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Steven Lewis

Internal Projects Web Developer

I wanted to write this post to highlight how much things have improved for any organisation wanting to host a web application frugally. I think, maybe we take it for granted a little. Nobody can argue that over the last few years, the cost of virtually everything has gone up. But there are some things that have become a lot cheaper. Software, for instance. Although by its very nature, enterprise level software is complex, and anything tailored to an individual business is going to require a lot of bespoke code, the days where it costs a lot of money to licence, host and provide adequate DR should be over.

I wanted to write this post to highlight how much things have improved for any organisation wanting to host a web application frugally.

I think, maybe we take it for granted a little. Nobody can argue that over the last few years, the cost of virtually everything has gone up. But there are some things that have become a lot cheaper. Software, for instance.

Although by its very nature, enterprise level software is complex, and anything tailored to an individual business is going to require a lot of bespoke code, the days where it costs a lot of money to licence, host and provide adequate DR should be over.

So many open-source/free tools and languages have matured and been accepted into widespread business use since I began as a graduate software developer, over ten years ago.

Back then, it was rare that any business achieved anything without paying through the nose for a source code control system, an expensive development server, a costly Integrated Development Environment to write code in, a licenced database, a licenced production server, a licenced development framework, a proprietary language...

The list goes on to the point where total cost of a system amounted to several hundred thousand pounds per per year before any code or intellectual property had even been written.

Today, there are free open-source versions of everything listed above in widespread use. In many cases, the quality of the open source product has even surpassed that of the commercial rival.

Take the source code control system, GIT. GIT is better than any commercial offering I’ve ever seen. It is simple to use and ubiquitous to just about every platform imaginable. Ten years ago most large businesses did not have the confidence to use Linux, or their proprietary language would not run on it.

Enterprise level support for linux was in its infancy. But it’s not just software costs that have evaporated. Cloud hosting has vastly reduced costs and increased flexibility. For example, Amazon’s Elastic Cloud (EC2) allows hosting in the cloud on a virtual, massively scalable platform.

I’m able to host a friend’s website on an Amazon EC2 Micro-Instance for peanuts (in fact, it’s free for a year). If the volume of traffic picked up on that website, or the demands on the database increased, I can be confident that I can increase the amount of resources available to that application within a matter of minutes.

This may not seem like an amazingly big deal now, but looking back just a decade, and a resource bottleneck or bad server/network infrastructure planning could cripple a business’ IT system so people spent a lot of money preemptively throwing hardware at potential problems.

Equally, if my friend decided to take his website offline, I’d simply close the Amazon EC2 account. There would be no expensive white-elephant server depreciating, sitting idle.