This site is now hosted on Linode. This fact in itself is not very interesting, but in the process of the transition, I’ve made a couple of infrastructure changes. The most important is to how the site is served.
Both DNS and caching are now handled by CloudFlare. This is important because I’m using a local Linode data centre – very fast for me, but potentially a bit slow elsewhere. By using CloudFlare, the site is cached and can be served quickly no matter where you are physically located.
Side Note: I only discovered today that CloudFlare’s essential services, like caching and DDoS protection are free.
Why change hosts?
I was very happy with my previous host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net (NFSN), and their shared hosting plan. They charge you based on your actual usage of services. For a site like mine, with low resource usage and no database server, it was very inexpensive: generally not exceeding $2 USD per month. Even though I may not be a customer for much longer, I recommend them highly.
Part of the reason they can offer their services for such a low price is that support is an optional add-on. Forgoing it is fine if you’re comfortable getting help on your own or from a knowledgeable friend. NearlyFreeSpeech still offer lots of help for free, though. They have an extensive FAQ and a forum where you can ask other users for help. In my observations, a system administrator will answer questions helpfully and quickly before users do. Only if you need specific instructions or something done for you do they seem to request you use a support incident.
NFSN also reduce their overhead by aggressively upgrading their software. Any deprecated versions of software are phased out as soon as possible, which certain reduces security threats. This is, regrettably, where I start to find myself in trouble as a Movable Type user.
Whilst I strongly prefer older versions of the software, which can be run on modern Perl, even the most recent version can be slow. This is mostly a problem when the software generates HTML files. If I were to regenerate all the files on the site and that process took more than 3–5 minutes, it may be terminated by the NFSN system. Because the site is more settled now, this isn’t something I do often, but with every new post, the time needed to rebuild increases slightly.
The app’s speed can be improved by running it through FastCGI. Unfortunately NFSN don’t offer native FastCGI support. I could have set up my own dæmon to run it, but it would introduce additional cost. The ability to have it baked in to my web server and running under a supported version of Perl led me to thinking it might be time to move to a virtual private server.
That’s where I am now, where you are reading this. I’m running the cheapest Linode server on offer, which is still only $5 USD per month. The server itself is faster, and when I SSH into it, it’s so responsive that it usually feels like the server is on my local network.
I’m still considering this an experiment, however. In the coming months the server needs some significant software upgrades which may require more effort than I’m willing to give. For now I’m enjoying the new-found speed and freedom.