danlucraft /blog

Matrioshka Hosting

September 2007 • Daniel Lucraft

For almost 5 years now, whenever I’ve learned a little bit more about the web, I’ve bought a new hosting package to support my new skills. And each time I’m kept the previous providers to avoid the hassle of moving things over. But it’s starting to look less and less convenient to have everything separated, and more expensive. Here’s my current situation:

Date   Host          Price  Space RAM   B/w
Jan 03 Yahoo         £4.50  2GB   n/a   100GB
Aug 05 1&1           £9.00  4GB   n/a   40GB
May 06 Dreamhost     £5.00  255GB n/a   3TB
Sep 06 Rails Machine £50.00 10GB  512MB 100GB
Totals               £68.50 271GB 512MB 3.2TB

The Reviews

Yahoo Geocities I set this up in January 2003 because I needed simple webhosting and wanted my own domain name. It’s tinkertoy but I am not aware of any downtime whatsoever in 4 and a half years.

1&1 Business Hosting Account Bought this so I could set up a WordPress blog. They have a very wide selection of services, though they appear to have written most of them themselves, which is odd. For instance, you can install the “1&1 Blog” software. Ummm, no thanks. Again, solid hosting with little or no downtime.

Dreamhost “Crazy Domain Insane” Shared Hosting Got this when I started learning about Rails in 2006. Truly extraordinary allocations marred by frequent network problems. Having said that, I haven’t noticed much downtime on my own server so perhaps that’s too harsh. Excellent web interface for installing packages. Setting up a new Subversion repository with websvn and access control is the work of a few moments. Very convenient.

Rails Machine VPS Got this when I wanted to deploy a couple of Rails apps. Comes pre-installed with a Rails-stack of Apache, MySQL and mongrel. Using the railsmachine gem to deploy is a well marked path, even for a noob like me. Little downtime, excellent support. A tad expensive perhaps, and only offers CentOS (enterprise Red Hat), when I would really have preferred a Debian derivative.

Yet another: Slicehost

All told I have 4 hosting or VPS accounts, which I bought over a period of 4 and a half years, costing me £70 every month. I don’t even want to do the calculations of how much this has cost in total. So I’ve been planning a consolidation for a while, and last month I discovered Slicehost.

There’s been a bit of buzz around them and they have quite a long waiting period. They predicted two weeks for me but it ended up about four, with little information along the way.

I don’t want to give the complete thumbs up yet, because I’ve only had the server online for a few days, but so far they seem like an excellent package:

  • They’re cheap. An Equivalent server to the Rails Machine one above costs just £20p/m and I’ve bought a smaller one for £10.
  • They have a great web interface for rebooting, wiping and reinstalling your ‘slice’. You can choose your distribution from a few options: Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS, Gentoo and Fedora. You can also use a browser based shell to get into your slice and use the interface to save server backups (for some more ££s).
  • They have a really great set of articles covering common administration tasks (and building a Rails stack), and they seem to have just hired someone specifically write to more.

The Plan

So the plan is to consolidate my current hosting into two Slicehost slices. One for my blogs, pages, email, mailing lists and subversion repositories. Then, once I’m confident that Slicehost know what they’re doing, a second for Says Who?.

Host             Price  Space RAM   B/w
Slicehost 256   £10.00  10GB  256MB 100GB
Slicehost 256   £10.00  10GB  256MB 100GB
Totals          £20.00  20GB  512MB 200GB

Total saving, £48.50 per month.

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