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Rails Hosting review

March 2010 update:


Please understand that this post is very old and completely outdated. The Rails hosting spectrum has changed drastically over the past few years.

Read updated reviews here: The Best Ruby on Rails Hosting Services


During the last couple of days I’ve been searching for a good Rails hosting solution at an affordable price.

My principal requirements were:

  • Ruby and ROR support (of course)
  • Unlimited MySQL databases
  • Possibility to handle multiple domains at no extra cost
  • Shell access
  • Unique static IP
  • Lots of space and bandwidth available
  • Good SLA
  • Relatively inexpensive, with the possibility to pay quarterly without committing to a full year
  • A friendly approach with many genuine, positive customer reviews

I mainly need a playground or a sandbox where I can test and deploy small Rails applications, but by the same token I’d like to be able to use the current hosting service if things get serious. I have one or two ideas for medium-sized projects, but they are definitely at the earliest stages now. For the record I normally register my domain names with Godaddy, and I highly recommend them for your domain purchases. For the moment they don’t support Rails, and their interface is too crowded. As well they have a poor control panel which leads me to say that in terms of shared hosting there are better deals out there.

The first impressing thing that I encountered in my research, is the amount of new Rails hosting offers which have rapidly become available. It seems that the hype and the marketing surrounding Rails are spreading like wild fire. Now you see companies without any previous knowledge of Ruby, who are claiming first class “Rails support”. They write it in capital letters on their homepages and they have the red Rails icon everywhere. It’s like they freakin’ invented Rails themselves. Of course I didn’t think twice about excluding these types of companies.

Shopping around I was able to shortlist the following:

Host Space Bandwidth Monthly Setup
TextDrive 1 3 $12 $25
Planet Argon 0.49 15 $11.25 -
DreamHost 4.7 120 $9.95 -
Site5 11 400 $8.77 -
Unbit 2 - $8.5 -
Rails Playground 2.9 29.3 $5 -

Based on similar monthly prices per package (if you purchase the plans on an annual basis). Space and Bandwidth in GB, some figures are rounded.

ATTENTION: These plans and pricing may have changed since the time I wrote this article. I’ve written a follow about Site5 that you can read here

We all agree that space and bandwidth are not as important as reliability, and it’s all about quality not quantity. However, to test those subjective parameters you will need to try them out personally, or base your judgment on other peoples’ reviews.

TextDrive is very well known in the Rails community (the official Rails hosting service) but it’s definitely not a sandbox which is suited for testing – and it’s not exactly cheap. If in the future I have developed a killer web application that is all ready to go, I may consider them.

PlanetArgon seems to be great if you need PostgreSQL (you get your own instance of it) but for the moment MySQL is more than okay with me. It was their prices which turned me off of them.

DreamHost seems very good, probably one of the closest matches to what I was truly looking for, but they were in direct competition with Site5, which was the service that I eventually picked. I didn’t choose dreamhost, despite their great reviews, because their monthly payment option requires you to pay a $50 setup fee (yes, I know that I could have probably waived that with some promotional code taken from the Rails website). I also read that they tend to slightly overcrowd their servers, and that they are somewhat inflexible regarding customization. I’ve never tried them though, but I tend to think that they are probably great.

Rails Playground struck me as a site that was thrown together quickly in order to benefit from the Rails wave, rather than a solid web hosting company (but I may be wrong). They also doubled their price on their entry level hosting package quite literally overnight. I checked a few weeks ago and it was $12 a year (that’s practically free in my books), and now it’s $24 (even if they improved the package features). If you visit their alias site you can still see the $12 offer and get an idea of what I mean.

Unbit is a serious Italian hosting provider which supports Ruby and its Italian community. They are very affordable, but in order to satisfy my future plans a North American based hosting service is best suited to my needs.

After this bit of research I decided to invest a few bucks in Site5’s SuperHosting™ Xtreme. For $7.77 per month if you sign up for two years, or $8.77 a month if you opt for yearly or quarterlypayments, you do get a ton of stuff. The small setup fee was waived by some coupons that I found with Google.

So with this plan I get:

  • 11GB of hard-disk space
  • 400GB of bandwidth (I can probably be “Slashdotted” at this point)
  • Unlimited domain pointers, emails, ftp accounts, etc…
  • Shell access and unique, static IP
  • 99.9% guaranteed uptime. Their statistics are publicly shown on the homepage if you are curious
  • Up to 5 sites with independent controls panels
  • Average response times lower than 25 minutes
  • “Ruby on Rails wise” technical support, as you can read here.

I tested them first with a quick question and I got an answer within 60 seconds. Then I opened a ticket with 5 specific requests that would require lots of time. I received a proper answer to all of them 15 minutes later. I also tested the billing department with a query, and I received a friendly and prompt answer as well. I may come here and complain about them in the future, who knows, but the first impression is VERY POSITIVE!

I installed TYPO without encountering any trouble, and from what I’ve seen Rails applications run smoothly and quickly on their servers with Apache2, FastCGI and MySQL 4.

