Choosing a VPS or dedicated server

I am looking to rent one or more servers, fairly cheaply, to run self-hosted software such as Matrix and GitLab. Here I check out the best rented VPS and dedicated servers for my use case, and compare with the run-it-myself approach.

It could be either one small server per service, or one larger server on which I could run multiple services in containers and/or virtual machines. The minimum server for my main needs, and so listed here, is around 2 core + 4 GB RAM. I might use smaller ones for some purposes.

Best Rented Options

Hetzner

— near cheapest; recommended; in EU; has API; VPS & dedicated

  • €40 /mo. dedicated, good CPU + 64 GB RAM + 1 TB SSD
  • €6 /mo. VPS, 2 vCPU + 4 GB RAM + 40 GB SSD

I have seen Hetzner recommended often by self-hosters and now I can see why. Their prices are the best available for this scale and level of service.

(I also looked into their “server auction” listings but the prices there were only slightly lower than their far more powerful entry-level dedicated servers so that was not of much interest to me.)

Scaleway

— medium-cheap; wide range; smallest dedicated servers

  • €12 /mo. dedicated, 2 core 4 GB RAM 120 GB SSD
  • €17 /mo. VPS, 3 vCPU + 4 GB RAM + 40 GB SSD
  • also: tiny VPS: €2 /mo., 1 vCPU + 1 GB RAM + 10 GB
  • also: “C14 Cold Storage”, €2 /TB/mo.; ingress free; egress “in minutes” at €10 /TB

Scaleway seems to offer the second best deals for my use cases. They have a wide range of scale, with dedicated servers down to the smallest I have seen (noted here). They also have some attractive options such as the tiny VPS and the cold storage (“first alternative to Amazon’s”) that might be interesting for me to use later.

Linode

— Linux fans; recommended; has data centre in UK; has API

  • $20 – $30 /mo. VPS, 2 core + 4 GB RAM + 80 GB SSD
  • dedicated “coming soon”

The “Linux fans” comment refers to the company being, from what I hear from the Self-Hosted Show, an independent and long-established company based around love of all things linux, being a good player in the open software ecosystem.

I would consider Linode if I need a datacentre in the UK or if I have a more business-like use case in which paying these higher prices is justified by a better service level agreement or APIs or support or something.

Other Options

Contabo

  • about the cheapest VPS available
  • no API
  • poor SLA (“95% over a year; scheduled maintenance doesn’t count as down time”)

I would suggest that makes it suitable for toy projects but not for services that I would rely on or for work.

Servers At Home

  • e.g. £250 one-off cost for 8 core 16 GB RAM 480 GB SSD
  • that’s £10 /mo. if it lasts only 2 years; plus electricity
  • internet connection speed is a limitation for some use cases, not for others

For a total of £250 I bought a second-hand 5-year-old mini-PC (Lenovo ThinkCentre M73) with 8 cores + 16 GB RAM, and upgraded its disk to a 480 GB SSD. The way I use hardware, seldom upgrading, it should last me years. Factoring in electricity and maintenance, that comes out far cheaper than a rented server. The main limitation for me there is my internet connection is relatively slow, so it is not useful for public-facing services beyond a few small web pages. (I could look into getting a faster connection.) For my home services, such as keeping my own documents and photos, nearly always accessed from within my home network, it is ideal. With some external storage connected for large data sets, it is powerful enough to run many such services.

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