Wordpress/Google Sites/etc. account:

The project involves a relatively lightweight geographic visualization/GIS component which imposes two constraints:

I want to be able to use KML Network Links, and those are really touchy if the MIME types are wrong. Most of the idiot-proof-CMS and similar offerings don’t have much to say on setting MIME type, since most applications are substantially less touchy, or it’s super-obvious things like .jpeg files that they can successfully guess.

Secondly, since I don’t want to force people to install Google Earth or some other KML-compliant GIS package, I’d like to offer the choice of downloading the raw KML/KMZ and displaying that, or displaying in-browser as a KML layer over Google Maps (as in this example). Various sorts of mangling-to-fit-the-theme or script-ensafeifying schemes that common CMSes use have given me hell with this latter requirement.

What I’m looking for is a (relatively cheap, obviously) host that’ll give me a few GB of space(quite possibly less than one will actually be needed; but depending on how photo-happy the artist side gets, it could be a few more) a modest amount of bandwidth/month (this is hardly going to set the world on fire; but I’d rather not have it conk out before more than a couple dozen people see it, and I’m not a god of lean and optimized web gurus), and the ability to Just Upload Files and HTML, no CMS or handholding in my way. I’m not afraid of the command line; but I’d prefer to avoid being responsible for updating and securing an *nix box for the entire duration of the project, for which I’m really only the (volunteer) help, not the point person, so ‘hosted’ is preferred to ‘bare metal VM’.

Any good offerings of that flavor these days? Just a good, old-fashioned, account on a Linux VM with an HTTP server serving out anything you put in the directory and chmod appropriately?


I probably won’t be much real help, but could you give us a very general idea of your budget?

If it’s really all static, have you considered Amazon S3 (or similar)? That has its pros and cons, but it is certainly an option.


As it happens, that is what I went with. My budget is ~0 (I’m doing this as a favor, and whatever it costs comes out of my pocket, and it’s somebody’s art thing, not exactly a profit-magnet; but if I end up exceeding the free tier, I’ll be OK.)

(Just in case anybody else cares why I chose why I did):

I ran into a bit of a squeeze between ‘proper’ web hosting (which is still pretty cheap, for what you get, if this were my hobby thing, giving Dreamhost the equivalent of ~2pints/decent beer per month for a domain name and hosting service wouldn’t strike me as unreasonable); and ‘free’ web hosting (which, in the case of some of the ‘for education’ offerings isn’t even ad-laden; but is pretty much 100% built around the assumption that you’ll be blogging/Content Management System-ing, and so automatically includes so much style cruft that it makes doing even the vaguely involved scripting for something like a Google Map with custom KML overlays either impossible(if the safety filters are too agressive about those external scripts and resources being loaded), or beyond my feeble skill (if it isn’t formally forbidden; but I need to integrate it all into the pre-canned style without breaking things rather than just opening a full-tab nothing-but-map from scratch).

Amazon had the nice feature of being free (and ramping up in cost very slowly, I’m serving the HTML page and the KML overlay, so 1 ‘view’ of the map counts as two ‘gets’, so I get 2,500 views/month for free, and 5 cents per additional 2,500 views, with the option to just pull the plug if it somehow goes viral and actually starts costing noticeable money; but, since Amazon’s ‘free’ tier is basically just a sales pitch for some industrial-strength ‘cloud’ stuff, minor little things like 'specify absolutely whatever MIME type you need to, per file, are totally doable, and serving raw chunks of HTML is trivial, rather than hidden behind a CMS(often this would be bad, for this specific project it isn’t).

I didn’t have time to compare Google and MS’s offerings in the same vein; but I can see why VMware alternates between bombastic jingoism about ‘that company that sells books’ and wetting themselves in fear.

I could have gotten the same level of control (and substantially more bandwidth/freedom to ‘just throw it up there, it isn’t metered’) from Dreamhost or other ‘traditional’; but, as said, my budget for this one is a little…awkward. If I need to, I can shell out; but I’d rather not if I can help it, and the person that I’m doing it for isn’t really a good enough friend/acquaintance to necessarily avoid awkwardness if she discovers that I unilaterally shelled out a bunch to make her project work. Amazon’s ‘probably free, maybe a cup of coffee or two’ expected price range is much more suitable to this specific occasion.

(Oh, One Thing To Note about S3: their documentation doesn’t really call attention to this; but their system, at least the manual console, will happily and without the slightest comment allow you to create buckets that are invalid and will necessarily fail later. Is ‘foo.bar’ a valid name for a bucket? Nope, the dot screws it up. Can you create bucket foo.bar, and spend a bunch of time configuring it before you hit a step where it will say ‘bucket is invalid’ and nothing else? Yes. Not. That. I’m. Bitter. Mixed case is also a no-no; but you wouldn’t know it from the complete lack of protest when you create a mixed case bucket.

I don’t need to be coddled every step of the way; but is rejecting invalid input when entered, rather than happily accepting it and cryptically failing 25 minutes later during an apparently unrelated step really the best we can do?)


That sounds like it should work fairly well, but I just wanted to mention another possibility. Before I switched to a VM, I used nearlyfreespeech.net . They charge based on the amount stored and the amount served much like Amazon. They’re also crazy libertarians (in the good way), so they don’t care what you’re hosting as long as it’s legal.


Good to know about. This particular project is about as inoffensive as they come; but knowing who the spineful hosts are is never a bad thing.


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