Last week I accomplished something I had been thinking about for at least a year, moving this blog to my own server. I had been hosting this site with a popular shared hosting provider for nearly four years and had not been happy for a long time. Picking a shared hosting provider in 2005 had been a pretty easy thing to do. I wasn't too comfortable with managing an entire Linux server so having others take care of it while I simply managed and wrote content was a good choice.
As the years went by I learned more and more about setting up virtual Linux servers and became increasingly unhappy with the uptime I was getting through the shared host. It seemed like every week something would go wrong and my site would be offline for minutes or in some cases hours. I eventually had the host move my site to a new server, one with fewer people/sites on it hoping for greater stability. I was happy for a while and then things went south again.
For the past 18 months I've been putting up with what I consider the realities of shared hosting. Slow page response times, lower bandwidth, less flexibility and control, other sites programming inefficiencies negatively affecting my uptime, etc. Maybe it's possible to experience fantastic shared hosting but I've never seen it and those I know who use shared hosting almost always complain about it. Yes it can be cheaper but I'd rather pay a little extra for full control over the environment and browsing experience (read speed, uptime) I can deliver to those who happen to read what I write.
In January of 2008 I launched a family blog on a brand new Linux VPS and later in the year I moved the Nashville ColdFusion User Group site to the VPS. Managing both of these sites for a year and half has helped me learn a lot of the essential skills needed to keep a medium-traffic Web site up and running. It seems in a way like my complete dissatisfaction with shared hosting and Linux server management abilities have slowly (too slowly really) put me in a position to finally move trajiklyhip.com to a new server. What pushed me over the edge was a quarterly bill from my previous provider for $65 that was going to be automatically paid on July 9. I replied to the billing department stating my intention to cancel my user of their services. Nothing helps me get something done like a hard deadline.
Over the course of the past two weeks I configured a brand new Linux server at Linode. I chose to move trajiklyhip.com to Linode over Viviotech for several reasons. First, I'm friends with the owner of Linode and have followed the company since early alpha/beta testing in 2003. Chris and I first met in 2000 when I began work as a programmer at a healthcare firm in Nashville. We worked together for almost three years and I was always impressed with his ability to come up with new ideas and solve difficult problems. When he left the company to pursue his own dreams of starting a new company I wasn't sure if he was going to be successful. Over the next three years I watched Chris absolutely slave away creating the beginnings of Linode. We both ride motorcycles and typically take one to two trips a year riding our bikes through the twisties of eastern Tennessee and surrounding areas. For three years it was nearly impossible to get Chris into the sunlight and out on a trip. He was always concerned about his company and leaving it unattended. I suppose there's something about being the only employee and having dozens of customers depend on you!
Since then Chris has hired several talented folks to help him push the envelope in the Linux virtual server space. It's been awesome to watch him grow the company into one of the most well known and popular hosting platforms for Linux. I'm quite proud of what they have accomplished and since I had a super small part testing the early platform I feel a bit of an emotional attachment to it. For this reason, and the fact that I have had an unused Linode for years, I decided to use it.
I'm already seeing much better performance with the blog running on Ubuntu, Apache 2, MySQL 5, and ColdFusion 8 Enterprise. But this change is really phase one of a two phase process. The trajiklyhip.com domain is hard to spell, hard to remember, and has no obvious personal tie to me. In phase two I will be dumping the domain in favor of moving everything to a brand new site at aaronwest.net. My new site will host the blog as well as bring together resources that have been separated into two really different sites for years: trajiklyhip.com and trajiklyhip.com/blog. The new site will have a brand new design and will include features not present in any of my current sites. I'm looking forward to getting it up and running. It's been a long, arduous work in progress but hopefully I'll be done in a few weeks.
Until then, I'm throughly enjoying having shared hosting out of my life for good and I'm reaping all the benefits that come with having this site on Linode. If you are in the market for awesome Linux hosting and you're either already good with the command-line or you have the desire to learn, I highly recommend you check out Linode. Tell them I sent you and feel free to ask me any questions you might have about my experience setting up a new server.
In the near future I plan on writing a series of blog posts that outline all the steps I took to install and configure all the technologies I'm using. This will include Ubuntu, Apache 2, MySQL 5, ColdFusion 8 Enterprise, Postfix mail server and more. Hopefully having this type of content available will help others make the decision to take the plunge into self-managed hosting.