It’s taken several years, but I’ve finally found it. WebFaction is the perfect web hosting service for me.
Yes, there are lots of web hosting companies. A simple web hosting package is extraordinarily cheap and easy to come by these days.
But most of those services lack the features needed by power users such as myself.
For us, meaningful hosting almost requires running our own server; whether it is a dedicated server, VPS, or self-hosted server in the garage. But that’s excessive. Running your own server to host a tiny website is like burning down a mall because you’re cold.
What we geeks need is a happy medium between the watered down shared hosting packages and the pyromaniac option of running our own server.
In that middle ground, the options are far fewer, and expensive. Fortunately, there is one stand out company, WebFaction.
WebFaction markets their product as “hosting for developers.” To describe their services simply, they offer a shared web hosting service that boasts many of the benefits of a VPS or dedicated server. Their product is perfect for developers and knowledgeable tech geeks looking to host small to medium sized websites on a budget.
My Previous Hosting Experiences
I have tried several of the dime-a-dozen shared hosting services. I have also tried a VPS, a dedicated server, and my own self-hosted server.
During that leaping around I learned a lot about what services and technologies I was looking for, and the price I was willing to pay. In that time, the best solution I found was a shared hosting package offered by 1&1 web hosting. The exact package I had has been discontinued, but it was one standard middle-range package. It costed $9/month and included one domain name.
Their service was great, and I highly recommend them if you only need straightforward web hosting.
But, the restrictions of a run-of-the-mill shared hosting package was strangling my geeky side.
I needed to do database operations that require elevated privileges. I wanted to run shell scripts and scheduled tasks (cronjobs). And I was experimenting with Python driven websites which 1&1 does not support.
After years of pushing at the boundaries of what the shared package offered, I began researching alternatives. I didn’t want to increase my costs much, if any, but I was looking for a more flexible service.
I shopped around a lot, but WebFaction had the best looking product and fantastic reviews to go along with it.
Their package only costs me around 50 cents more a month, but it does not include a domain name, and has slightly lower storage space. So, on the surface, it is a tad more expensive for a slightly lesser package.
But under the surface, it’s a radically different story. They offer shell access, python hosting, databases with greater permissions, and much more. The extra capabilities more than make up for the small price difference.
Taking the Plunge with WebFaction
The additional features for a reasonable cost were to enticing to pass up.
On March 17, 2013 I signed up for their service. I transferred all my 1&1 registered domains to NameCheap, and pointed them at the appropriate WebFaction nameservers. I changed over all email addresses on my domains to WebFaction, and over a couple weeks migrated my websites and services to WebFaction.
The process was about as painless as transferring domains, emails, and websites could be. Which is to say it was a terrible experience, but not in any way aggravated by WebFaction.
WebFaction uses a different setup process for websites and services than 1&1 and the other hosts I have tried. Their “dashboard” is a bit different. But, they have great documentation and it wasn’t difficult to figure out. Replicating what I had with 1&1 was fairly easy and was all doable via the control panel, phpMyAdmin and FTP.
Once everything was transferred over and running smoothly I began experimenting with the shell access.
I wrote a shell script that would backup my websites and databases daily to a compressed file that I can download to any other computer with FTP.
I also setup a private MySQL instance so that I could have all permissions on my databases when needed. This allowed me to fix a pain-in-the-ass timezone issue I had been having with a WordPress plugin and MySQL.
This ability to write a backup script and the private MySQL instance alone made the changeover worthwhile. The other services and tools they offer sweeten the deal even more.
There’s not much to say other than thank you WebFaction! You have a wonderful service, and offer the perfect solution for me.
If you are shopping for a web hosting service offering something between “shared” packages and full blown servers, look no further. Do yourself a favor and signup with WebFaction. They offer the best of both worlds for a bargain. You’ll be hooked.
Let me know if you have any great experiences with WebFaction or questions about their service in the comments!
This post is shamelessly loaded down with affiliate links. Despite this, I assure you that all opinions stated in this post are my own and are valid; I fully endorse all mentioned services regardless of any benefits I may or may not receive. If you do not wish to support the secret lair I am saving up for, you can visit their websites directly. If you choose to do so, I will not harbor any ill-will when my lair is completed and I move on to world domination. I will just cry in my pillow for a few nights and be done with it.