I realize that shared hosting which offers huge quantities of space and bandwidth may have hidden pitfalls, but so far I am satisfied enough to recommend them.

I hope this small review which expresses my own experiences may be useful to somebody else.

By the way this is my first post in 2006 – Happy New Year to everyone! ;-)

UPDATE: (23 Jan 2006) DreamHost is now offering 20GB of diskspace and 1TB of bandwidth.

UPDATE: (1 Jul 2006)
I’ve written a short follow up exactly 7 months later this extensive hosting review. Rails hosting Review, 7 months later.


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39 Responses to “Rails Hosting review”

  1. smerickson says:

    Recently I had a similar experience as you did. I was looking for a new host that suppored rails and with similar requirements as you outline above. I too decided on Site5 and have been very pleased, but this provides some more confirmation that I made the right choice.

  2. Eric says:

    I’ve had good luck with Linode, which provides an entire “User Mode Linux” system with root access for $20/month. That way, I can run whatever databases, web servers, and applications I want. This includes vhosts and multiple Rails instances.

    Of course, a virtual server means you need to set up Rails on your own. But the service has been good so far. It’s a good choice if you’re comfortable with Unix.

  3. railsquest says:

    I also was looking for a rails hosting service and came across your site.

    I was going to click the site5 link you provided, but I noticed the link:
    (http://www.site5.com/affiliates/idevaffiliate.php?id=1037)
    and now I have to question the credibility of the review…

  4. railsquest, I see your point. I have removed the affiliate links. The review was written with the intention of providing information, not merely to make a few spare bucks. My apologies if this has generated any confusion. :-)

  5. railsquest says:

    Just the fact that you didn’t delete the comment shows that you have integrity.

    So, I went ahead and clicked on the link I posted there anyway ;)

  6. drurjen says:

    Antonio,

    I was googling for Rails Hosting reviews and yer post popped up at the top. I’m also looking for similar packages. So far, RailsPlayground and Site5 seem to be my favorite picks. I’m a little short on cash so I may end up choosing RailsPlayground, or take a chance with Site5. There’s another webhosting company that’s worth adding; caught my eye a couple of mths back. It’s Steelpixel.com, it’s managed by the people behind the Web20show.com (a podcast about all things web2.0). They have a good reputation behind them, so they might also be a good choice. By the way, you said GoDaddy wasnt Ruby compatible, so what company should i register my domains with?

  7. Hi drurjen, you can register your domains through GoDaddy and configure the DNS so that they point to your hosting elewhere. Cheers, Antonio.

  8. Carla says:

    Welcome to Site5! I’m an employee–you’ll see my name in your support tickets and in the forums.

    Please let me know if you need anything (that goes for any current or pre-customer reading this): chufstedler at site5.com.

    Thanks for the kind words, and the referrals that are already resulting from them!

  9. Cheng Gao says:

    Antonio, very interesting seems we have followed to same road to site5.com. And I also use godaddy.com for all domains. And I think site5.com is good.

    See you in site5.com community.

  10. Matt says:

    I looked at most of the same sites you did when looking for Rails hosting. I ended up going with Rails Playground over the others due to one simple factor; they were the cheapest solution that also provided hosted version control along with their packages. SVN + ROR makes for an extremely effective and agile development process.

  11. JMan says:

    I appreciate the review, but I feel that I should share my experience w/Site5, which was completely different…I signed up for the same hosting account with Site5 yesterday. A few hours later, I received the usual welcome messages and an email with login information. Once I logged in to the main “dashboard”, it wouldn’t allow me to access the control panel for my site. I contacted tech support and they said that I should have received a separate email w/that info (which I didn’t). I replied indicating that I hadn’t received any such email (I checked my spam box as well). Then another support agent contacts me saying the exact same thing as the other guy — that they already sent me the info. So, I send another message (by now very irritated) that I haven’t received another set of login info and that I still can’t access my account. Finally, they reply saying that the sales team hadn’t completely setup my account. One nice thing is that they show you the avg response time of their tech support. In your review, you say that all of your requests were answered within 15 minutes. Well, of the 4 support responses that I received, the average response time is 42.5 minutes. Furthermore, my ticket that I opened for a manager has not received a response and it has been over 12 hours later. Who knows, maybe Site5 will do something to redeem themselves — I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for listening to my rant.

  12. Hi JMan, I am very sorry to hear about what happened to you. Thank you for sharing your experience, it’s good to show people both sides of the coin. I really hope your experience with them will improve from now on. In the worst case scenario, you can use the money back guarantee. Keep us posted. ;-)

  13. drurjen says:

    So I forgot my PayPal pswd and then had to go through some horrid experience to get it back (which I have not done). Thus, I’ve overlooked RailsPlayground and ordered my Site5 hosting as of today. I really believe RailsPlayground to be good, but they need to provide an alternative to PayPal or just charge directly to one’s credit card. On a sidenote, Dreamhost support seems to suck. Check their support forums. Thx for everything Antonio.

