Web hosting is a tricky affair – for the hosting company as well as the end-user. If you find a reliable web host as per your requirements then it works out great, else you might end up facing issues like downtime, lack of support, refund disputes, and continuous hopping from one host to the other, and don’t even get me started if your web host manages your domain.
I started with the web hosting adventure around 1999, and after several unsuccessful hopp’s I finally settled with Aletia Hosting (now JaguarPC). Since then I’ve never looked elsewhere, mainly due to the excellent service and support by JaguarPC.
As I see it, a typical vastly oversold shared hosting company will give you gigabytes of space and terabytes of data transfer for around $10/month. The point is, will you actually ever use all those bytes? Unless you run a high-traffic web site (in which case you’ll be looking at a high-end VPS or a dedicated server at the first place), you’ll never actually require tons of space or bandwidth. So eventually you are paying for stuff you don’t need, and never will.
I recently came across NearlyFreeSpeech, a web hosting service that functions on a different concept all together – pay as you go (PAYG). Instead of paying a fixed monthly fee, you make micro-payments only for resources that you end up consuming. It works on a model similar to the Amazon S3 online storage web service. NearlyFreeSpeech charges 1 cent per megabyte per month for web space (yeah, you heard me right), and $1 per gigabyte for bandwidth. If you have a small web site, I suppose your expenses won’t be more than a dollar per month (at most). Even for data-driven web sites, I think its a fantastic deal. A MySQL process costs 1 cent per day (typically 25-30 cents per month or about $3.65 per year for the database).
The other thing that interests me about their service architecture is their load-adaptive clustered technology which is ideal for handling demand surges (Digg/Slashdot effect). So even if you see high-traffic momentarily, you only end up paying for the surge, rather than a fixed monthly price on the higher side. They even provide full DNS management support and a vibrant stack of languages (CGI, PHP, Ruby, Perl, Python). However, they do have certain limitations, like: no cron scheduler, no SSL, no email hosting, no control panel (only FTP and SSH).
An important aspect for any business is to remain profitable, so as to sustain its infrastructure. And as it turns out NearlyFreeSpeech has been in business for nearly 2 years, so I reckon their business model works for them. I’ll surely give them a try with a live production project in the near future. I’m sure this PAYG-style web hosting will catchup gradually, and we’ll see even more companies offering such hosting plans.