When I launched my website not so long ago I didn’t hesitate to use MediaTemple.  I thought that, since my site was small and traffic would be relatively light, their Grid Hosting (shared hosting) would be perfect for me.  And at $20/month, seemed good value – I’d read about them in articles by website developers I respect such as Chris Coyier, owner of the wonderful CSS-Tricks.com.  If it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me (granted, he’s probably not on Grid, rather has his own Dedicated Server). And it was.  It was fine.  Until, one day recently, I began investigating Cloud Hosting for a client.  I found that DigitalOcean offer your own virtual dedicated server (they call them “Droplets”) for $10/month.  But what does all this mean?  To answer that we need to understand the difference between a shared server and a dedicated server.

MediaTemple Shared Hosting

Imagine an apartment block.  It’s a single building with hundreds of residents.  If you imagine that block has one shop to feed and clothe everyone living there, it would put a lot of strain on the resources, right?  A shared server is similar to that.  One server with hundreds of websites and apps running concurrently.  All feeding from one set of resources.  The processing power is being split amongst hundreds of websites and some are more resource hungry than others.  This causes slow loading times and, in some cases, can cause security issues.

DigitalOcean Cloud Hosting

I should imagine you know where I’m going with this.  If shared hosting is an apartment block then dedicated hosting is a luxurious mansion with perfectly manicured gardens and an indoor swimming pool.  It also has a dedicated shop, like the apartment block but instead of being shared with hundreds of others, its just you and your family.  And the butler, but he gets his own shopping from down the street.  As well as being able to harness the full processing power of the server for your own website(s), dedicated servers also come with SSD (solid-state drives, rather than HHD (hard-disk drives)) which are more durable and, most importantly, blazingly fast.  Additionally you’re able to scale up your resources instantly as demand from visitors grows.

So how much faster?

Clearly you can’t just take my word for it.  Lets look at some hard facts.  Exhibit A, my old server Vs Exhibit B, my new Droplet.

mediatemple shared hosting vs digitalocean cloud hosting

As you can clearly see, my DigitalOcean Droplet loads in 1/3 of the time despite a slightly larger page size and a few more requests.

Any catches?

Yes.  The reason DigitalOcean offer such a ridiculously low price is that the server is completely unmanaged.  This means you have to install all the software you need from scratch and maintain the server from day one.  Unfortunately, it’s not like installing something on Windows either, you’ll have to use the command prompt and run exciting commands like this

sudo openssl x509 -req -days 365 -in bfg.csr -signkey bfg.key -out bfg.crt

You’ll have to set up firewalls, configure mail delivery and install database services.  Everything.  Luckily the knowledge base at DigitalOcean is pretty comprehensive and there are plenty of fellow users willing to help should the need arise.  If you feel confident enough to tackle this, the reward is great.

Try it out

If you want to give one of these awesome Droplets a test-drive you can get $10 credit (enough for one or two months free, depending on the server spec) by following my referral link – https://m.do.co/c/e384e51abea5. If you decide you don’t want to continue with it, you’re under no obligation. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

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