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Ask HN: Which hosting company to use for a small SaaS product?
40 points by adrian_pop on Feb 15, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments
I am planning my own SaaS product, which should be ready in about 2-3 months of development.

I make some research on the targeted market, there is potential and the competition is quite low. As far as I know there are only 2 or 3 competitors which sell almost the same product, but none of them are using the SaaS model. There is also place for innovation, which I'll implement.

The idea is to provide wordpress hosting, support and security, theme development, for a specific market which is under saturated.

I don't want to get a $100 dedicated server, because in the first month, I might have...zero income. Something under $50 would be great.

Basic equirements: - dynamically allocate more resources - on demand dedicated IPs - custom DNS

Thank you.

Digital Ocean just had some really great performance reviews on HN the other day and they are $5/mo for the minimum tier.

I was a linode customer and I just bought a digital ocean box.

I was paying $29.99 (about 31 with tax) for a 768MB RAM box with 2.3Ghz cpu and 4 cores, 36GB storage and 300GB transfer with an additional $7.95 for backup ... so $40 all together. That eats a chunk of the $100/mo I make off my very small rails app.

For $20 ... I get 2.1ghz 2 core cpu, 2GB of RAM, 30GB storage (SSD btw), 3TB transfer with backups thrown in for free. So I save an extra $20 a month ... but if everything goes well, I'll probably shell out the extra $20 to get a 4GB box if the next 6 months with Digital Ocean go well just so I can be with in a better server neighborhood.

I would be interested in hearing how that works out for you. So far their offering has looked to be the most tempting for me.

Currently you can't get any extra dedicated IP4 addresses no matter what VPS you have (which is what OP asks)

Wow, how can they afford to be so cheap?

The minimum doesn't buy you much.

That's true, but he's looking for under $50/mo, so he could get a very nice box from DigitalOcean for $20/mo+.

AppFog has a free tier under 2GB Ram, 50 GB bandwith and 100 Mb database.

I think it's not the cheapest but it gives you some time before you have to invest. I didn't used it in production, but for testing it was good enough. I could deploy a scala-lift app in a not too hard way. (1 GB ram, 2-3 hours thinking and one af push, but I was not familiar with lift or clouds at all)


My only problem with AppFog is the "50GB Bandwidth". They don't let you know how much you've used - they just say "we will start slowing down your app when you hit the limit."

Obviously they need to get paid for their service, but I prefer to know when the cost is going to happen.

If you want to use SSL though you will have to at least shell out $50 a month.

+1. i love how easy `af update <app>` is!

Digital Ocean looks interesting. But if you want a dedicated box check out Hetzner.de. 49Euros/month gets you a i7 Quad core beast with 16GB RAM and 2x3TB HDDs.

Moving from Linode (20$/month plan for 512MB ram) gave me something like 30x capacity increase for only about 2.5x price increase. Mind blowing.

Agree. Dedicated servers are getting cheaper and cheaper. I'm running a box at Incero (http://www.incero.com) for $121/month that's decked out, with quad-core Xeon, 16GB RAM, SSD, and unmetered bandwidth. It's really a different world of performance for a relatively modest price increase from my former VPS ($80/mo, for a 2GB Linode).

I have a server with Hetzner, it's amazing. I drool every time I log on.

Linode, easy to start small and grow just by re-sizing the server. They may not be the cheapest but they have very good support and their guides are perfect.

I love Linode, but getting new IPs (a listed requirement) from Linode is like pulling teeth. You have to prove you have a different SSL cert for each new IP you request or they'll tell you to just use one IP with host-headers.

It would depend on your needs. For eg: do you need a L/W/M-AMP server or something that can run Rails, or node.js. If all you are doing is wordpress themes and templates, I assume you want a L/W/M-AMP server stack. AWS free tier is awesome and more suited to your needs. Once you start gaining momentum you will get charged, but hopefully you will be making positive revenue as well. Windows azure, they have a free 3 month trial, but it gets expensive there after. I personally use hostmonster, mainly because all the general server admin stuff that I do not want to worry about is taken care of for me. Their customer service is excellent as well. Other notable ones are Heroku, MediaTemple and Hostgator.

