Both Marco Arment and Brent Simmons have been in something of a dialogue of late, discussing the various benefits of running your own server over having it managed by someone else such as Amazon Web Services. There are undoubtedly plenty of reasons to go either route, and I wouldn't want to get in the middle of such an argument, especially considering I neither develop apps nor have a clue about where to even start.
What did catch my eye during Marco's latest post on the subject though is the way he suggests that anyone running a server from home is 'doing it wrong' and that they should 'start over.'
(Also, while I know Brent knows this, to be perfectly clear to everyone else: if you’re running a public-facing server in your house, office, or anywhere except a datacenter, you’re doing it wrong. Start over.)
Now I'll argue against that until I'm blue in the face. The comment came after Simmons said that at one point his blog was running on a machine running at his home - something that obviously isn't the case now. But he did it early on in his career, and there's nothing wrong with that. We all need to learn.
Very early in my career I ran one of these in my bedroom behind an ISDN connection. It would crash once or twice a week. I ran a system extension (I forget the name) that automatically rebooted in case of a crash. Sometimes this happened at 4 am and we’d wake up in panic at the sound of the Macintosh startup chime.
As I've probably mentioned before, this blog/website/rarely viewed collection of musings is also running on my home server. To be more accurate, it's a Pelican install that's running in an Ubuntu-based VM. And, assuming you're reading this, it works just fine.
It works fine because at the end of it all, this is here as a way of me learning things. It's taught me more about virtual machines than I could have picked up from reading. It's taught me how to configure Apache (well, I try!) and it's taught me how to install Pelican as well as pick up some basic PHP skills to boot. And it's cost me nothing except the electricity the host machine uses. But that's on anyway because it's where all my backups live, so there's that.
I'm sure Marco meant to qualify his comment, and that he meant that people are doing it wrong if they're running a business, or that they're getting hundreds of thousands of hits a day. I'm doing neither of those things, and most of you reading this aren't either. This site never goes down unless I break it, but that's what VM snapshots are for, and another reason I like to have everything within touching distance rather than on a machine in a data centre somewhere.
My fear is that people will read Marco's comments and not try things out because they were told not to. I've nothing but respect for Marco - how many businesses have I built and sold? - but I do hope that his semi-elitest slant on things doesn't stop someone from playing, someone from learning or someone from honing new skills because they can't afford to get a host elsewhere. After all, VPSes etc can be daunting when starting out, too.
Home servers have a place, and certainly a use for many. Myself included.
Of course, if Marco was to get wind of this and tweet a link to it then the chances are none of you will be able to read it thanks to my home broadband connection falling over long before the VM does.
But that's never going to happen, is it?