Here in Europe I’ve seen a few Raspberry Pi colocation offers lately. It all started out with edis appearing on hackernews, telling they’re offering free colocation. Of course the offer was sold out by the time I got there, but I made it into their second batch of offers.
So I setup my Pi and sent it to them. Because of the overwhelming number of sign-ups it took awhile till it got installed. Unfortunately I must have misconfigured it, because it didn’t respond. I thought I must have made a network config error, but it ended up being a kernel panic. Yes, as it seems one of their tech guys actually went there and checked. They even offered a reinstall, which I gladly agreed to. After that all went smoothly. They didn’t even charge anything for it, so I decided to send them an Amazon gift certificate as sign of appreciation.
A few weeks later, another colocation offer showed up: raspberrycolocation.com. A nice intro page, but as soon as you get to the ordering process it turns Dutch on you. Luckily Google Translate and me knowing German was enough to understand what was said. They are offering at least one year of free colocation. You can either prepare a Pi and send it to them, as with edis, or buy one preconfigured. This time I was lazy and chose the latter option. The prices where so nice, that preparing and shipping one would have been equally expensive. This Pi is scheduled to be installed at then end of June.
I’ve heard of another colocation offer, catering to Swedish citizen, and I’m sure a few more will follow.
One of the main tasks is probably building some sort of rack to host and access the Pis efficiently. Building those racks was probably where most of the delays come from. Either that, or the manual work needed to go there and plug them in.
What to expect of the free colocations
From here on I’ll generalize my expectations, I’m not referring to any offer in particular.
For me this looks like a simple promotion offer. I expect these offers to end after a certain time period, I’m guessing one year. After that you can transition to a free plan or get you Pi shipped back (or maybe donated?).
The bandwidth and support you’ll get is limited. Bandwidth most likely will be capped and shared between the Pis. And if you’re having any technical issues, e.g. system is not responding or a reinstall is necessary, you’ll require some hands, which in a free plan is almost impossible to get, unless you’re willing to pay.
I’ve seen that one of the company put up prices for hands on support of your free colocation. Nothing too dramatic, but still, $20 for a reinstall is about half the price of the unit.
What to expect of the paid colocations
Rumors said the pricing will be around $5 per month. For a dedicated machine, that’s acceptable. The upfront investment will be your Pi (around $35), and SD card and optionally a small (physical size wise) USB stick. Make sure to send a Model B
You’re yearly running cost would come down to $60, for a machine with a low end cpu and 512MB of RAM. If you require anything extra, you’ll pay for it. If you compare this to one of the offers over at lowendbox, you’ll come to the conclusion, that you might rather just get a virtual server for less. Those usually come with free reboot, free reinstalls and recovery consoles.
So the offer would need to get as low as $2 for me to be considered an option. And then you have to make sure that you know what you’re doing on the server, cause every remote help will cost extra. So no administration, firewall or network setup, or similar “lethal” mistakes please. And keep your backups as up to date as possible.
When would getting a Raspberry Pi colocation make sense
So far, I’ve only come up with a few scenarios, where getting a colocation at the mentioned price would make sense:
- You’re running some special/weird software setup you want to install and test at home and then ship the unit
- You’re having a special USB device or hardware installed (via GPIO?) that you need to run
- You need that exact CPU/hardware for your software
- You’re paranoid and want no one else on the machine and a real root server is too expensive
Feel free to comment, if you got any more ideas.
If you want to experiment with the pi, do it at home. If you want to experiment with servers and hosting, I recommend a virtual server.
The only reason to get your pi installed in a colocation is if you have a very specific use case.