Site Reliability Team Lead at News UK

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10 March 2013

Hosting Infrastructure

by Mike

I’ve worked for/with many companies over the years - many of them start-ups and from time to time I get asked where I host my own projects or have I got any experience with x company.

Don’t look at this list as a set of recommendations, just as a brain-dump of some of my experiences with various providers.

Cheap and cheerful hosting - [Dreamhost](http://www.dreamhost.com/)

There are many times that you need to host something quickly and cheaply. A VPS or dedicated server is probably overkill for this. You will need nothing fancy in DNS and for development purposes probably don’t care if it is on its own domain or not.

For this type of hosting I personally use Dreamhost. (Promo-code CHEAPERHOSTING for $87 signup discount)

I have been a customer for 7 years and have had very few issues with them. The only two issues were the extended downtime a while back due to a core router failure (approx 6 hours for me over both times it failed) and the double billing issue that they promptly refunded.

They aren’t perfect, but for the price I find them very hard to beat. Their support is fast and courteous and their systems are generally kept up to date and features added. (eg. Option of PHP 5.2 or 5.3 CGI, FastCGI and mod_security).

Domain registration works well, I’ve had domains live with DNS working in under 10 minutes, although 20 is more typical. If you want good shared hosting, give them a try.

1 & 1

I used to use these in Germany. Pretty good network and fairly good value dedicated boxes with unmetered bandwidth, but support is lacking unless you phone them (expect to queue). Also, domain stuff (transfers, registrations etc) takes ages to process (6-24 hours).

That said, if you don’t require any real support besides your box replacing when hardware fails, they aren’t a bad choice. Their control panel allows serial access (unless they forget to plug it in as happened to a collegue), booting to a rescue system and reinstalling without needing to talk to support. Just make sure you backup your data.


I’ve been stung by Amazon a couple of times, once for a multiple availability zone failure and once for charges on a business account when no services were used.

That said, they aren’t a bad place to host. Performance is okay (but expensive for what you get). The disadvantages for me have been the lack of support,  disappearing machines, their static-NAT configuration and charging for simple things like requests for a GET, POST or PUT etc to many of their services. This soon adds up and has bitten companies I have worked with a couple of times.

The main advantages are the number of geographic locations and the sheer number of images on the marketplace, but if you don’t know the publisher, why would you bother using an image from them? Do you know it is secure?

UK Site)

I like Rackspace, the cloud is sane in configuration (persistant servers with separate private (ServiceNet) and public interfaces with a public IP), decent in performance and cheap in price. Admittedly not as cheap as Amazon on some things, but they don’t charge you for little things like GET requests to CloudFiles and have far smaller (256 and 512Meg) and cheaper CloudServers available.

Their support is great. They say they are fanatical about support and I have never found otherwise.

The two downsides are the lack of additional services (these are being fixed with acquisitions (ObjectRocket) and additional services coming out of beta (CloudDatabases, CloudBlockstorage etc) and slightly higher cost than Amazon like-for-like. Although if you are using them the same way then you are probably doing something wrong. Both have strengths and weaknesses and you are wise to use these.

Digital Ocean

A fairly new player on the scene and only recently out of beta, they are gaining ground quickly.

The main selling points are the fact that all machines come with an SSD and that they bundle a fair amount of bandwidth with your monthly rental.

Their pricing model isn’t cheap for short term adhoc machines, but for months at a time it is very competitive. They charge per hour up to a cap of their monthly cost. This resets at the start of each month.

The main disadvantage for me is the lack of an internal network which means all server to server transfers come out of your allowance. They say they will be fixing this soon. That said, the bandwidth charges are extremely competitive compared to both Amazon and Rackspace.