Experiences in the community

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Hosting from home

This post would try to share some of the issues which have resulted in the big digital divide and how issues with hosting and self-hosting are making it more so.

One of the biggest problems which plague the Indian web communications scenario are the broadband connectivity and broadband charges.

For a long time, I along with few million other Indians have been looking for cheaper and faster broadband connectivity options. In the recent weeks and months, some voices and opinions seem to suggest that better options may come in the next couple of years. As can be seen in the article most of these connections would be completed by end 2011-12 which while not giving any immediate relief also doesn’t guarantee that all those fibres will be lit.

Also if you really look at it, the hosting charges paid in India are 4 times to what is charged in United States (an apple to apple hosting) . If one wants, one can look at the recent Akamai’s broadband report to see the dismal situation that India finds itself in. This of course doesn’t take into account the myriad ways in which hosting providers can and do cheat customers with no straight forward redressel mechanisms for the same.

Forget that, even if one wants/has to sue a hosting provider, most of the judges are technology averse mostly in our Supreme Courts. This I came to know with a session I attended last year led by an Advocate of the Supreme Court Mr. Pavan Duggal who deals with cyber crime and e-commerce law suits.

The high charges are a grave crime/offense as the high charges impact the smaller ventures, the mom and pops who want to host their shop.

I have personally experienced quite a few projects which were commercially unviable due to monopolistic high charges charged by the companies. Only if you are a high-paying high-trafficked site only then you would see SLA’s as part of the deal and therein lies in the problem for most MSMB (Micro small and medium businesses). All of this works against the people who need and want to give these kind of services.

If one looks from the hosting providers perspective he also has his share of problems :-

a. Not enough options for buying bulk bandwidth
b. Lack of cheap and adequate manpower. (Experienced Sysadmins are worth their gold. )
c. Real estate rates are high which have access to power and water.
d. Stricter Building codes they need to follow
e. Expensive cooling and maintainance charges.
f. No economical last mile fibre access

BSNL is supposed to start country-wide GPON services by year-end which should bring some relief but at this moment its wait and watch.

I would also like to point out that at this point in time if I wanted to host this wordpress blog from my home it would set me back by 10 million rupees or 22,252 dollars approx (hosting from home). I am adding the charges for leased line charges, internal wiring and my own cisco/juniper/3com router, a good server and other miscellaneous charges . I am not adding any self labor charges to the same.

If one digs a little deep into the bulk charges, one of the big money-spinners there are the cable-laying charges levied by the shipping companies which lay them. Its a high-skilled monopolistic industry. One can find some idea about them on couple of websites. There are not many and most of them are from first world countries.As can be seen in the story above some Kenyans are trying to move in but again it will take time. I don’t know when the Indians would have their own people also being part of this business. For all our famed shipbuilding prowess and companies why can’t we build our own ships with Indian crews which will make it cheaper to some sense and also give the same service to others.

The other piece of the puzzle is the technology of fibre-optics itself. Look at this story from Economic Times. The interesting excerpt

This is because the clauses were related to vendors having manufacturing facilities within the country and also the use of a certain kind of optical fibre cable that was produced by only a handful of companies globally, they added.

The only company I know which is into Optical Fibre manufacturing is Sterlite from India and that’s about it.

The bitter truth is the more we have to rely on outside/developed world for expertise. the more we would have to pay according to their rates. The only solution is having more people and companies who compete and bring down the prices.

Also we have to make our policies so that laying fibre to the last mile becomes cheap (or have some sort of tax incentives).

One of the other issues is even if I was able to have/raise that kind of money, esp. in today’s insecure world, many people (read intelligence and security agencies) would see a red flag.

A funny incident I would like to share happened a while back when I wanted to buy a 800~1.2 KVA UPS for myself, most of the shops wanted me to give them a company name (even if its fictitious) as the policy is one cannot sell these kind of UPS’es to individuals .

One of the things which could have changed the face of broadband and computing and didn’t was ERNET. I said was because they were the first to give shell accounts and bring Internet to India but then got relegated to background due to red-tapism and bureaucratic controls and power games as is most of the things in govt. sector. There were and are so many services that ERNET could have done for computing in this country but sadly no one is interested.

If one looks at Europe and other digitally advanced and connected communities it is networks like ERNET which are connected through Universities and colleges that students and not so students anymore connect, host and do all kinds of experimentation on networks. This is missing in India as the knowledge of networks is still known to a chosen few only. Even the Jetkings don’t really tell you about the networks. At the most what you learn is how to configure a LAN.

The other issues are of course operational issues. If I were to host the same from home I would have to devote more time then I do now. At the very least 3-4 hours everyday at least for couple of years, think more on design and other stuff which I haven’t really thought about. Also would have to think about security and things which the cloud infrastructure shields me from but is also more fun. Also no developer so would be doing things by hand or commission people to write small scripts to automate stuff.

One of the more interesting articles on the subject.

in conclusion, the prices as of today’s conditions would go south but don’t see it going doing by much. I do hope I am wrong and would be very much happy to be proved wrong😉

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