Smart Tech for a better Web
I am blogging for a while now, but it was last year until some of my posts get traction. One of them, The 10 rules of a Zen Programmer, became so popular that my web host returned “500 Internal Server Errors” in a few occasions. If you had the luck to load the post, you either had a long load time or some resources (like CSS files) just didn’t show up. It was annoying. You made something right and then your web host is breaking.
But what should I complain about? The website was running for cheap 10€/Month on 1und1 (better known as 1and1.com in english speaking countries). It’s a mass hoster. They still run outdated PHP packages. I once asked the support why and they referred me to a PHP bug. The PHP team resolved the bug a few days later, but 1und1 would not update PHP. Other hosters provide a recent version of PHP. It made me think for other options. For the number of sites I run there, 10 € is not much. I am just getting what I pay for. Cheap web hosting. It was time to move on, at least with my blog.
One of my options was to use S3. It’s still a great option because I could utilize CDN better and my website would be very fast even abroad. It has one drawback: I would require to port my WordPress based site to something which produces static pages, like Awestruct (or Jekyll - I do not like Octopress so much). Currently I have a very tight time schedule and so I simply haven’t got the time to follow this option.
When I lost hope for a better hosting, I got the recommendation to use Uberspace.
Uberspace is a german webhoster. Small team. You need to pay by wire transfer, no credit cards. First I was not so impressed by a small company with a regional offer. But now I cannot imagine to have my blog somewhere else.
What are they doing different?
Yes, seriously. Of course you need to pay and the minimum is 1 €. So nitpickers would say it’s not exactly what you want. But hey, 1 €! That’s really a fantastic price to start with. You are not limited to anything. You get Uberspace full web hosting experience for this single euro. No restrictions. And the first month is free, so you can just try the service.
Reading an interview with the founder of Uberspace, he mentioned that most people would pay more than just 1 €. I am paying more too. I really would feel bad if I wouldn’t because I am so happy with them. Read on.
It’s a joke in Germany: “Apologize when you ask for service”. It’s actually true in many places. Like for example I had unbelievable crap experiences with german telecom providers (attention, it’s a rant. I am angry). Uberspace is different. 100% different.
When I moved the domain I had some trouble with the DNS. I mailed the service on sunday and didn’t expect anything. Suddenly there was a response. On Sunday. Within an hour, if I remember correctly. I got competent information what might go on. I had more questions and sent a screenshot of my DNS settings to Uberspace. I should have contacted my DNS provider with my questions. Of course, Uberspace would not know every DNS provider UI out there. I didn’t expect anything. But again, within a short time I got a great response.
“I don’t know that UI, but it looks OK and I would wait, because…” he started. There is no support guy who claims to know everything. Just a guy who tries to help me. No ego. I love people who are so honest on what they know and what not.
Everything turned out very well. It was exactly as he said. This was in february.
Before a few weeks I wanted to connect a different domain to my account. I was unsure if that would even work, because of some advanced DNS settings (not really advanced, but not really usual when it comes to standard web hosting). I asked. I got a response, very quickly. The response was not only “it might work” or “you need to seen contract A and pay $x euros, then…”. It was just: “I made the setup, it should work if you point the DNS like this…”. I was already in game.
Definitely this was one of my best service experiences ever. For my own business, I try to learn from it.
My old webhoster let me pay 10€ for $x MySQL databases, $y Gig of webspace and PHP. Perl was included, but definitely there was no MongoDB or something. 5 Cronjobs were there too. Everything is somehow limited. I needed calculate proper for which site I would use a new database and which would share databases. I needed to be careful when I cached on disk, because there was a maximum file limit, and caching systems might produce a lot of files. Not really annoying, I was used to it.
But now I am on Uberspace.
Now I have: SSH. Perl. PHP. Python. Ruby. node.js. Erlang. Lua. Compiler. FastCGI. MySQL. CouchDB. MongoDB. Redis. Cronjobs. HTTPS. IMAP. SMTP. Webmail. qmail. vmailmgr. maildrop. SpamAssassin. ezmlm-idx. DSPAM. ~/service. runwhen. Own logs. Backups.
Do not underestimate the Shell. There is Git, Bazaar, Subversion, Mercurial. I can install Pear modules as I want, I can install Perls CPAN modules. I am even able to code in C/C++ and compile it on Uberspace. Not that I ever want to do that, but I could.
I know about one limitation: disk space is limited to 10 Gig. This is a lot, but if I run out of space because a caching system would get insane, they are sending me an e-mail first. No hard cut.
Another nice thing: I got SSL. Yes, the certificate does not match my domain. But it’s there. I could use it, if I could accept the browser warning.
I mentioned earlier that I had problems with a blog post when it became popular. It happened, when Google Realtime Analytics showed me 170 current visitors were on my page. With enabling a WordPress caching system, 1und1 managed to serve content to 250 visitors. Still the loading time was high, with around 15 seconds in average. Now, with Uberspace, I am not afraid before the surprising peeks anymore.
I got 600 active visitors and didn’t have a problem. Loading time was avg 3.5 seconds. Please have in mind, the server is located in Germany and most of the readers were from the US. Given this, it’s just great and can only be beaten by utilizing static pages, S3 and CDN for content delivery.
I have tried Uberspace from around february until may. I am happy with Uberspace and will slowly move more and more from the old, cheesy webhost to here. The business model attracts me. I love the service. I have everything I can think off, and it is all managed. Perfect for so many projects and sites. For everything else (like Java) I can build up an EC2 on my own. Uberspace came to a time where I thought classic web hosting is history. I tend to think there are more people who enjoy a dev friendly, no-hassle webhost. I do.