Hosting by the slice

A couple of months back I was looking for somewhere to host a Ruby on Rails app (of which more in another post shortly). In the end I settled for a Virtual Private Server from US firm Slicehost (who are themselves Rails developers). For just over £10 a month I get 10GB of storage, 100GB of bandwidth and 256MB. Bargain! I’d love to use a host in the UK but I’d easily be paying twice that and getting half the spec (unless someone out there can point me at a good deal I’ve missed).

They’re popular right now and I had to wait a couple of weeks for them to buy more hardware. Then, once I’d signed up, it was only a matter of seconds before I received an e-mail with an IP address and ssh login details for my Xen based “slice”. I’d opted for Ubuntu Dapper as my distro and, within an hour or two, using a combination of apt-get, gems and the Slicehost Wiki I had Apache, MySQL, PHP and Rails set up as I needed.

I’ve been sufficiently pleased to-date that I’m considering moving our blogs and mail across to the server as well. That will bring me one step closer to finally ditching PlusNet (who in the past week have managed to get one of their servers hacked leading to a sudden influx of spam in my inbox and PlusNet removing their webmail access). At that point I’ll probably fork out the extra $5 a month for daily and weekly backups.

14 Responses to “Hosting by the slice”

  1. andyp says:

    RoR? Interesting. I got into a long conversation about it (and its limitations) on Saturday night.

    I’ll wait to read more about what you are using it for 🙂

  2. Oliver Zheng says:

    You might want to be careful with that mail server. Once the spam filter acts up, it will eat almost all of that 256MB of memory. You should consider Google Apps for email hosting if you want to run RoR apps on your server.

  3. slicematt says:

    Bring those blogs over! Mail too 🙂

  4. Dave says:

    Always good to receive encouragement directly from your hosting company (thanks Matt) although, as Oliver cautions, perhaps they’re hoping to push me up to 512MB! I’m happy to move the blogs over as I’m pretty sure the server they are on is hugely underpowered as it is. I’ve looked briefly at Google Apps before – I don’t really object to them searching my mail but what I do want to do is keep it all in one place. That means I need to be able to import all my existing mailboxes and export it all again when I decide to move on again. Unless I’m mistaken, that not something I can do with Gmail.

  5. I host with California-based Dreamhost, which provide incredible amounts of resource (~100GB storage, ~1TB bandwidth, etc.) for $10/month, as well as all the usual features (PHP, MySQL, etc.). But I trade that off against seemingly pretty poor reliability and slow and incompetent customer service. I’d be interested to hear how Slicehost works out for you.

  6. Dave says:

    Another hosting company that I use for SCJS is HostHere. £12 per year is an absolute bargain for what you get (100MB storage, 1GB bandwidth and unlimited everything else). I’ve always had pretty good turnaround on any tickets I’ve raised although they do seem to have a problem with mailing lists (or at least ours) as the list stops functioning regularly and they can’t yet tell me why. As I always deal with the same two guys I suspect they’re just a reseller but their margin must be pretty slim.

  7. What setup did you go for on Slicehost?

    I recently got a 256 slice for hosting rails apps and I think Im going to go for an Nginx / Mongrel stack; I would go for pound but the HTTPS support in Nginx looks really easy to use.

    I’d be interested to hear what you went for.


  8. Dave says:

    Alastair – I was in a hurry and also wanted a PHP setup so I stuck with what I know i.e. Apache, and from there it’s FastCGI through to Rails. As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, an orienteering entries system isn’t ever going to be the most heavily loaded application so Mongrel seemed liked overkill. When time allows (does it ever?) then I’ll see how it’s really performing and revisit the decision. So, likewise, I’d be interested to hear what you opt for.

  9. Johnny says:

    Hi David, have you noticed Google treating the site differently now it’s hosted in the US? i.e. Uk to US search bias?

    • Dave says:

      Johnny – I can’t say I have (even with a non-UK domain) but then I can’t really claim to have been looking either! Biggest issues I have with it being a US based host is a) the rising cost as the pound falls and b) data protection laws.

      • Johnny says:

        Thanks for the reply. Looks like G has you down as a US site, i.e. the site doesn’t appear in UK listings for “slice hosting” which is how I found you. We’re building a new accommodation site, my designer wants to use Slice but i’m nervous using a US host for this reason. Johnny

        • Dave says:

          You may be okay providing you have a UK domain. If, for example, you search for “christine currie” you’ll find my wife’s (ex-)blog which, although on the same server, has a domain.