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I've thrown up a question related to a dedicated server that will be hosted (most likely) by a third party. The idea behind this question is to upgrade from a VPS to another piece of hardware. Is a question asking for such hardware on topic?

I am asking because this hardware will likely never be touched by the user. It'd be something that is ordered (maybe slightly customized during ordering for more RAM or hard drive space), set up, configured and then login credentials will be supplied to the user. The hardware itself will be maintained by the third party.

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    My gut says no, but I'm having a hard time formulating it into a real reason. – Undo Sep 13 '15 at 14:27
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I want to focus on HDE 226868's second bullet:

A counterargument is that the answer shouldn't necessarily provide a full recommendation, and should only take in characteristics of the hardware into account. The problem is that that would lead to incomplete recommendations, which aren't necessarily helpful.

If you subscribe to Interpretation 2, then you rely on the counterargument I gave above, namely, that answers should focus merely on the hardware in question. It shouldn't matter who actually owns the thing; the point is that someone will buy it (either you or the third party), and you should treat the "buying" process with a third party the same way that you would treat the process of buying the thing yourself.

I think that this is an important distinction. The example question I provided can provide a solid recommendation for the hardware that is needed to run the set up.

I have 6 bullets in the question:

  • Must be able to host 10-14 Team Fortress 2 server instances without causing lag to the players. Each server will host 24 players and approximately half of the servers will be near capacity 24 hours a day (based on current traffic)
  • Must be able to handle MySQL database traffic
  • Must be able to handle web traffic
  • Price range: $100 - $125 a month
  • Must be on a 100 Mbit line
  • Most players are North American and European. I'd like a hosting location that serves both of these locations and keeps the lag low.

The first three bullets are all related to the hardware that is needed. The hardware must be able to perform these three things, or the recommendation (regardless of price, bandwidth or network lag) is invalid. An answer can provide minimum specifications to meet these.

The forth bullet - price - is important, but only to set an upper bound on what the user considers a viable recommendation. A server that costs $500/month may meet the first 3 bullets, but the price is out of their budget. I don't consider that as important as the first three, because sometimes there just isn't something that meets the user's desired budget.

Bullets 5 and 6 - bandwidth and lag - are not relevant to us. The user needs hardware. We can provide that recommendation. It is then up to the user to finish their due diligence in searching for a hosting provider. With the knowledge of the hardware they require, they can approach potential providers (on their own) and see if such a machine can be procured from the provider.

I think third party hosted hardware should be on topic. I do not think third party providers should be on topic. Who controls the hardware is unimportant to us.

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There are two ways to look at a question like this:

  1. What service should I use based on its usage of [piece of hardware X]?
  2. What [piece of hardware X] should I use?

If you subscribe to Interpretation 1, it could be argued that the recommendation is for a specific third entity/company/whatever, which would seem to be off-topic. Sure, the question would focus on the hardware in question, but when it comes down to comparing two entities hosting servers (to draw from the example question you gave), other factors need to be considered when making a final decision. It's like asking which college to go to: Sure, academics are generally what you want to focus on, but the decision has to take a host of other things into account. For example, price is an issue that you would consider when buying something for yourself. Considering the price of renting the thing from a third party is one of the factors that is in the grey area.

A counterargument is that the answer shouldn't necessarily provide a full recommendation, and should only take in characteristics of the hardware into account. The problem is that that would lead to incomplete recommendations, which aren't necessarily helpful.

If you subscribe to Interpretation 2, then you rely on the counterargument I gave above, namely, that answers should focus merely on the hardware in question. It shouldn't matter who actually owns the thing; the point is that someone will buy it (either you or the third party), and you should treat the "buying" process with a third party the same way that you would treat the process of buying the thing yourself.

My agree with the first interpretation. There are simply way too many factors that aren't related to hardware that should be taken into consideration.

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  • Would #2 really provide an incomplete recommendation? I think, using my example question, using the first 3 bullet points you can provide a complete recommendation. You need a server with at least these specs. The last three bullets - price, bandwidth and location of server - should be up to the user to decide. Price may be important to set an upper bound, but that is similar to other recommendations. The recommendation for which provider to use is not as important as what hardware is needed – Andy Sep 13 '15 at 18:13
  • @Andy If partial recommendations (i.e. leaving that stuff out) are okay, then sure, they're fine. – HDE 226868 Sep 13 '15 at 18:46
  • I added an answer that responds to your counter arguement. – Andy Sep 13 '15 at 20:30
  • @Andy Noted and upvoted. You have a good point there. – HDE 226868 Sep 13 '15 at 22:32
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I think this is a matter of allowing questions that involve interacting with the hardware in question over the internet instead of in person. I don't see any problem in the purchasing part of it because the hardware itself is actually being purchased still, just not used in the traditional way.

I want to put my vote in for allowing this. After all, we aren't here to direct people to use their hardware a certain way. We're here to simply aid in picking out hardware.

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