I maintain a website for a charity client. In recent years their online inter-activity and communication has grown and it’s important to them the website is always available.
Two weeks ago someone hacked the shared server they were hosted on and their site was affected. Even though I think that the hosting company was relatively responsive and available and worked to get it all patched and fixed to took a couple of days for everything to be ironed out.
Then they’ve decided to move everyone on that server to a new server, and there were more problems, and the site wasn’t available for hours.
I understand that things can go wrong with any setup at any time, but with the average shared hosting account you’re just one of thousands and maybe stuck in a support queue. If things go wrong you don’t necessarily get priority service, and there doesn’t seem to be a decent ready-to-go backup in place that the hosting company can just switch to, or re-route traffic to.
I’m not an expert in the world of hosting. So, my question is what better set-ups are there that I might be able to recommend to that charity. I don’t have the knowledge or capacity to manage a server myself. I like having everything installed set-up and maintained by the hosting company. But are there packages that have some kind of (semi)automatic redundancy in place and where you get priority support? Is it a VPS or something else?
I would actually recommend you looking at a different approach.
In the beginning, cloud hosting was very expensive and hard to understand. Cloud hosting now is very affordable, as you pay only for what you use which is different than shared or dedicated hosting where you pay a set price whether you use bandwidth or server cycles. Also as you highlight, shared hosting is a security nightmare.
For example you could use their LAMP stack or the Ubuntu server you can find for very reasonable licensing here on the AWS Marketplace
On real benefit right now is that Amazon is offering one free year of service, so you could try it, keep track of what it would cost you within your year of usage and then decide if it is economical to continue for another year.
Some other things to consider, is that their infrastructure is among the top most secure infrastructures in the public web domain. You would have protection behind their firewall, without having to be a firewall expert. Their management API is very easy to use.
For shared hosting–it depends on the host. There is good shared hosting by folks who know what they are doing and how to secure and monitor their servers, and there is bad shared hosting by folks who don’t do a great job.
I’ve been setting people up with shared hosting for years with two well-known companies, and haven’t had a problem yet.
I’m glad you have had a positive experience with this and found reliable suppliers. It is not impossible to do so, however I have seen to many times a hacker breaks one site then affects everyone on the server.
My point is more that shared hosting used to be the preferred low-cost way of hosting, but I believe the pay for only what you use in many cases will be more economical as many of the sites that are on shared hosting don’t get a lot of traffic. A church may be similar? Even if it is large and has 3000 members this is a small number of people that would regularly access the site. In this case, pay for what they use may be cheaper.
They would at least have a free year where they could track their usage and determine if it is cheaper and safer, plus maybe more robust than what they are currently doing?
ServerStorm, do these services typically have PHP/MySQL and a decent control panel, and perhaps some MySQL admin software, Just like many shared hosts? And how would the client be able to know beforehand how much cloud hosting is likely going to be?
Force Flow, would you be able to share the names for the hosts you’ve mentioned?
Yes the LAMP stack that I pointed you too on the Marketplace page does have Apache, PHP/MySQL and the typical LAMP controls like PHPMyAdmin.
If you have statistics on the user-base for the site where it was previously or currently hosted, the client could compare those costs with the pricing algorythm that Amazon uses. I was suggesting on my previous post that because Amazon EC2 is free for 1 year, your client could understand their usage on such an environment and understand what they would likely pay for another year based on the reporting tools that Amazon provides. The ‘pay-for-use’ model you can not know the price beforehand, but like I said you could learn this beforehand cost using for a free for a year; there should not be any surprises. If 6 months into it you feel the costs will be too great you can move it to a shared host or a dedicated VS. So this approach also gives you some time to plan.
I’m totally with ServerStorm with regards to avoiding shared hosting to avoid ‘server wide’ issues. Can’t remember the last time I had a hosting issue on any of the virtual server providers I use.
One thing to consider with EC2 is that it’s essentially an unsupported environment, intended for people that can administer servers from a command line. There is no ‘hand holding’ for simple administration of e.g domains, email, installing software etc though once you have a control panel installed you should be ok. A free EC2 micro instance doesn’t have a lot of memory so you wouldn’t want a memory intensive control panel on one really.
EC2 are essentially just xen vps instances, so unless you need the extra amazon services integration, you might want to look at other good vps providers that make things a bit simpler such as rackspace cloud servers or linode. Having said that, can’t argue with the free EC2 micro instance you get for the first year
I also recommended the OP to get the LAMP stack in the Amazon Marketplace as it comes with the standard Lamp controls web-min, PHPMyAdmin … And amazon will put it on the EC2 for you (all in a attempt to get your hosting dollars in the future). I don’t have a wide ranging experience with other cloud servers as I have run my own data-center for the past 10 years, but after selling this, I moved to Amazon to take advantage of the free year. I could not believe how little I would be paying if it wasn’t free. However my situation is a sand-box for having fun - different from a business or organization; I don’t have too many visitors .
A VPS will almost always be more secure than shared hosting. A VPS lets you add additional security setting and you are not as vulnerable to the issue of one user flooding the server and bringing down all of the others. It is going to cost you more on a monthly basis but once it is setup it should not present you with any issues. Sometimes, the little extra you pay for a VPS is worth every bit of it in the added security benefits which it provides.
From the OP post, I would be against vps solution, unless you can afford a good managed vps. Normally, vendors sell unmanaged VPS with low price, then that means you will be in charge of vps security, optimization. LAMP will help you install basic software packages, but it is not helping in security. Default installation is not optimized too. Optimizing means you will need to check log, find out the bottle-necks, change the config, etc. It’s not something for people who are not familiar with server management, especially in *nix environment.
Back to the main issue, the OP, there are still many good shared hosting vendors out there. If you don’t need root, don’t have big websites, you can still be good in shared environment. If you want some names, just give us more details of your hosting requirements
Many good VPS hosting companies are offering Managed VPS at very cheap rates these days.
I would be careful with “cheap managed vps”. That’s usually just do-per-request, that is not managed from my opinion. They even do not include data backup. Hardware can be failed anytime. Without proper data backup, “managed” means nothing when server goes down.
I also did a bit of work for a charity and I moved their site to cloud hosting. It is a bit more expensive than shared hosting but cheaper than dedi. They seem happy with it and the speed of the site ahd dramatically increased since it was moved from what I guess was an over subsribed shared host.
There are various hosting options available which you can choose from such as VPS, Dedicated server or Cloud Hosting. However it all depends on your need. Like you mentioned you maintain the site for a charity client, then it would not be feasible to go for a dedicated host as that would be expensive for the client.
The affordable options would be VPS or Cloud Hosting. Since cloud hosting plans are now available on per hour basis i think you should try that out.
Hope this will be useful to you