Oh another one that I forgot that I recently heard of: Firebase. Apparently it provides you with an entire backend stack for your website. Makes it almost magical, I personally like more control over my data, but if this is your thing, be sure to try it out. They have a 5 minute tutorial to help you get a better understanding of them as well!

I agree with this. Also if he's then worried about performance/etc... he could sign up for the free setup at cloudflare for CDN and should be golden.

Never had a problem with Rackspace Cloud (running 5 right now for various projects). < $20 / month for a basic server.

I've been happy with Rackspace Cloud too. Cheap servers, built-in DNS, built-in CDN, built-in backups, and the support team will almost always go out of their way to help, even if you don't have a managed server.

The MyCloud/OpenCloud control panel is still a little slow for managing a large number of DNS entries, but hey, it's free.

Not to mention Loadbalancers for dirt cheap. Less known fact if you add the LB the jump your BW to 1Gb/s

+1 for getting started on the cheap-ish with Rackspace. Getting a box setup with the built-in DNS is relatively painless. I was using Slicehost for most of my hosting before the merger and haven't had any problems since and the control panel/support is much nicer.

We had a problem with a Windows server on RS cloud. It was running very slow, but it was a host issue. We complained to RS, and they moved us off the host to another host. It's been fine since then.

Rackspace Cloud has been good for me. Rackspace Cloud Sites not so much. Seemingly random errors coming from the infrastructure level, not much fun to debug.

Oh, oh! Can I get some more details? What's bad about Cloud Sites? Does this mean you are using Cloud Server? Did you deploy the web and database on a single instance?

Well, the Cloud Server is basically a VM that you have full root access to, so yeah install apache and mysql, varnish whatever and off you go. But performance seemed better than the equivalent AWS instances that I tried, and I've had no outages in the 3 or 4 years or so I've been using it. Which compares well with AWS.

Cloud Sites are a totally different product. My first complaint was no ssh access so you can't deploy with version control. FTP like it's 1999.

Second issue, was we would see random null responses that did not come from our application (medium sized Drupal site). It was a while ago, but here's a more recent post recounting the same problems. [1]

And another post on Reddit from a couple of days ago with a couple of other people. [2]

Drupal is possibly similar enough to Wordpress that you'd see similar issues.

For a SAAS I'd be looking at the most reliable hosting I could get if I were you. Outages are going to cost you both your time and customer trust.

[1] http://mavergames.org/content/drupal-rackspace-clouds-cloud-...

[2] http://www.reddit.com/r/drupal/comments/18bcbb/is_it_time_fo...

pagodabox.com is a favorite. they also offer redis/memcache clusters etc and chances are you'll do fine with their free tier for a while also. ondemand IP's without SSL can start to cost you on various services, so watch out for that.

quickstart on wordpress: https://pagodabox.com/cafe/pagoda/wordpress

Thank you everyone for input and taking time to answer my question.

Many of you suggested some companies with free tiers, but on a SaaS product, I can't use that. I feel insecure, don't know why.

I would prefer something semi-managed, or easy to managed, without ssh. I know a few basic linux commands, I know how to setup a lamp on a vps, but that's all.

I've had BugMuncher running on Linode since day 1. They're not the cheapest (but they're definitely not overpriced either), but it's been rock solid.

The support staff really go above and beyond to help you get things sorted, plus they've got a great library of guides to setting up a massive variety of server software.

I have to agree, Linode's support is second to none; they've helped me debug problems that had little to do with them, and they respond very quickly.

It sounds like you're trying to do Wordpress development and hosting for a specific vertical. Think about the core of what you're offering -- is it the hosting, or the design? Anything that's not your core, outsource it to specialists. It sounds like your expertise is in Wordpress theme development, so do that yourself. Outsource the actual hosting to a Wordpress-specific host. I use WPEngine and their hosting & support are great.

If you don't want to use WPEngine, I would deploy to Amazon Elastic Beanstalk, which gives you the same ease of deployment (git push) and management as Heroku or Appfog, with the full control and power of direct access to the underlying EC2 and ELB resources.

