I started an earlier thread about sharing a VPS. I was thinking – should I pay $240 or $480 a year for my VPS? And how can I lower that cost?
IT changes fast and there is an alternative. Pay by the hour for a server. There are real advantages in cost and flexibility.
I opened an account with DigitalOcean and selected the bottom range “droplet” – 1vCPU and 1vCPU virtual machine. This is less than 1c an hour and capped at $5 a month and was fine for setting up my course. I installed Debian LAMP and Moodle and then hit a problem. I am living in China and run a VPN all the time. My new Moodle site was visible with my VPN taking me outside the Great FireWall but without a VPN it was not visible for my students. I had been assigned a blocked IP address.
Normally you submit a ticket and ask for a new IP address. Instead I created a snapshot – a copy of my droplet – and created a new droplet from the snapshot which came with a new IP address. All was fine with access and I now had two virtual machines going at 2c a minute billed. I destroyed the original droplet and was back to my original billing.
I snapshotted again and now I can create new droplets, each with a new IP address, from my Moodle install. This time I can allocate more resources - 2GB and 4GB and my cost is still under 10c an hour for three VM. I can run an intro to Moodle with a 2GB droplet in my first class and depending on performance, in my next class can point them to the 1 or 4 GB instance. I can then destroy what I don't need and run with a machine tested to be not too big and not too small – and one that can be easily upgraded.
In my upcoming holiday, I can snapshot again, destroy my virtual machine and pay pennies per month for storing my snapshot. Come the new term, create a new droplet.
I won't go back to annual billing.