Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Where to host my rails applications?

If you're like me and just making the switch to developing applications with Ruby on Rails then you've probably been asking yourself where can I host my app? I've spent some time over the last month researching hosting and in particular hosting for Rails applications. I have come to the conclusion there are a number of really good choices out there. I might even say there are too many choices which lead to this decision being drawn out a bit.

Here are the hosting choices I found that are available and "friendly" towards Rails application hosting.

  • Sustainable Websites - I listed this ONLY because it's a "Green" hosting provider.  I think it's cool that this hosting service powers it's servers off wind.  Unfortunately, it doesn't give me enough control and feel a bit like the GoDaddy offering on the surface.
  • Blue Box Group - Good virtual server choice here. The footprint I was looking at was $50 a month for 512MB RAM and 10GB disk space.  This service has off-site remote backup included.
  • slicehost - This one at first glance was in the right ball park.  A virtual server for $38 a month that has 512MB RAM, 20GB storage, and 200GB bandwidth allowance.  Automated backup service is available but costs extra.
  • Rack Space Cloud - This is a pay by the hour service.  The monthly cost was around $21.90 for the 512MB,20GB option but then I would need to add bandwidth charges.  They have a calculator you can use to guess at your monthly cost.  You'll need to know how much bandwidth you expect to use. Using the 200GB as a ceiling for the other plans I'm looking at this cost came out to around $58.90 a month.
  • RailsPlayground.com - Again, another good option and the cost for the virtual server I think I need 512MB/20GB/200GB would be around $38.00 a month
  • Linode.com - This provider doesn't offer a 256MB option.  They start at 360MB as a minimum with 360MB/16GB/200GB for $20 a month.   The 512MB/24GB/300GB option is $30 a month.  They don't have a backup option yet but claim to be working on it.
  • HostingRails.com - Not quite as easy to see what your cost per month will be on this site. If I understand the price matrix it looks like around $30 a month but bandwidth isn't as generous as the other providers.  They do offer a pay as you go plan which could be a cheap way to go.
  • heroku.com - One of the most interesting options.  You should check this out just to see what's possible.  If you need high availability in your solution then you might stop here if the cost doesn't scare you away.  They have an intro level free option where you can try things out.
Unfortunately, all of these seem to be good choices but obviously that will depend on your criteria. I was most concerned with balancing cost with performance. The first application I need to host will likely have low bandwidth requirements but I wanted hosting environment that would be easily expanded. I also am a bit of a control freak when it comes to putting my application and users at the mercy of automated and locked down "user friendly" hosting like GoDaddy and the like. (Notice that's not on the list above?)  Here's my short list of criteria for a hosting solution:
  1. To bring the balance to the cost part of my equation I was looking for as close to a fixed cost as possible.  Ideally as close to $20 - $25 a month as possible. 
  2. I want SSH access with out of band console access too.
  3. Starting out Ideally I wanted 512MB of RAM with a reasonable amount of disk space.  I have to have more than 256MB of RAM.
  4. A way to easily migrate/expand my hosting to have additional capacity.  I care if it's easy but the solution doesn't have to be a click of a button.
  5. I wanted an easy way to perform backups.
For me, this short list of criteria eliminated most of the list above on the first pass.  If you're criteria is different then you will want to dig a bit into each of the options above because they all have something good to offer.  I quickly narrowed the list down to three providers:  slicehost.com, linode.com, and Rack Space Cloud. 

I connected with the FAQ and "Why Me" pages on both slicehost.com and linode.com.  Found myself leaning towards those solutions almost immediately.  The Rack Space Cloud option could actually be the cheapest starting point of all three but only if my bandwidth stays low. (And who wants or expects that?)   Of the three I'm going to start with Linode.com and it's a good possibly I'll stay there until I have reason to move.  They seem to be the middle of the road for me.  They don't have the backup solution like slicehost.com but the ample disk space should allow me to manage that for a while.  To top it off a recent performance benchmark has added some emphasis to my choice.

I'd like to hear others experiences from using any hosting provider.  Leave me a comment if you have something I should be considering with my choice.


  1. I use some cheap vps hosting http://onexenvps.com at $10 for 256MB I'm from Romania so really this is important for me