07 July 2007

My Life Simplified

I’m attempting to take some of the complexity out of my life by moving all of my web and email hosting out of the house to hosting providers. Originally, I was running web and email servers from the house as a good way to learn and keep current on things. I’ve now moved past that and want to have someone else apply patches and keep the systems running.

There were several requirements - I wanted a “pretty” photo web site with slide show function to dissolve between photos, a blog to post travel logs and things like this, email had to support my mom and brother while also providing me with an Exchange 2007 account with active sync. After a lot of looking around, I have finally found a solution that appears to be working…

I’m currently using the following service providers:

  • Email
    • Primary host is Goggle Hosted Apps (no cost.) This gives my mom and brother the ability to use POP3 on both of my domains (laabs.biz and spice-weasel.com)
    • My email is forwarded from Google to a hosted exchange account at 123Together. They have been quite responsive so far and offer all the features I wanted at a good price: Power 1000 account for $14.95/mo. Includes a 1Gb mailbox, active sync, OWA 2007, and RPC over HTTP (”outlook anywhere”)
  • Web Page / Blog
    • The Host is ANHosting. They were highly rated and supported auto-installation of my blogging software. They provide shared Linux hosting for $6.95/mo with 250Gb of storage and 2.5Tb of bandwidth. (Also, I found a deal for 3 months free with a 1 year commitment - making the effective price $5.56/mo…but that doesn’t appear to be showing up on my invoice yet…)
    • I installed by blog of choice (Wordpress) at the press of a button in their control panel and I was able to restore the blog I started at home to the new site. Up and running in a only an hour or so.
  • Photos
    • This was the most difficult one. I really wanted control of how my photos looked and how they were viewed. Jesus pointed me to Phanfare. They offer photo hosting with a very nice flash based interface. I had been running a photo gallery package called SlideShowPro (with SlideShowProDirector) for a couple of months. It was $50 and would run on either Linux or windows. There was nothing wrong with it - and I can still use it on the ANhosting site if needed, but so far I’m very happy with Phanfare. The cost of Phanfare is $54.95/yr and includes unlimited storage. The thick administration client is great - and the web client is not bad either for quick touch-ups without the install. (If you decide to join, please indicate that you were referred by “bard” [my Phanfare account name] so I can benefit - you will also, with $7 off your subscription.)
  • DNS/Domain Hosting
    • To make this all work seamlessly, I needed a great DNS host - I’ve been using EasyDNS for years and have been nothing but happy with them. I have total control over my DNS entries - making all of this dispersed hosting easy. Even to the point of adding SPF records to allow email from all of the servers involved. Its not the cheapest, but it has worked very reliably.

So the monthly bills break down like this:

Google $ 0.00
ANHosting $ 6.95
123Together $14.95
Phanfare $ 4.58
EasyDNS $ 5.83 (2 domain registrations with DNS service)
$32.31 Total per month

I’ve estimated the electrical costs for running the server was about $30 a month, so I might even come out ahead on this whole deal if I can reduce my monthly internet bill by $25/month by removing some of the static IP addresses I’m no longer using. (Although now that I look at it, $388/year seems like a lot just to talk to you all…)
It has been a chore to work this all out - but I’ve finally turned off the server. I’m down to 1 computer, an open source PfSense Firewall (highly recommended), and a SonicWall SLLVPN (recommended, but they want a lot for software updates and maintenance) for most of my computer needs.

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