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  • Bitcoin

What is Bitcoin Hosting?

Compare hosts that accept Bitcoin as payment. Bitcoin hosting is often presented as a solution for those seeking privacy and anonymity on the Web.

Bitcoin was developed and released in 2009 by an anonymous developer or group of developers. The identity of the developer, alias Satoshi Nakamoto, remains unknown to this day.

Bitcoin was designed as a cryptographic peer-to-peer network, as a way of decentralising trust among network participants. The bitcoin network is maintained by 'miners' - individuals and companies employing specialised bitcoin mining equipment, based on application-specific integrated circuits. In the early days, bitcoin could be mined using standard CPUs and GPUs, but this is not longer the case.

Miners essentially resolve immensely complex crypto puzzles, thereby verifying transactions. It usually takes several confirmations to finalise the transaction. Miners are rewarded with blocks of new bitcoins, currently 25 bitcoins (or BTC) per block, which is mined every ten minutes. The number of bitcoins is finite, just under 21 million, but bitcoins are highly divisible and the network supports values as low as one hundredth-million bitcoins.

All bitcoin transactions are stored in a public ledger, the bitcoin blockchain. However, the blockchain can also be employed for a number of different applications, hence many developers are working on so-called bitcoin 2.0 or bitcoin 3.0 projects, built on top of the blockchain.

What's the hype about and what can bitcoin do for business?

Bitcoin was a geeky curiosity for years, but over the last two years it has attracted a number of mainstream merchants and venture capitalists. While bitcoin can be used as a currency, that's just one side of it. In fact, many investors are actually looking to cash in on something else.

Bitcoin can be used to facilitate fast and cheap transactions, including microtransactions which are not feasible with traditional payment rails. While it's digital, in many respects bitcoin is more like cash than your average credit card. It sits in your wallet, there is no fee and it can be spent anonymously. This is what makes it suitable in certain niches - why share your credit card details to make an $0.99 in-game purchase if you can do it anonymously?

Bitcoin is not just a currency, it is also a payment network and this is why many people are getting involved. They don't have to believe bitcoin can be a viable currency in order to make use of the network.

Do you want to mine or just use bitcoin?

The term bitcoin hosting has two very different meanings depending on who you ask.

In case you want to get involved in mining, you can lease some ASIC computing power and hope for the best - usually in the form of 'cloudhashing' services.

However, if you just want to build a bitcoin related site, you just need a standard hosting plan of your choosing.

These are two very different concepts.

Bitcoin cloud mining

Bitcoin mining used to be a geeky pursuit for hobbyists, but over the past two years hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the industry, so much of the 'hashing power' now comes from industrial scale mining operations, rather than a decentralised P2P network supported by enthusiasts.

    Currently there are two main forms of bitcoin cloud mining:

  • Hosted bitcoin mining - where you lease a bitcoin miner hosted by a third party, usually in a data centre with access to cheap electricity and cooling.
  • Leased hashing power - in this model you lease a certain amount of hashing power, not a dedicated miner

These services are offered by highly specialised companies rather than your average host. It is vital that you do a lot of research prior to choosing any of them. Bitcoin mining is an extremely competitive space and volatile prices make any mining investment speculative. The good old days are over and making a fortune in bitcoin mining is easier said than done.

Remember - the best way of making money in a gold rush is selling shovels, not digging for gold, so keep your eyes peeled and do your homework.

Accepting bitcoin payments is another matter

However, if you are not interested in mining and just want to build a site with bitcoin support, then you may proceed and choose a standard hosting plan.

There are a few different ways of going about the problem. If you want to create an e-commerce site with support for bitcoin payments, you don't actually need to do anything with bitcoin - the whole process can be outsourced to payment processors such as BitPay or Coinbase. This means your business can accept bitcoins without actually holding any. You just need to create a standard website and the payment processor will be glad to take your business.

If on the other hand you want to be paid directly, you needn't store bitcoins on your site, either. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are stored in wallets, so you simply need to choose a digital wallet and list the address of said wallet - or a site that would allow users to make direct payments to each other in some setting (e.g. a poker site).

Security, legal and tax ramifications

Regardless of the approach you choose, you should invest heavily in security. Bitcoin is a huge target for hackers and even if your site does not exchange or hold bitcoins, hackers could still target it in the hopes of obtaining useful information.

Remember, they are not going after your website - they are going after your bitcoin wallet. Beware of phishing attacks and use secure wallets (or even cold wallets, hardware wallets) if you happen to store bitcoins.

Some bitcoin-related activities can also result in legal ambiguities depending on jurisdiction. This usually involves taxation of profits obtained through mining, application of VAT or capital gains tax or permits needed to digitally transfer money.

