What is the best way to host an image hosting website?

Hi, Im planning to build a new Image hosting website. First I won’t get a lot of traffic but in-order to prepare for the future I need to make a good plan. For this, normal webhosting services won’t work because of their bandwidth and storage limitations. So I have four options :

  1. Use a dedicated server and store everything there. If this is the best option what are the best hosting services?

  2. Use Amazon services. This is a bit costly! Isn’t it?

  3. Let the users connect their cloud storage account like Google Drive and store the images in there. Will this cause any speed problems? Is it ok with Google? Legal?

  4. Use a service like Bitcasa (Our own account). Is it legal and allowed? Will it cause speed problems?

Please note that im trying my best to reduce the cost. But not sacrifice the performance a lot! What is the best option for me?


I’m interested in hearing from other people, because this is a question I’ve had recently. Especially about the AWS S3 and Cloudfront cost for heavy traffic.

My fear is getting 15minutes/seconds of fame and it costing me $10,000 because of the variable pricing. Or worse, have an image leached and posted to some very large site like Reddit.

I can clear up a couple things:

  1. This is what I’m doing currently, except with a small VPS. Right now the server is NGINX and a single PHP script that accepts uploads, renames, resizes (Imagick), and stores the uploads in proper folders. My project is still in development so I have no visitors, right now my plan for scaling is to spread this across multiple small VPSs rather than getting 1 large server.
  2. This is what I want to know!
  3. This is slow and won’t handle much traffic. I don’t imagine it’s illegal, just bad.
  4. I don’t know anything about Bitcasa. I know Imgur.com offers an API that you can use and upload to their site, but you have to keep up your token every few months and you don’t have much control over your images. If you’re doing anything like me, you’ll probably not want to build your entire infrastructure around a free service that could be pulled out from under you at any time without warning. Regardless of how good or free it is right now.

Imgur can be a bit slow right?

No way. Imgur is very fast.

It can be blocked by company computers though. It’s blocked at my workplace.

Better go with a dedicated. I run image/file hosting before with 12+ 500 Mbps dedicated servers. Main problem i faced was bandwidth cost. I used lighttpd with mod_secdownload ( i will use ngnix, if i am starting again). I used 2 servers in round robin DNS for main sites as traffic grow. Media servers are unmetered servers, that run ngnix and pure-ftpd. When user upload file to main site, it get transferted to one of the media server using FTP and serve from there. Site failed when funding stopped, finding good advertiser for these type of site is difficult. Also there will be lot of abuse complaints too.

I see some sites use amazon s3, that will cost a lot, only possible if you have funding or you have the $$ to keep the site live for few years.

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@HostOnNet What kind of load do you have, if you don’t mind me asking?

Currently site is dead, at the time i used to have daily international alexa rank of ~600 (not monthly average). If you are asking server load, never had much problem with server load, mostly it was bandwidth overage, i had started with 100 Mbps servers (average, from FDC), then had to upgrade servers to 400 mbps as servers used more bandwidth.

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I saw this question on another forum and the responses here are much more enlightening. Overall, the answer is much the same. In order to keep control of the images and not lose them to some free service you will need to use a dedicated server. Maybe Imgur might be the answer. Good luck and thanks for the great responses from the SitePoint members. Your responses really helped me understand the OP’s needs.