Web Development? Sure. Server?  Turns out, not so much…!

Having recently changed jobs to work for a fairly sizable UK-based web hosting company, I found myself considering my web hosting setup.

The bulk of the websites I tool about with in my spare time are WordPress, just because of the sorts of things going on on those websites. The whole “personal website” journey for me sort of went:

  • – Hand-carved HTML hosted on Geocities
  • – Hand-carved HTML hosted on Scoutnet
  • – Self-taught PHP blog scripts I developed, hosted on my work’s internal dev server
  • – Same self-taught PHP scripts, hosted on Glen Osmond Scout Group’s webserver
  • – WordPress, hosted on Dreamhost

In 2008ish, having established that I was grownup enough to look after/maintain a blog (and realising that PHP had evolved to the point where my cockamamie collection of poorly-executed scripts wasn’t that maintainable), I took the decision to spring for a shared hosting package on a compellingly good offer from Dreamhost – a cheap & cheerful US-based webhost selected for no reason in particular other than it did the trick and the price seemed good for what was on offer (unlimited everything, no performance promise). And so since then I’ve had in the back of my mind “I really should do something about getting a more performant hosting arrangement set up” – for around 15 years now, it seems.

As a web developer of some 25 years in the biz I’ve found myself working with a variety of languages and platforms – and it only occurred to me upon buying a bare Virtual Private Server from my employer that I’ve never actually configured a webserver from scratch! There’s always been someone else around to do that for me… and my personal stuff was all Shared Hosting!

Still, how hard could it be, right? My needs are pretty basic for this personal stuff.

So, a few tutorial articles, a practice run on a VirtualBox on my laptop, and I was off to the races – granted, I’m not doing anything fancy-arsed & modern like autoscaling pods with Kubernetes… but I’m pretty stoked with having figured out how to configure nginx, set up SSL (certbot makes that pretty straightforward), and learned enough about linux file permissions that I didn’t have to chmod 777 everything like a lazy person might. So, SO FAR I’ve passed every security scan I’ve pointed at the thing and even started going to work on performance tuning to an extent.

Not that this is probably interesting to most people.

Finally – one thing that WAS enormously helpful was the number of offers of help & advice I got after putting out a help flare. It was very reassuring to know I had such a willing and expert gaggle of chums to draw on in a situation of need. As it happened, I didn’t end up taxing most of their big mysterious brains, because after an initial foray into asking someone something it became abundantly clear that to get a helpful answer I first needed to understand what question I was trying to ask. And, as is so often the way with these things, once I understood what it was I wanted to know it was never a particularly long walk to figuring out the answer for myself. Although I’ve still got a few questions around umask, and setting up SSH key logins on a hosted platform.

But apart from that…. I couldn’t be happier :)

Intriguing outcomes, though.

  • – The world is containerised now. But in order to make use of that you’ve got to spin up some non-trivial resource to run everything, and that seems overkill for a blog.
  • – It’s possible to get optimised WordPress hosting pretty readily – however that wouldn’t cover my use case, because I’ve also got a couple of static sites I need to put somewhere and I don’t want to pay for multiple hosting products [i] beyond the hosting, domain, and email packages I’m paying for, yes. .
  • – There’s always another more interesting way to achieve the thing you’re trying to achieve, so the exercise becomes one of how much effort can you be bothered to put in to achieve the goal.

Anyway… Virtual Private Server will do for me, for now.

Web Development? Sure. Server? Turns out, not so much…!


i beyond the hosting, domain, and email packages I’m paying for, yes.
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