It is best to consult your local bitcoin community and make sure you doing everything by the books.

Bitcoin Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is bitcoin?

    Bitcoin is a decentralized, digital currency based on complex cryptographic algorithms. It is an open-source project and its origins are unclear, as the author (or authors) wish to remain anonymous.

  • How are bitcoins generated?

    Bitcoins are created through the process of “bitcoin mining”, which employs specialized hardware (so-called miners, based on custom ASIC chips). While this was a hobbyist affair a few years ago, the fledgling industry has been taken over by big mining companies and individual miners are no longer relevant.

  • Could I host a bitcoin mining service of my own?

    Yes and no. Bitcoin mining has nothing to do with traditional hosting, so you couldn’t use server hardware to mine bitcoins. However, you could set up your own mining operation by purchasing miners and deploying them in a data center, or by leasing miners. As of 2015, this is an extremely speculative investment.

  • I am thinking about accepting bitcoin payments on my site. How complicated would this be? Any special requirements?

    Accepting bitcoin is a straightforward affair if you choose to use a payment processor like Bitpay or Coinbase. They offer ready-made solutions that are easily implemented. You could also accept bitcoins simply by listing your bitcoin wallet on your site (for donations, tips and so on).

  • What about security? If I start accepting bitcoins, will I be hacked? What if the price of bitcoin plummets?

    In case you are using a bitcoin payment processor, you should be ok on both fronts. By using such services, you would not be holding any bitcoin, as the processor would exchange every transaction and you would get it dollars or another currency. However, if you just use your bitcoin wallet, you need to make sure it is secure and, if possible, move bitcoins to cold storage.

  • Who is bitcoin for? It is just a shady alternative currency used on internet drug marketplaces?

    Bitcoin has a mixed reputation because it enabled the creation of drug trafficking sites like Silk Road. The currency is pseudo-anonymous and can be used for illicit trades. However, many legitimate businesses have started accepting bitcoin as well.

  • How anonymous is bitcoin? Does this mean nobody can trace transactions?

    Not really. All transactions are recorded in the bitcoin blockchain, which is essentially an open ledger. Every transaction is visible, but can be easily anonymized. Like all currencies, bitcoin can also be laundered (and it’s much easier than laundering a traditional currency).

  • Who controls bitcoin?

    The short answer would be nobody. It is a decentralized, open-source currency. However, some groups involved in promoting bitcoin and blockchain technologies have a lot if influence. Bitcoin is not regulated.

  • What about regulation? Can someone seize my server for hosting a bitcoin site?

    Yes, this is possible if your visitors become involved in illicit activities. Many central banks have issued warnings along those lines. Even if you run an entirely legitimate business and if your services are taken advantage of by criminals, you could be investigated.

  • There have been a lot of bitcoin heists in the past. What can I do to secure my site?

    If you are just dealing with a hobbyist site or community site, you can probably use just industry standard security. However, if you plan to host a bitcoin exchange or other service, you will need top-notch security, as you will be a prime target for cyber criminals. Take every precaution you can.

  • Why are hackers drawn to bitcoin?

    There is no logical explanation. A lot of times hackers waste days of work and weeks of research just to steal tiny amounts of bitcoin that clearly aren’t worth the trouble. Bitcoin is often used as a currency on the dark web, to hire hackers. It is also used as the currency of choice for most ransomware.

  • I am thinking about buying a few dozen miners and reselling them in cloud mining packages. How complicated would this be?

    You should have no trouble finding hardware and a data center willing to install it for you, but this is hardly a wise investment at this point. Too many people have lost money on bitcoin mining already.

  • If I accept bitcoin payments, is there a chance I could be breaking the law? Can authorities freeze my bank account?

    Bitcoin is not regulated, but in some jurisdictions it can be very problematic. You need to consult legal experts and your local bitcoin community prior to making any decisions that could lead to an investigation by tax authorities. In addition, a lot of banks simply don’t want to do business with bitcoin companies due to reputational risk.

  • I don’t believe in bitcoin, but I might add a bitcoin donation button on my site, or even accept bitcoin payments for promotional value. Is this worth the trouble?

    Possibly. If you want to accept bitcoin as a publicity stunt, as a way of getting coverage on bitcoin news sites, or as part of a wider SEO strategy, this might be worth a try in some niches. Of course, your best option is to choose a payment processor to handle everything.

  • Who accepts bitcoin? Can I use bitcoin to pay my hosting bill?

    A lot of merchants have started accepting bitcoin over the past couple of years, but adoption remains very low. Yes, there are a number of hosting companies that currently accept bitcoin, along with some software firms and individual developers. However, most don’t – they prefer dollars or euros instead.

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