The Cloud Is Just Someone Else’s Computer

Not sure if I see any practical value in this for me - booting up a quick VPS is just so much easier, and I don’t really have any computing needs that I can predict 3 years out - but it sounds like a very fun experiment to try for its own sake!

When we started Discourse in 2013, our server requirements were high:

  • 1GB RAM
  • modern, fast dual core CPU
  • speedy solid state drive with 20+ GB

But wait … what if you could put your own computer “in the cloud”?

mini-PC build$820
Colocation cost$29/month
Total for a 3-year lifespan$1044
Roughly-equivalent DigitalOcean VPS$160/month
Total for a 3-year lifespan$5760

This [mini-PC vs VPS] isn’t quite apples to apples, as we are getting an extra 140GB of disk and 2 bonus CPUs, but those CPUs are both slower and partially consumed by multi-tenancy compared to our brand new dedicated, isolated CPUs.

I’m not saying this is for everyone. If you just need to spin up a quick server or two for testing and experimentation, there’s absolutely no way you need to go to the trouble and up-front cost of building and then racking colocated mini-pcs. There’s no denying that spinning servers up in the cloud offers unparalleled flexibility and redundancy. But if you do have need for dedicated computing resources over a period of years, then building your own small personal cloud, with machines you actually own, is not only one third the cost but also … kinda cool?