A few days ago it was announced that my preferred hosting provider Slicehost had been purchased by the big hosting company Rackspace. In addition to buying Slicehost, they have also included Jungle Disk in their spending spree. Hopefully this will all be good news for the respective companies, but it has reminded me of a blog entry that I have been meaning to write for a while: “Why I love my Slice”
A bit of background about Slicehost: First-off, Slicehost is a virtual server provider. You pay your money, and in return you get your own virtual server, that is a machine that you can log into, set the root password, and set up as you so desire. So for anyone looking for a simple web host, it might not be the solution you are looking for, but more about that later. Slicehost sell ‘slices’ of a real server, so your virtual server is dedicated a proportion of the resources (disk space / memory / bandwidth) of that server. You can choose what resources you need and buy an appropriately sized Slice. Slices are actually sized upon the RAM you want, starting with 256MB, and going up 512, 1024, 2048, 4096 etc.
I own a slice, and have done for nearly a year. But why do I love my slice? Here’s my top 5 reasons:
- It’s my server, and I can configure it how I like! Just that really, it is my server, and I can configure it how I like! My main use for the server is to provide web hosting and database services for several different domains such as this blog. As well as simple out-the-box type hosting, I can configure Apache and PHP as I desire, to include any libraries and modules that I want. I am a software developer and appreciate that freedom. Not only can I configure the machine how I want, I also get a choice of Linux distributions installed (or reinstalled) for free.
- I am not just limited to web hosting services. My main use of my slice is for web hosting, but by having a slice I can run other services. The main example of this is the test LDAP service that I run to allow people to test their DSpace repository LDAP settings, although it could be used for other things too. If I so wished I could run any other service I wanted such as mail (although I use Google Apps for this) or DNS (I use GoDaddy for that).
- I can define my own backup strategy. Any hosting provider of repute will run a decent backup system. However for the most part this is simply to protect themselves in case of severe hardware failure. They take backups for themselves, not for me. So if need to restore a file from yesterday, I can’t do it. Remember, they take backups for themselves, not for me. They may perform a restore, but it’ll be expensive. By running my own server, I can run my own backups. The way I do this is to rsync the important bits of my server to my Mac laptop whenever I’ve made any changes to code or configuration via a script. Rsync only takes the differences, so this is quick and efficient. I then let Apple’s TimeMachine do its job, and backs it up to my local backup system which provides me with backups going back as far as I have disk space for. If I need to perform a restore, I restore the files locally, then rsync them back to the slice. Slicehost do offer a backup solution, but this costs money, and I like my own solution
- I can experiment and learn. I’m a developer, not a hard core systems administrator – I’m lucky and work with some excellent sys admins who look after most of our systems. But aspects of my job require me to work with Gentoo Linux servers, and I can learn by messing with my slice rather than a production server. I can also do things on my own slice that I wouldn’t be able to do on a work machine…
- I can run services on my slice which I couldn’t run at work or home. Being able to run whatever services I want is great. One service I also run purely for myself, and is firewalled accordingly, is a squid web proxy service running on a server in the U.S. This allows me to pretend that I am in the U.S. so that when I encounter web sites that like to change the price to british pounds because I am in the UK, and charge the dollar rate in pounds, I can still pay the cheaper dollar rate. Noting illegal, just being prudent and saving me money!
Oh, if you happen to purchase a slice, use this link