I’ve been wanting to write this post for at least a year and I figured now would be a good time to take a break from my scheduled set of posts to discuss my transition both to and away from Rackspace last year.

Some of the content on this blog is on it’s third server (and second blogging platform). I initially stared writing this blog using a shared GoDaddy account and after a series of performance problems (and GoDaddy PR problems) I decided I was going to setup my own server. That VM provider eventually phased out the VM plan I was using so I picked up Rackspace and was very happy with it.

I also moved a web site over to Rackspace after the physical server it was running on started running out of space and into performance problems (the VM deploy was at least three years old and it had some occasional flaky problems like randomly not being able to fork a new process at the command line). The transition allowed us to rethink how some data was stored and that’s been for the best.

Why Move To Rackspace?

I LOVE the Rackspace support and sales team. Ever time I have a problem or question they’re able to quickly get it solved. I’ve worked with other (smaller) companies where the support has been less quick and when you have a problem with a production web site you want the fastest possible response.

Rackspace has a series of services that it provides like load balancers, managed databases, and a big bucket to store files that make it really easy to scale your application. For most applications this might be overkill but it’s very helpful when you do reach that point.

Why Move Away From Rackspace?

The only reason I moved away from Rackspace was cost. They lowest tier of VM was $15/month plus bandwidth costs. I have, as of yet, not turned a profit on this site so it’s hard for me to justify the cost.

Why Move to Digital Ocean?

For this blog and smaller side projects most of what Rackspace provids is overkill. Digital Ocean provides a nice flat $5/month rate for a VM that I will most likely never out grow. If it does it will be a good problem and I’ll be more than happy to switch back or work on scaling the site at Digital Ocean.

Why Not Amazon Web Services (AWS)

When we originally looked at which cloud provider we would switch to we looked at AWS but we ran into two problems.

The first was complexity. AWS has a huge selection of services that it provides. It’s nice because it reduces any maintenance you need to provide but it makes it harder for junior (and even senior) level engineers to understand what’s going on to fix it. Going with AWS would make it harder to find people who understood our technology stack and that didn’t seem to be worth it.

The other was that the application we ported required a custom MySQL function that couldn’t be installed on a cloud database. Rackspace has this same limitation but it’s harder with AWS because of it’s volatility. We’re working to remove this dependency but it’s been a slow refactor because it’s integrated into one of our “God” objects.

Conclusion

It seems like there are a million hosting providers now so picking one is hard because they all mostly provide the same level of service. Finding things like excellent service or low costs can really be the deciding factor.

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