New and Improved: Now Self-Hosted!

As I mentioned in my first post, I wasn’t happy with the shared hosting from GoDaddy.  It was slow, and I couldn’t stand the administrative interface.  I looked at all the popular alternatives, like HostGator, BlueHost and Dreamhost, but I worried that I would run into the same issues.  I was sixty seconds away from signing up with HostGator, when I came across Rackspace Cloud Servers in my searches.

With Rackspace, you get a VPS with your choice of OS that you can manage yourself.  You pay by the hour, and can scale up or down based on need.  I had always assumed something like that was too expensive, but it’s actually very affordable.  The entry-level box has 256M of RAM and 10G of drive space for 1.5 cents per hour.  That works out to just under $11 a month.

Their flexible billing is my favorite part of the deal.  There are no flat monthly charges.  You simply pay for what you use.  If you need a test box for two days to test something, you can create a new server in minutes and delete it when you’re done.  You will only be charged $0.72.

We actually have seven sites that need hosting, with more on the way, so it makes sense to get a VPS that we can manage ourselves.  We don’t need to worry that the other sites on a shared server will slow us down, and we can configure everything exactly as we want.  If we run out of room, we can increase the specs on our current machine or spin up an entirely new one

So after a long weekend scraping the rust from my Linux command line skills, Natural Jenius is up and running on a Debian Squeeze box running Apache and PHP5.  We are also using Cloud Files(more on that later) to serve up some of the static content, so the site should be pretty fast now.  Please let me know if you experience any issue with the site now that the switch has happened.

Behind the Scenes of Natural Jenius

I was going to spend the first post introducing you to the blog and telling you about me, but I blew my wad on the About page.  Check it out if you want to learn more about me.  Instead, I am going to give a few details about this site’s setup and my experience getting it up and running.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Software

We are running the latest version of WordPress (v3.2.1 at the time of this writing).  This is my first blog, so I don’t have any previous experience with blog software.  I chose WordPress because of its popularity and so far I haven’t been disappointed.  The setup was very easy and I had test posts in the system within a few minutes.

The theme, designed over the weekend, is custom for this site.  I’m using a few plugins, including Jetpack, Akismet and Quick Cache.  There are so many choices in plugins it’s hard to know where to start, but these seemed pretty crucial.

One of the benefits of WordPress is the massive amount of available information to solve almost any problem. The documentation is excellent, and there is plenty of extra help available by searching Google.  I definitely have a lot of reading ahead of me.

Hosting

GoDaddy is our hosting provider.  How can you go wrong with a company that spends millions on risqué Super Bowl commercials?  We already had an account there, so I stuck with them because it was the fastest way to get this joint up and running, but I’m not a huge fan.  Their site is plastered with so many ads and attempts to up-sell it’s like a used car salesman is my web host.  Their tools are as slow as molasses, and I’m on a shared host with over 6,500 other domains, which really slows the site down.

The biggest hurdle was that the domain wouldn’t transfer over to the host correctly, giving me the dreaded “Sorry, this page is not currently available” page.  I double-checked all the DNS settings and verified that the DNS changes had propagated to me.  No dice.  It was definitely something on their end.

On the plus side, their customer service is very good.  I had a real human, named Todd, on the phone within two minutes.  Todd found the problem immediately and told me that they were working on it.  By the time I woke up in the morning everything was working perfectly.  Thanks, Todd!

I will eventually move over to a different host when our current account is up for renewal.  If anyone can suggest a good web host, please let me know in the comments.