Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Virtual Private Server (VPS)

It was only a matter of time. We knew—hoped, actually—that we would eventually outgrow Go Daddy's shared hosting service, but we didn't expect it to be this soon. Before even putting their service to the test with our site launch, we ran into some limitations regarding MySQL permissions: We need to use triggers and stored procedures, and the shared hosting accounts do not allow this, ostensibly because of security concerns.

I contacted Go Daddy, and inquired about virtual dedicated servers, their next higher level of hosting service. This type of account, which is more commonly called a virtual private server, or VPS, uses a technique called virtualization, which gives each user his own operating-system instance. This approach provides many of the advantages of a dedicated server without the high cost; however, the resources of the server are, in fact, shared with others. Each OS instance is insulated from the others, so a mischievous or negligent user cannot affect those with whom he shares the server.

Go Daddy's economy plan, their entry level VPS, comes with 10GB of disk space, 256MB of RAM, and 500GB of monthly bandwidth. I was offered 25% off the standard price of $30/month for a 1-year commitment, instead of the usual 10% discount. A 20% coupon code further lowered the price to $18/month. The problem is that the Linux distro offerings are quite limited: The latest versions are Fedora 7 and CentOS 5, both of which were released over two years ago. Moreover, a $5/month panel upgrade is required to gain access to either of them. Without the upgrade, the latest distros are RHEL 4, Fedora Core 4, and CentOS 4, all of which were released over four years ago, and none of which supports MySQL 5.0, a requirement for us. Assuming an equal discount on the panel upgrade, the price for Fedora 7 or CentOS 5 would be $21/month.

I researched at least two dozen VPS alternatives, and most were quite expensive by comparison. I spoke with a friend about our situation, and he suggested we take a look at Linode. Wow! Not only do they offer the latest Linux distros, more disk space (16GB), more RAM (360MB), and a highly configurable environment, but it costs only $18/month (after a 10% discount for a 1-year commitment). The only metric where they trail Go Daddy is monthly bandwidth with 200GB, but that is plenty for us at this time.

While conducting my research, the company I came across with the most-similar offerings to Linode is Slicehost. Both offer configurable VPS hosting, with multiple tiers of service to accommodate a growing business. My impression is that Slicehost, a subsidiary of Rackspace, provides top-notch service, and would make a solid choice. However, they offer less disk space (10GB), RAM (256MB), and monthly bandwidth (100GB) than Linode at their $20/month entry-level service. As a bootstrapped startup, price is a strong consideration for us, so we decided to go with Linode. After signing up, it was very simple to install a Linux distro and configure a LAMP server with a functioning Web site. Very cool.

I would recommend services such as Linode or Slicehost to developers, but not to the non-technical or those who prefer Plesk or cPanel. You don't have to be a Linux guru by any stretch, but it helps if you have some familiarity with Linux distros and how to set up a secure site. There are many tutorials available, and both of these companies have active user communities who can provide assistance, so don't hesitate if you're worried about having to go it alone. Linode offers a 7-day money-back guarantee, so there's no risk to take it for a spin. If you decide to sign up with Linode, please consider using our referral code.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Long Time, No Post

Wow. It's been over a month since my last post. This is actually a good sign, because it is indicative of the intense code development taking place at Truth Rally. I also must give credit (or blame) to Twitter for serving as a release valve for any pent-up urge to blog: There are a dozen tweets on our Twitter account since the last entry here. Granted, most are not blog-worthy, but several deserve more attention.

Over the next few weeks, I expect to report on a number of issues, as well as elaborate on those I've mentioned via Twitter—particularly the ones dealing with our Drupal experiences. For those on the beta-test signup list, we appreciate your patience as we work to complete the site. For those interested in the signup bonus, click here or on the Truth Rally logo located at the top of the right-hand column. Stay tuned.