I have a site that is generating about 120k monthly page views and is being hosted on a shared FreeBSD server where I have access to PHP and MySQL. I am using some custom PHP server-side scripts that give each of my ad networks (AdSense, Tribal Fusion, etc) an adjustable percentage of impressions in each of the ad positions on my pages.

I am looking for a better way of managing and measuring the delivery of these ads, and would also like to be able to take direct placements and provide statistics to the clients.

I am looking at options including OpenX self-hosted, OpenX community, and Google DoubleClick for Publishers Small Business (DFP), but am having difficulty determining which one will best meet my needs. They all seem to have pretty steep learning curves compared to my simple scripts.

What I have taken away so far as the benefit of self-hosting is that I don't have to pay for the service if I exceed a maximum number of ad impressions, while both OpenX Community and DFP have free impression limits. Of course, if I was doing those kind of numbers I'd need to upgrade my hosting account, but I'm not sure even at that point whether it would be cheaper to serve the ads myself than pay for a premium service.

Apart from this, I really need insights into what features differentiate these services, why I might want to choose one over another, and if there are any other competing products or service of the same quality that I should look into. Answers from webmasters who have used both (or all three) services and can talk to usability and ease of ad management would be highly appreciated.

1 Answer 1


I went with Open-X self hosted for several reasons:

  • It installs in just a few minutes, setting up advertisers and campaigns is really, really easy.
  • Its free / open source
  • I'm adamant about self-hosting as much as I possibly can

While its great software, my decision was (mostly) strategic. I know a lot of people that outright block *.doubleclick.*, and many other ad networks. I really wanted ads coming from my own domain. The majority of my sites cater to people who are (at the least) tech savvy. I have the same problem with Google Analytics, my visitors don't like being tracked (I can't blame them).

Additionally, I don't want an ad network slowing down my page loads, or (gasp) being compromised and blasting rogue code to my visitors.

Open-X is happily serving about 20k impressions daily across a dozen blogs, and is hosted on the same VPS as the blogs. In the few months that I've been using it, I have not noticed any sluggishness. Maintaining it isn't very difficult at all, but I've only used the simplest of configurations with one 'house' campaign. YMMV.

If you got to the point that your ad server required more resources, presumably it would be paying for itself.

  • 1
    Thanks for the great answer Tim, I hadn't considered the ad-blocking. I've read the install and upgrade notes for the self-hosted version. It seems fairly straightforward, but if you've gone through an upgrade would you mind adding details on that to your answer? Is it hard to maintain? I'm pretty proficient in the shell, but I'm also lazy and would hate to get into managing something where I have to do a bunch of diff-ing between releases to make sure my files, etc, are transferred properly between installs. :) I'd still love to see answers from anyone who has used both OpenX and DFP.
    – JasonBirch
    Commented Jul 11, 2010 at 4:22
  • @Jason - I'm pretty sure I was the one who asked the question about accepting in the beta :) No worries at all.
    – Tim Post
    Commented Jul 11, 2010 at 6:48

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