Ten questions to ask your OpenSim host

Update: Full, up-to-date list of OpenSim hosting providers is here.

If you’re looking to rent some OpenSim land from someone, you’re probably thinking about the monthly cost and the setup fee, but here are a few more questions to ask:

Interview photo by FreeFoto.com
Interview photo by FreeFoto.com

Can I choose where my land will be located?

Some hosting providers can give you land on their grid only. Some allow you to have your own grid or standalone regions.

If you’re on someone else’s grid, then your region can be easily accessed by the grid’s other uses, by walking over or teleporting over from other nearby regions.

If you have your own grid or standalone, you will either need to create your own users — say, by creating accounts for your students or employees — or allow hypergrid teleports from other grids, and market your grid as a destination via the web and inbound links on other grids.

Will my land be on the hypergrid?

If you want people to be able to teleport to your regions from other grids, you need to be on the hypergrid.  There are times when you want a closed grid — for example, if you’re running a school, you don’t want strangers teleporting into the middle of classes.

However, you could also have your whole grid be publically accessible, but limit entry to individual areas for, say, a particular list of event attendees or students.

If you have a region on someone else’s grid, you may be allowed to have your region on the hypergrid, allowing people to teleport in and out. Or you can have your region be only locally accessible, to people who are already on the grid.

How often do you upgrade the software?

OpenSim is still in its early development phases, and new updates are rolled out pretty much daily. Generally, you want to wait before updating though, until all the bugs have been worked out of a new version. Some hosting companies have their own upgrade cycles, often weekly, and will only upgrade after extensive testing of the new version.

Others will wait for you to decide when to upgrade. This is useful if you’re on top of the technology, but not as helpful when you don’t know and don’t want to know what’s going on in the OpenSim development labs.

And some hosting providers will upgrade immediately to the latest recommended version. This means that you’ll have the latest features and tools to play with — but you might also see some additional downtime and more frequent crashes.

What extra features do you offer?

OpenSim is open-source, modular software. That means that you can plug in almost anything you want — like a different physics engine, a currency system, or a voice system. Some hosting providers will offer extra capability as part of the basic package, others will charge a little extra for it. And some will custom design applications that can adapt OpenSim as much as you need.

Can I make backups of my land?

You put a lot of time and energy into designing your landscape, putting up buildings, and making or finding just the right furniture, business tools, and other objects. Now you may want to make duplicates, to share with others in your company or community (if you have the rights to all your objects), or to keep as a backup — just in case something happens. Or you may want to make a copy so that you can move to a different hosting provider. These backups are normally in the form of OAR files.

Can you start me out with any facilities?

A new OpenSim region is typically just a little round island surrounded by open water. Not even a palm tree for shade. That might work for you, but most people need more — conference rooms, office buildings, school houses. Some hosting providers have pre-configured regions that they can install for you during the startup process, which then you can configure further to meet your individual needs.

Will you change the land settings for me?

Don’t like the way the sun moves on your land, or how fast the wind blows? These settings can all be modified for a particular simulation. If your land is part of a bigger simulation, however, then you might not be able to get these settings changed for your individual area.

Can you build stuff for me?

Sure, there’s plenty of free stuff available for OpenSim grids and regions — furniture, clothes, buildngs — and stuff you can buy. But sometimes you need something that’s unique to you.  Some hosting providers have builders and designers on-staff to do custom work and will charge you by the hour for their labor. Otherwise, you’ll have to find designers on your own.

How much stuff can I put on my land?

An OpenSim region can, in theory, hold up to 45,000 “primitive” objects — cubes, spheres and other building blocks of virtual matter. An average use — a few buildings, some landscaping, furniture and tools, will typically run between 5,000 and 10,000 primitives. A store or warehouse packed with individual items can quickly start rising to the 15,000 range and above, and will cause problems for most hosting providers.

How many people will my land hold?

The number of simultaneous visitors that any given area can hold depends on the bandwidth capacity to and from the hosting company’s server, and depends on the memory and speed available to that server.

A typical household Internet connection can handle no more than a handful of people at once. A server located in a facility with high-speed access should be able to handle up to 30 at once.

Maria Korolov