You don’t need the cloud

Putting your web service on the cloud is the default choice nowadays. Who in their right mind still uses dedicated machines these days?

Well, us. We do! We’ve used dedicated machines for our startups since 2006. AWS back then was kind of expensive and slow, and we were broke. We used low-budget dedicated machines out of necessity. Fast forward a decade and a half and we still use dedicated machines for almost everything[1], even though the cloud has gotten a lot cheaper and cost is not an issue anymore.

The reason is simple. Dedicated machines offer unparalleled performance and are rock solid.

This is the pricing table of, a popular German hosting provider.

You can upgrade the NIC if you want a 10 gigabyte uplink. You can set up your own private network if you want. You get a free firewall, a remote reboot console, IPv6 IPs, ECC ram, plenty of bandwidth, separate storage for backups. Pretty much everything you can think of.

You can serve an unbelievable amount of traffic with a single dedicated machine with a few hundred gigabytes of ram and a dozen cores running at 5ghz. Most web apps don’t even do that much. It’s JSON in and JSON out. Most traffic will hit a handful of endpoints that makes optimization/caching easy.

You can use Cloudflare to serve all your static content quickly. If you want, you can proxy all your backend traffic through Cloudflare as well.

You can use simple linux tools for backups. We think rdiff-backup is incredible. But there are plenty of alternatives. Doesn’t even take long to set up.

What does AWS have to offer?

  • S3. Unless you store a massive amount of data you don’t need it. And if you want to get it out, be prepared to shell out for egress fees.
  • Route53. It’s fine, but Cloudflare offers DNS hosting as well.
  • Identity management. You don’t need it.
  • RDS. It’s slow and super expensive. I don’t want to worry about one-off queries or migrations. If you use only 5% of your server capacity you can afford to do inefficient things at times.
  • Billing surprises. Today I read another one of those. I don’t want to worry about this stuff.
  • Lambda? Beanstalk? Glacier? EBS? What even is all this stuff.

If you’re a startup you want to focus on your product, and all this cloud tech is just a distraction. AWS is for big companies with a lot of turnover that can’t run their own machines. Unless your startup needs so much compute or storage that running your own dedicated machines becomes unmanageable I think you should just say “no” to all of it.

[1] This blog runs on the cloud but that’s because WordPress is a security nightmare and a cloud VM is the easiest way to sandbox it. Ironic, I know.

You can follow us on Twitter @jdvhouten and @wcools and look for #80daystartup

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