Almost three weeks ago, our website had an outage that lasted over 24 hours. This was due to the shared hosting server that our site ran on having an outage, and was totally out of my control. Though I suppose this could happen to any server, it was just the latest of many similar incidents over many years of being with this particular web hosting company, and I’ve never appreciated the way they handle these incidents. So, while the outage was going on, I took the opportunity to sign up for a Virtual Private Server (VPS) account with Slicehost.
Slicehost is based out of Saint Louis, MO, and their business consists of selling “slices” of physical servers, with virtualization handled by the Xen hypervisor. You get your own VPS with root access, dedicated memory and hard drive space, and can install one of many Linux-based OSses. For my purposes, I signed up for the ‘256 slice’ which gives me 256 megabytes of RAM and 8 GB of hard drive space, and a similarly proportioned guaranteed share of the host machine’s CPU, for $20/month. I’ve moved almost everything from prwdot.org over there, and I couldn’t be happier. There is a bit more work involved, since you must manage the VPS yourself. But this also means that nearly any problem can be solved on your own, without having to wait for support. This is great if you’re like me and have a good handle on system administration, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not comfortable with installing packages, securing a box, and configuring server software. Although if you’re adventurous and want to take a stab, they do have excellent support documents and a chat room which has been helpful on a few occasions. Slicehost has written their own web-based interface for rebooting and backing up your slice, getting stats, managing billing, etc. They even have a mobile web portal that works great from my iPod Touch.
Here’s to new and better hosting on all fronts! Hopefully this will save us all some frustration and make future expansion easier. Kudos to Slicehost and SmugMug for running two excellent services.