I have always been a big fan of running my own server to have complete control over pretty much everything. I like having the power to break everything, sometimes just so I can put it back together. But is this economically sensible?
Last month, PG&E charged me $0.1143 per kilowatt-hour for electricity. My machine has a 400 watt power supply, but by best estimates it draws about 50 watts just sitting around serving web traffic. Running all day, every day, this will cost me about $4.11 for the 36 kilowatt-hours burned. Junk change. Services from (mt), TextDrive and Amazon run $50, $45 and $72 per month respectively.
I could say case-closed right here and now but let's make this interesting. I made a notable omission in my comparison above -- bandwidth. I have the distinct displeasure of being a Comcast customer and theoretically have 768Kbps upload speed. Checking with Speakeasy, I actually have 1526Kbps upload to San Francisco and 1518Kbps upload to New York City. Sweet! Whether you believe this as little as I do is unimportant -- it's a far cry from the 100Mb+ connection available to every self-respecting datacenter.
Right now the homepage of this site is 22KB (and is by far the most visited page on the site). Nevermind the poor visitor-engagement, this means that at my current upload bandwidth I can serve 8.625 requests per second. This is downright poor compared to the 568 requests per second theoretically possible on a 100Mb connection. At the moment though, all that extra capacity will just go to waste.
Of course, what would be the fun in hosting a website in an environment with stable power? PG&E sometimes cuts the power just to keep me on my toes or keep me from waking up for work, but how much does this really cost me? I don't make any money from any of my sites (not even AdSense), but if I did, here's what I'd consider. For every hour a site is down, you lose some amount of money. If that amount times the number of hours of downtime per month is greater than the cost of reliable hosting, maybe the reliable hosting is worthwhile. However, even reliable hosting goes down sometimes, so you can't count all of your downtime at home against the price difference.
Whew. So now with a little qualification, I can still sleep comfortably with my server fans running and my would-be hosting money in my pocket. I need a lot more traffic and a lot more income before I spring for root-access on a box in a datacenter.
It should be mentioned that I serve this site from a TextDrive shared acount because I destroy my server so often that a simple Wordpress install does well to stay away.