I know I'm late to the party on this, but I'm really loving Amazon's EC2 cloud computing service. I'm saying this as a guy who loved to build servers with my bare hands, often blessing them with my own blood after touching a sharp corner. I literally bled for these things. Now, I'm not sure I ever need to set up my own server again.
My startup project, JetCondo, runs on a "Micro" instance, which is a paltry little thing by server standards--a whopping 8 GB of storage space and 612 MB of RAM, and whatever amount of CPU they feel fit to dribble out. Still, it's faster than my home server ever was, and it's cheap. At current rates it works out to about $10 a month. My home server ate up about $7 per month just in electricity.
But the value you get out of that extra $3 is immeasurable, especially for a startup. Today I wanted to create a new server instance so that I could start building a web application for my very first consulting client. I had almost resigned myself to going through the half-day dance of installing Ubuntu, configuring Apache, setting up newLISP, etc... and then I realized: hey, wait a moment! I can just copy my existing instance, can't I?
Turns out you can. You have to save an image of your current system first, and by default this shuts off your running server while it makes the copy (it's kind of scary when this happens!) but in a couple of minutes it's back up and running and now you have your own personal image file for your server. Then creating one is a matter of a right click, selecting "Launch More Like This", clicking Next a couple of times, and choosing your own AMI image from the list of "My Images".
In a minute or so you have cloned your server, and it's exactly the same as the one you had. It's like magic. Instead of half a day's work it took a few clicks and a couple of minutes. And of course you can launch as many as you need or even script it so that new instances are launched as needed given incoming traffic, but that's something for the future. Right now it's just cool to report that it works, and it's a great time saver.
I'm a writer and occasional programmer. I write science fiction stories and novels.
I also write technology articles for Ars Technica.
I'm the creator of newLISP on Rockets, a web development framework and blog application.