Thanks to a link yesterday from our good friend Atrios, HA experienced its first sustained peak traffic surge since switching servers about a month ago. Longtime regulars know that HA’s server had a ton of performance issues over the past couple years, coughing up 508 errors at even the slightest bump in traffic. But yesterday we handled hundreds of simultaneous users with hardly a hiccup.
What changed? After way too much procrastination I finally moved HA from the iffy shared hosting account it had called home since November, 2002 to a spiffy new “droplet” at cloud hosting company DigitalOcean.* In the process, I traded limited server resources and a $30/month bill for 1GB of RAM and a dedicated processor core at only $10/month, plus an additional $2/month for automated backups. Such a bargain!
So why didn’t I do this sooner? I had played with VPS hosting in the past for other projects, but I’m not a server administrator and didn’t want to develop the level of expertise necessary to run a secure and reliable site. DigitalOcean offers nifty one-click distros for setting up popular Linux packages, but is otherwise unmanaged. So I was leaning toward a much more expensive managed VPS solution.
And then I discovered ServerPilot, a remote automated server management, monitoring, and control panel service that configures your firewall and handles all software and security updates for you. Just spin up a DigitalOcean droplet with a basic Ubuntu installation, SSH in to copy over ServerPilot’s install program, follow a few clear instructions, and minutes later you’ll have a modern, secure, and very fast Nginx, Apache, PHP, and MySQL stack ready to go.
ServerPilot’s basic firewall and security update service is free, with real-time stats, log monitoring, email notifications, and more offered in monthly subscription packages ranging from $10 to $199 a month. As an unpaid blogger, I love free. (FYI, I also moved my horsesass.org mail domain to a free account on Zoho—setup is clunky, but once you get it working it works great.)
Together, this DigitalOcean/ServerPilot combo offers many of the advantages of a managed VPS at a fraction of the price. It’s not for newbies. But trust me, I’m no Linux command line jockey. If you understand this post you probably have enough expertise to spin up a fast and secure server in minutes.
* (Yes, this DigitalOcean link includes a referral code that nets me a $10 credit if you sign up. But I wouldn’t plug it if I wasn’t pleased with the service.)