I've used 1&1 since I started mucking about on the web; they had a cheap plan for $3/month with one domain name and a simple LAMP stack. But the price has been going up (now $5/month; still comparatively cheap!), and I'm starting to chafe at the limitations (no SSH shell access, proprietary 404 pages, no languages beside PHP) and I didn't want to shell out for my own virtual server (Rackspace goes as low as $11/month but I'm really cheap). So I was overjoyed when I found Nearly Free Speech.

It has several advantages:

  1. SSH into a real Linux shell. It's been a while since I used Unix, but the old habits come back fast and I like having all those tools available.
  2. SFTP support. More secure and faster (at least it seems that way) than FTP, especially with Notepad++.
  3. It sure seems cheap (only $0.01/day for the site, $0.02/day for as many mySQL databases as you want).
  4. Lots of languages besides PHP. Maybe I will learn Python someday.
  5. Up-to-date versions of the tools, like PHP 5.3 (anonymous functions!) and Apache 2.2 (FallbackResource!). 1and1 was still stuck on the old versions.
  6. They enable file URL wrappers, so I can use get_file_contents('http://example.com') and the like, rather than cURL.
  7. A general feel that these guys are more hacker-oriented rather than simple, one-click-install-package oriented.

But there are disadvantages as well.

  1. It's not nearly as cheap as it seems. A simple site as above is $0.03/day = $10.95/year, but it's all pay for what you use. They charge for server usage based on storage, $0.01 per megabyte-month, so my 100 megabytes of fonts and images is another $12/year. Domain name registration is $9.49/year, plus $0.41/year for DNS. Bandwidth is $0.20 to $1.00/gigabyte, depending on usage. For my relatively popular blog (about 300-600 visits/day) I'm sending about 100 MB/day or $0.07/day or $25.55/year. That adds up to $58.40/year, basically the same price as 1and1. And I feel like I have to watch every byte stored or transferred. I know it's not really much money, but it's an avocation rather than a vocation so I need to justify the cost to myself. The bandwidth I'm going to have to explore to find out what's going on and possibly stop hotlinking and the like. The storage costs I can hack around by putting the big stuff on Amazon S3 at only $0.14/gigabyte.
  2. They don't automatically take the money from a credit card. You have to deposit funds in your account, and if it runs dry, the site goes down. They'll send out low-balance warnings but I'd like an automated method. Alos, every payment comes with a $1.00 deposit fee, so making monthly payments is another $12/year.
  3. PHP runs in safe mode, so a lot of file and system functions are disabled. This is deprecated in the latest PHP, so I don't know what NearlyFreeSpeech will do, but right now it makes life much more difficult. There are workarounds, notably using CGI scripts rather than straight PHP, but this is the biggest downside.
  4. No cron jobs. You can't run any processes on their servers besides the webserver, mySQL and whatever you're doing when SSH'ing in. They promise they're working on a solution, but no update since 2008. You can use hacks like WP-cron but that is exactly that, a hack.

But overall, it looks like a good thing and I'm looking forward to (slowly, as I have the time) moving all of bililite.com over to the new host (then transferring the domain when I'm sure it works).


  1. Hacking at 0300 : Using NFS.net with Amazon S3 says:

    […] key was straightforward and the email support person was prompt, helpful and friendly. The only downsides are the safe mode restrictions, which I have been easily able to work around, and the expensive […]

  2. Hey says:

    Thanks for the write up. This just influenced my decision.

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