I will +1 for Amazon Elastic Beanstalk.

Give SolarVPS a look. http://www.solarvps.com

It is easy to change resources, request additional IPs, and use the built-in DNS interface. $17.50/mo gets you a Linux with 2gb ram, 20gb disk, 1tb bandwidth and 1 CPU core.

The support team is 24/7, and VPSs come with a server monitoring service (SolarRay) that can alert you if one of your servers or services go down.

Also, a "One Click Application Install" feature just went into public beta. It might be helpful for what you are thinking about doing because it'd let you install, remove, backup, and restore multiple WordPress instances (among 200+ other apps) on your VPS in a snap.

Full disclosure: I am a developer at SolarVPS. :)

I use Webfaction and I LOVE IT.

I see a lot apps using MediaTemple, they seem to have a solid track record.

I've personally had poor experiences with MediaTemple's cheaper tiers when deploying client sites. They may have improved in the past year or so, though.

Webfaction is not a good idea. They are shared hosting.

Are you sure you're being rational about this? Your own time is going to be worth far more than $100/month, your living expenses will be much more than that. So spending the money isn't going to shorten your runway much.

I'm a fan of AWS, and their free tier.

I always use heroku when starting a new project. It gives me a fast setup and let me focus on the app during the pre-release process. If/when my apps get big I move to linode or aws.

I like Heroku's easy git integration. "git push heroku master" is such a simple way to deploy your app.

I think your app has to use postgresql in order to deploy on Heroku, though.

Try www.kimsufi.com .. they have ridiculously cheap dedicated servers. I'm using one now, but haven't had any "real load" yet.

Or if you insist on getting a VPS, how about www.gandi.net ?

"I don't want to get a $100 dedicated server, because in the first month, I might have...zero income."

What is the cost of your time for 2-3 months of development? Is it over $100?

"Zero income" is your big risk, not whether you can code the product. Go find your customers. Get commitments from them that they would pay your price for your app so you know you'll be making money on day 1. Rob Walling's book "Start Small, Stay Small" is a nice guide to this process.

Don't go with SoftLayer cloud. I had an instance and it was super slow. Lagged via SSH, HTTP, everything. Tried all kinds of things with their support who always pushed it back on my optimization.

I moved out to a dedicated server (with softlayer, very happy with it) and killed the instance. Restored the backup to a new instance and suddenly everything was speedy.

CaliHop Hosting is a great provider out of San Diego, California. They have dedicated servers, VPS, and cloud hosting. Currently, they have a $99 special on a very fast server:

- Xeon E3-1270V2 (3.5Ghz, 4/8 Cores) - 32GB DDR-3 ECC RAM - 1 x 256GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD or 2 x 1TB WD RE4 HDDs - 10TB Premium Bandwidth Blend on 100Mbps Port $99/mo & Free Setup


Second Rackspace, love it. Beanstalk for deployment of wp themes is fantastic. Did not have a good experience with WPEngine. But other's have, so take that with a grain of salt. Stay away from GoDaddy, obviously.

If you're using Python/Java, Google App Engine has a free tier. During development when your traffic is low, you'll almost pay nothing. Minimal setup as well.

"The idea is to provide wordpress hosting, support and security, theme development, for a specific market which is under saturated."

I guess python/java wouldn't work

These guys have worked well for me, and really cheap for a low-endish box: http://infiniserv.com

I'm biased (since it's my thing), but Uptano is probably a good fit here. https://uptano.com/

Check out the VPS reviews on lowendbox.com. I got a good VPS for only $4/month - 2GB ram, 80GB disk, 1.5 TB monthly free bandwidth.

I know lowendbox for about 2 years, and I read it about 2-3 times a month, and there are many readers complaining of bad companies. I need something I can rely on 24 hours a day.

OVH have some dedicated servers that start around $10/pm which is perfect :)

Running a SaaS product on a dedicated server, needs a system administrator, and I can't afford to pay one, at least not in the first months.

How's that any different from VPS? You'll always need to administer the server unless you use some kind of managed hosting or PaaS like Engine Yard or Heroku.

Openshift has a free tier, and a lot of options to scale up.

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