October 11, 2011

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Nothing in life is free except air and weather. The same is true when you are running a grid. And that is something that you must work out when you begin to consider opening your grid to the public. And its a crucial consideration when trying to decide to host from your home or from a hosting service provider.

When you look at the costs of running your grid from your home, you have to understand that its not free. First, you need a system that you can dedicate to keeping your grid up and running 24/7/365. Let's face it, you want people to enjoy their visits and if your hardware isn't up to it, they are going to deal with all sorts of things, most especially, lag. And a poor experience on their part will have long term repercussions on your reputation. So, you are going to need a system that can handle things.

My home system is a single core processor running at 2.6Ghz with 3Gb of RAM. I have two 150Gb harddrives installed with the 2nd one dedicated to data storage. My graphics card is a nVidia 9500GT with 1Gb RAM. It does very well for me, but I don't have any faith in it being to handle more than just me. And a new system really isn't all that costly. Tiger Direct has a six core desktop for sale for $803, though you'll also have to pay shipping and handling. Add a low cost monitor for $100, bring your RAM up to 16Gb for $60, a 2Tb harddrive for backups at $80 and you are looking at $1,200. Not bad, is it?

And then there's your ISP and the level of service you need. Its pretty hard to work out how much dataflow you will have once your grid is online. If nobody is visiting, then the data that goes back and forth is at its minimum. But how much dataflow is there when someone does visit? Initially, that looks like something that is impossible to determine unless your grid is online to measure it.

And then I realized that the dataflow is in two directions. And I have a way of measuring how much data passes from grid to person and back. My ISP tracks my data usage and I can get that information. And I am also a regular visitor to InWorldz where I have an armaments business, Excelsior Armaments. Bottom line, when I visit InWorldz, I use approximately 50Mb of dataflow per hour. That gives me something on which to base my estimates on.

Okay, I know Excelsior Station is not going to have people there every second of every day, but an over estimate is much better than an under estimate. So, 50Mb/hour comes to 1.2Gb/day. And that all works out to 36Gb/month. Now comes the hard part. That 36Gb/month would happen if someone was present every second of every day every month. And there is no way Excelsior Station will be that popular right away. That kind of popularity takes time to build up. But, there will be some visitors. So, how often will there be someone visiting? Is 2 hours a day realistic? I think so. That basically means that I am estimating that there will be a visitor about 10% of the time to begin with. And that means 3.6Gb/month of dataflow. And that's on top of my normal 'Net activities. My ISP charge $70/month for 3-5Gb of usage.

So, quick recap, $1,200 for the hardware and an estimated $70/month for ISP charges. But, that's not all. A computer uses electricity, after all, and that is another cost you have to factor in.

Ener Hax at ilisl.com hosts Enclave Harbour from her own system. Recently, she wrote a piece on how much energy her PC uses. Her hardware has a 500 watt power supply while mine is 250. That six core I mentioned above has a 700 watt power supply. Ener's article, though, gives you a very good idea of what you can expect. For estimating purposes, I am going to multiply Ener's number by 1.5 to reflect the cost of a running a 750 watt system. Like I said, its better to over estimate than to under estimate. Her results come to $585.31/year. Which, for my estimate becomes $877.65 per year. Or $73.16 per month. And don't forget, the cost of electricity where you live will be different form where Ener lives which is different from where I live. But what the hell, its only a rough estimate at this point. IN fact, I'm going add just a little to make things easier and call it $75/month for electricity.

So, here's where we are at. Hardware, ISP charges and the cost of electricity. It all comes to $1,200 for the initial outlay for hardware and then another $145/month to keep it running and online. Those numbers will be different for you, but not by much.

And that monthly estimate gives me something to use when I go looking into hiring a hosting service. More on that at a later time.

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