Here's something everyone interested in 3D eLearning should read.
If you’re looking to join a supportive, warm environment that helps you develop as an artist or builder, or as a safe, secure place to run your shop, I’ve got nothing for you. That’s because what’s nice and friendly to one person is cloying and overbearing to another. The best thing to do here is to check out some grids, and see what works for you.
If you want a place where content is kept under lock and key, choose a grid that has hypergrid turned off, and doesn’t allow people to export their regions or inventories (these are known as OAR and IAR files). InWorldz and SpotOn3D are good at this. Open Neuland has hypergrid turned off, as well, as does 3rd Rock Grid.
If you want a place that’s open to hypergrid commerce, both Alpha Towne and GermanGrid have embraced multi-grid currencies (G$ and OMC, respectively) and welcome hypergrid shoppers, giving you a potential customer base that’s as big as the whole OpenSim metaverse. Keep in mind that those shoppers can then take your products to their home grids or private mini-grids and do whatever they want with them.
Accounts on all these grids are free, though SpotOn3D charges a small fee if you want building rights. There’s nothing stopping you from creating an account on these grids — or teleporting in with an existing avatar if the grid is hypergrid-enabled — hanging out, meeting people, getting a feel for the place.
Don’t let price be a major factor for you. First of all, OpenSim prices are falling quickly. By the time you’re ready to expand your virtual domain, you might be paying a fraction of today’s rates. Second, OpenSim prices are roughly based on how much it costs to rent the server. Expect to pay $10 to $25 for a basic, low-use region, and $25 to $60 for a moderate use region. And if you want a high-performance region that looks and feels like a region in Second Life or better, expect to pay around $90 a month or more. These prices are, in general terms, consistent across the grids.
Prices can be higher in Europe, due to VAT taxes, and also higher on commercial social grids. That’s because commercial grids have additional services that they offer to help create a sense of community for the grid. These include common public areas, sandboxes, events, community organizers or marketing staff, private currency systems and shopping portals, bulletin boards and discussion areas. In addition, some grids do additional development work to add custom features to their grids to set themselves apart from other grids.
One word of caution: if you pick a closed grid that prohibits region and inventory exports, and you decide to leave at some point in the future, you might have a hard time moving your land and avatar.
Education and Non-profits
If you’re a school, university, museum, hospital, research lab or other non-profit then you will have very different considerations than a casual user.
If you’re looking to get a region on a grid where you can socialize with other educators or researchers, or share content with them, check out ReactionGrid, Cybergrid, ScienceSim, and JokaydiaGrid, as well as the new Edu-Merge grid from SpotOn3D.
ReactionGrid is the most famous. It is a PG-rated, for-profit grid that focuses specifically on the education market, and has some very vocal satisfied customers, and a great reputation for customer service.
However, you may also want to consider running a private grid. It’s not much more expensive. In fact, if you’re renting several sims, having a private server running a mini-grid may actually be cheaper than renting regions individually. Many hosting providers do not charge extra to set up a mini-grid for you, and you get a private-label grid — your own domain, grid address, avatar names, everything.
If you’re a company using OpenSim as a platform for collaboration, training, simulations, team building or other internal functions, then you’ll want to run a private grid.
If you have 16 regions or less you can do it as a mini-grid, also known as a standalone. A mini-grid runs on a single server, so it doesn’t need centralized grid management software. Many hosting providers will set up a mini-grid at no additional charge.
ReactionGrid can set up a private grid for you — either on their servers, or on your, behind-the-firewall servers. SimHost and Dreamland Metaverse also have great reputations for customer service, and some brand-name customers. If you have the budget, you can also try IBM’s Lotus Sametime 3D, which comes with corporate functionality such as integration with your staff directory.