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Recommend a reliable, low cost/low end web server

The internet connection in my rented office was just upgraded to a static IP at no extra cost by the landlord.  They told me it was OK to run a low bandwidth server off of it. I see co$t $avings, as I can punt my shared Linux server a $30/mo.

Sooo... I have a clunky old 400 mhz Pavilion with a 13g HD that runs Red Hat reasonably well.

But I am also concerned about reliability and power consumption - if the power goes out for a few hours, I want the PC to keep running in order to not require manual fiddling on reboot.

One idea I had was to buy an old laptop from Ebay. About $250 and up for the minimal specs that would match the HP box. And even if the UPS crapped out, it would keep going on its own battery.

Another idea is to just bite the bullet and build a micro-ATX based box.

Any other ideas? I even considered something whacky like a Zaurus (hey, it runs Linux...)

Open to homebrew, strange processors (as long as a *nix port exists), etc...

Bored Bystander
Thursday, April 1, 2004

"I can punt my shared Linux server a $30/mo."

Whoa...  $30.  Since you are "low-bandwidth" why are you paying so much?

Do you really need the reliability of a UPS?  You can fiddle with most BIOS's to get your machine to automatically power up on a power failure.  It won't keep you connected when the power is out, but it won't "require manual fiddling on reboot."

Ultimately, your best bet is the PC you have and get a cheap UPS.

Almost Anonymous
Thursday, April 1, 2004

I highly recommend getting an UPS for two reasons:
1) To protect against power flickers. If your power bumps off for a half-second, there's no reason to make your server cycle (and it's bad for the hardware)
2) If you're really dedicated, get a smart UPS and hook it to your server (generally a serial connection). Then set up whatever utility necessary to cleanly shut down your server when it's at the two minute warning.

Don't forget to put your DSL router on the UPS. :-)


Friday, April 2, 2004

A typical PC + UPS will run for about twenty minutes on a UPS. A laptop can run for three hours if the battery is good.

On the other hand low quality laptops like to freeze up when they get warm and are not really designed for 24x7.

On the third hand, for the first year of FogBUGZ's existence we ran the online FogBUGZ trial on an old Thinkpad 600 with a blown screen and never had a minute of downtime. (Laptops with blown screens are REALLY cheap on ebay).

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Friday, April 2, 2004

You won't be able to get a laptop with a battery life long enough to have the server running when you go to the office in the monning after it's shut down at night, so just go for a UPS that will stay up long enough to do a shutdown.

Now, in Windows that feature comes as standard. You'll have to indulge in your favourite pastime of reading through the Linux 'how tos' to find out if possible under Linux.

If you do find out it is possible on Linux, post here. If you don't find out, I am sure Philo will let us all know in less time than it takes to blow a lightbulb.

Stephen Jones
Friday, April 2, 2004

Stephen, tut tut

what goes on in one thread, stays in that thread :)

Friday, April 2, 2004

Yeah, do not rely on a laptop to run 24/7.  If you do run off a laptop, keep the screen up!  A lot of laptops the keyboard is a primary area where heat escapes.  If you disable the sleep and put the screen down, you are asking for an overheat (it will happen, alarmingly quickly)

Oren Miller
Friday, April 2, 2004

If you buy an old laptop chances are the battery will have all of 10 mins. life left. Calculate the purchace of a new battery in the price.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, April 2, 2004

How reliable is your electritiy wher you live?  I think your internet access being down is much more likely.
I second the other UPS suggestions. 

Bill Rushmore
Friday, April 2, 2004

If you're going to have the machine live on the Internet, make a point of setting up automatic updates to catch the latest patches, or run the server off of OpenBSD, the OS of choice for the paranoid.  Whenever I've set up a Redhat machine on the network without the automatic updates, it has been compromised within a matter of a day or two.  Worse yet, it's always been through the bind server.  Needless to say, I do not have a high opinion of the quality of that particular piece of software.

Debian's apt-get mechanism might be your friend for this server.

Clay Dowling
Friday, April 2, 2004

Guys, thanks for the general ideas. Ok, my thought was that a laptop would buffer any power outage, but I didn't think it through on total capacity.

Stephen - on Linux - yeh, yeh, yeh. ;-)

Thx for the thoughts about Red Hat, I know that standard Linux distributions are practically begging to be rooted.

For a web server that can live off the grid, I found this: a mini-itx motherboard with processor, $85:

Add to that a case that uses +12v from a transformer power supply, $80:

Bored Bystander
Friday, April 2, 2004

The most expensive task is system management. I use, good service, prices start from $99

Evgeny Gesin /
Friday, April 2, 2004

I could not do with a cheapo web host account so I was paying US$50.00 a former employer and that was the wholesale price.  A cohort mentioned something like as I did not want to pay what I considered highway robbery for a static IP number. I've been using for over a year now. I also use their email reflector so I can run my own mail server and get around the blocks my provider (RR)has in place.  Like many here I've got boxes of old parts (motherboards, etc) and I just used one of the boxes I build from those parts. Been running like a charm. I got a good case though so it makes no noise. If my IP number changes a daemon will notify to update DNS. I've had no troulbe at all. I usually get uptimes of 30-40 days before the power goes off or someone accidentally pulls the plug.  It uses RedHat but I'm going to switch it to Debian. I use Debian (KDE) as my workstation and I MUCH prefer Debian and I've heard some guys have a sever version of Debian that I'm going to try.  So now my BroadBand is "free" since I don't pay hosting any more and of course that same connection is shared with others in the house via wireless.

Friday, April 2, 2004

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