Choosing a Server

OK, you have got your standalone sim up and running, and maybe even got it connected to the OSGrid. If, like me, you are hosting your sim on your home PC then one of first things you may notice, when visitors come calling, is lag. If you experience lag, then it will probably be due to your upload speed.

Finding your Upload Speed
Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) quote the download speed when offering their services. This is because the requests that your browser makes (or other software that connects to the internet) are quite small, and do not need to be fast, but the amount of data sent in response to those requests (such as a movie downloads) can be quite large, so faster download speeds are the prime consideration. However, when you want to host a server, (which supplies data to a client requesting it), then the upload speed is the prime consideration, and this is the problem you need to solve.

So, what do you do if your ISP does not quote your upload speed? The answer is - you measure it. Use one of the internet connection speed measurement services. The one I like best is SpeedTest.NET Just select the recommended server to test with (click on the yellow pyramid), and it will measure first your download speed, then your upload speed. My download speed was 3.6Mb/s (megabits per second) while my upload speed was a paltry 0.376Mb/s. As soon as I got one visitor it took a couple of minutes for them to go from grey to me seeing them, and my region took a couple of minutes to fully rez for them. If I had two visitors then the experience was too bad to enjoy. It was now time to move my standalone onto a proper server.

Virtual Private Servers
Buying a dedicated server can be costly (although provide a great offer for their Celeron service for around $54/month when paid for annually), so most people wanting to have their region hosted go for the Virtual Private Server (VPS) solution. A VPS is a single physical server that is divided into a few “virtual machines” with the help of the required software on the server. In a VPS hosting service, the server’s resources like RAM, disk space, etc are shared, but at the same time each VPS gets its own allotment and operates completely independently from the others. Due to this facility, you can run software or even install a different operating system, without creating any effect on the other virtual servers on the same machine. At the most basic level, you can treat a VPS as just another drive available to your PC that you can install your programs and files on.

Sizing a VPS
To host a single region, with around 10,000 prims, and a reasonable number of textures and scripts, and with just a few friends visiting, you will need between 5-10GB of hard disk space, at least 512MB of RAM (the more the better), and a monthly traffic or monthly bandwidth allowance of around 300GB. All these parameters are just rules of thumb, and can vary a lot depending on your particular set-up (please let me know your region setup and VPS parameters, and your experience, so these sizing parameters can be tuned more precisely).

Choosing a VPS
When comparing VPS service providers, you will notice that they offer a range of services. Managed or unmanaged services, available in Windows or Linux operating systems, and with or without Control Panels (a program to help manage your VPS, but is designed to be most useful to those wishing to host a web-server service, rather than a virtual world). Usually the Linux-based systems are cheaper, as there are no license fees to pay, unlike the Windows operating systems. An OpenSim region requires no Managed Service, so do not waste money paying for this, nor is a Control Panel essential, as long as the service provider tells you how to upload your files to the VPS, and how to perform restarts.

I have looked at 20 VPS service providers, and the best entry-level services are the remarkable Level-1 deal from TekTonic, at just $15 / month. For this you get 13GB of HD space, 500GB of monthly traffic allowance, but only 294MB of RAM. However, this performance is adequate for many region owners, and if your region is not ‘overdone’ it could well be what you are looking for. The other great entry-level service is from OVH, they offer 10GB of HD space, unlimited bandwidth, and 512MB of RAM, for £9.99, or $18.57, at today's exchange rate. The best of the deals for a well-specified system come from two suppliers, EasySpace with their Custom service. For example, chosing 15GB of HD space, 640MB of RAM, and unlimited* monthly bandwidth (*there is a fair-use policy in effect, which equates to an average of 100MB of traffic monthly, but they will not penalise you, or throttle back the service, if you exceed this occasionally, while keeping under the average figure), will cost UKP21.18, or at today’s exchange rate, around $39. The other came from Hosting Source, who provide 20GB HD space, 1,250MB of monthly traffic, and 512MB of RAM, also for $39, for a Windows system. For speed, with their extra RAM, EasySpace have the edge. However, if you have a lot of assets, then maybe the extra HD space is more valuable to you. The best of the prime deals comes from CheapVPS (Linux only, I’m afraid), their 1024 deal gives you 54GB of HD space, 1500GB of monthly traffic, and 1GB of RAM, for UKP27 or around $47.


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Michael Joyce said...

I am trying to put my OpenSim onto a VPS. I have had no problem setting it up as a Standalone on my PC. But try as I may I can not figure how to upload and run it on a VPS. I'm using Easyspace and have asked them for guidance, but I am hoping there may be a tutorial on the Internet that I have not found that would help. Basically I want to run my Sim privately for making machinima with one or two other people.

John Phoenix said...

I do not understand why this step is next in this (and every other) tutorial I have seen. It makes no since. Up to this point you have a sim with perhaps 2,4 or 6 regions filled with Terrain.. Then your going to get on or set up a server!? This is foolishness. It would be better at this point to have the tutorial teach a person how to put some content on the terrain. Build some houses, trees, shops to put items in, perhaps a nice park with benches so people can sit, etc. After that is done, THEN set up your server. No one ever tell people this. The thing i hate the most is going to a grid with no content. This will also turn people off seeing that it is still a work in progress. This is putting the horse before the cart. I personally think people don't teach how to build at this step is because setting up OpenSim is Easy where as learning to build and script once your on the sim through the viewer, is comparatively hard.

Plus, it makes no since financially to set up a server at this point. You will be paying for server time for months before you ever get all of your content created, and thus have something for your users to actually do.

Also, notice in every tutorial you see on the net, including this one, even at the finish of the tutorials, the authors never get around to actually teaching you how to build content into your sim.

No wonder we have tons of grids out there with no content.. and people wonder why their not getting any users!

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