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How to pick a servlet hosting company

Picking a hosting company is a bit like picking a mobile phone: choosing between the plethora of competing options can be mind-boggling. It's also a bit like buying a digital camera: just as camera companies try to convince us that a huge digital zoom is more important than lens quality, hosting companies will try to convince us that a huge amount of disk space is more important than CPU quota or memory (because the latter are more limited resources and therefore more expensive for the hosting company to offer).

Picking a company specifically for running servlets can involve a few extra criteria beyond those required for static web pages. In this case:

  • CPU quota is a little more imporant, though servlets can be quite a CPU-efficient means of generating dynamic pages;
  • memory quota is important: your servlets are going to sit in memory all the time, and for performance reasons you'll probably want to cache certain things in memory;
  • most packages offer enough network bandwidth for most uses given the available CPU/memory quota, but you might want to check you'll have enough if you're planning to use to your servlet to connect out to other sources, e.g. to pull in data from RSS feeds;
  • disk quota could be important if you are going to run a database or hold a large amount of data, but most people will generally have enough;
  • you may occasionally need to ask support questions, e.g. for details of configuring a feature such as database access or asking of a particular library is supported; if their only support mechanism is to keep you on hold listening to Beethove's 5th for an hour, this may not be very productive.

Oh, and silly thing: if you end up asking them if they support Java servlets, be sure that they actually know you're talking about server-side Java. This shouldn't be a problem nowadays– servlets are a fairly standard thing– but I remember one company I e-mailed with this question replied that "all client-side Java will run fine". (Obviously, that's a bit like saying "all HTML files will work fine".)

Well, back to our servlets. On the next pages, we look in more detail at:

Written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2008. All rights reserved.