Slicehost and Smugmug

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.

The only thing I didn’t move over was our photo gallery. I was able to determine that the photo gallery we ran on our previous host was one of the most intense operations on that server, especially since the particular gallery software we were running was incredibly memory, hard drive, and CPU intensive, and since we had nearly 30,000 photos in the gallery. In addition, I had always found this gallery to be a pain to manage and upgrade. Since the hard disk, CPU, and memory on Slicehost have hard limits (a good thing) I was worried about moving over such a huge application and stash of photos. So instead, we opted to start hosting our photos at SmugMug. I signed us up for a Power User account at SmugMug for $60/year. Though it’s not quite as social as a site like Flickr, it does offer some more powerful features like custom CSS/HTML/Javascript, custom domains, and backups to CD/DVD. We have migrated some of our more recent albums over to our new SmugMug gallery, but many of our older albums are now no longer available online. We will put some of them up gradually as needed, and all new photos going forward will go to the new gallery. If there’s an older gallery you would like to see, please let us know, and we’ll attempt to get it online for you!

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.

3 thoughts on “Slicehost and Smugmug

  1. Chad Everett

    You tried the VPS route once before, yes? I’d be interested to see how the latest round goes. Was this last downtime at Site5 again, or had you been elsewhere (sorry, it’s so hard to keep up these days)!

    I’ve been using SmugMug for a while now – they have (or had, anyway) a program where if you write some sort of a program using their API, you get a free account for life. I don’t use it much, though. I’ll see if I can dig up a link to it if you like. Let me know.

    Lately I’ve been using Picasa – it’s not as full-featured, but I like their client (I know you’re a Mac house, but still – it’s nice to be able to sync easily – which addresses the backup issue pretty well.

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  2. Peter Post author

    Yes, I previously tried a Virtuozzo-based VPS through TekTonic, and wasn’t too happy with the experience. I left them after a week or so. Slicehost has been great. Very easy to set up, great management panel, and the virtual machine itself is very robust. With TekTonic and Virtuozzo I was always running into memory or CPU issues.

    I would be interested to see if SmugMug is still doing that program. I’m sure I could whip something up that used their API, though I guess it would probably have to be useful for other people. đŸ™‚

    I’m still pretty happy using iPhoto on my Mac, and exporting using a third-party exporter for SmugMug that works quite nicely. I still continue to recommend Picassa to my Windows-using friends and family.

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  3. Chad Everett

    Here’s the SmugMug API page, and since it’s still online, I’d assume it’s still valid. I wrote an MT plugin, I know there is a WP plugin, and I know a guy who wrote a command-line uploader that he is probably the only person who ever may use – but he got a free account. It doesn’t cost them much, if anything, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask!

    The Picasa Blog just mentioned something about sharing movies from your Mac – don’t know if this is new or not, but thought I’d let you know. I’m enjoying Picasa more than SmugMug lately, simply because of the ease of syncing the two. But that level might not be there with Macs.

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