  14. Danny says:

    Just for the record, DreamHost now offers 20 GB of diskspace, 1 TB of bandwidth and unlimited (sub)domains. There’s no setup fee if you pre-pay for 1 or 2 years. Also it’s not so difficult to find a promotional code for an attractive discount. The one time I had to contact their support with a question, I received an answer within half an hour.
    Then again, Site5 does look okay also.

  15. Hi Danny,
    In that time since this post was first published you are absolutely right, Dreamhost has subsequentally increased their bandwidth and space. I see this as a postive move on their part, and hopefully one that will benefit those amongst us looking for as much bandwidth as we can get for our Rails projects. Let’s hope it’s a move that will be mirrored by other Ruby host providers in near future. Thanks very much for sharing this. Antonio

  16. riffraff says:

    worth noting that unbit is now providing a 28€/year plan with RoR.

  17. William says:

    For the curious developer looking for a quick and free Rails hosting plan check out http://www.HostingRails.com – i’m eventually going to turn this into a hosting company, but for now giving away free webspace for Rails fans seems like a good idea. I also have a database list of Rails hosting plans around the net so people can sort through the 80+ hosts listed at the RailsHostWiki site…

    Cheers,

    ~William

  18. William says:

    Also, i’ll give an independant, non-affiliate-link related shout out to DreamHost. The have all the negatives of a large shared-hosting company but they get the job done as well as anyone.

  19. Gwyn says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’m going to give Site5 a shot.

    I had a lot of downtime with Dreamhost last year. Even if they claim to have “reformed”, I’d avoid them.

  20. We’ve seen the DreamHost server we monitor (slauson) down 7.5 hrs since the beginning of the year.

  21. Lawrence says:

    This has been an extremely useful article. I sent a support request to my host 30 hours ago and still no response hence why I’m looking. :) I’ve got ZERO experience with Rails but have been impressed with what I’ve seen so far on it and am thinking about digging deeper. This is why I figure getting a plan that has all the goodies (mysql, php etc) and Rails would be the way to go.

    Geeze … and I just paid my current host for another year too …

    Anyway! Thanks for the great article. I’m definately going to look harder at Site5!

  22. gghh says:

    I’ve sent questions to Linode and Dreamhost about their plans, and got an immediate and complete answer (response time < 30 min). I did the same with Site5 24 hours ago, but not yet an answer. May be some of you will tell me the true

    1. is it possible to use rsync (via the ssh access) to backup (on site5) e
    remote host (like my development pc)?

    2. is webdav available? is there any possibility for different users to work
    on the same file (other than ftp)?

    3. do you support sftp?

    Thank you for this review, very useful indeed!

  23. Fear of Fish says:

    Well, I’ve been unlucky with both Dreamhost and Site5 it would seem. I had my site 5 account for 2 weeks and I had over 8 hours down time (not all at once which might have eased the pain a bit). My current Dreamhost account I’ve had for about 4 weeks and I’ve accrued 10+ hours down time.

    I just thought I’d give you my story on hosting. Luck of the draw I suppose.

  24. Reading what JMan says rings a bell to me, unfortunately. After numerous complaints I received a short note from sales (yes, I was bit**ing loudly for about 12 hours) that the ticket is passed to customer service. I still cannot access the account.

    More than that I did a very stupid thing – after seeing the number of positive opinions I already changed the DNS records for my domain, to make the host working before weekend. Stupid me(!), now people are asking where did my site go and emails are starting to bounce…

    Will be carefull next time :-(

  25. Jakub Vosahlo says:

    I have to give site5 crew a lot of credit for resolving my issue very quickly, the setup is in progress and going smoothly now…

  26. Jo Vermeulen says:

    I am using Site5 as well, and found their support fantastic! I looked at about the same hosts as you did, and also eventually went for Site5, which I also blogged about.

  27. Dean says:

    Matt: Site5 provide free SVN too. If your account is not already setup for it, email support with the banner you get when SSHing in, and tell them you’d like your account to be able to use SVN.

  28. Fear of Fish says:

    Since my last post here I’ve set up a [Rimu Hosted VPS server](http://www.rimuhosting.com “Rimu Hosting”) and blogged about how to configure to be your perfect development environment (or mine at least) [here](http://www.fearoffish.co.uk/blog/article/my_setup_details “My ideal setup”).

    It’s not a shared host, nor is it as cheap as Site5 but I’d recommend it from my experience with others, especially if you actually care that your server is up all the time.

  29. Fear of Fish says:

    Odd, the preview showed Markdown as working correctly. :-/

  30. harmfulguy says:

    It does not bode well for my consideration of site5 that their website consistently times out from work.

  31. JMan says:

    I wanted to provide some follow-up info on Site5, since I had posted about them a while back (See comment #11). They have all the features that I could want including SSH, but they still suffer from lack of reliability. My sites go down EVERY day at least once, often more. It’s usually not for too long, maybe 10-30 minutes, but it drives me nuts. If you are using them as a hobby host, or for something in which there is no money on the line, then they are probably fine. But, don’t even think about using them for anything business related.

  32. Peter says:

    Just a quick follow-up on Dreamhost. I’ve been using them for Rails hosting for the last six months, and grew increasingly impatient with lackluster performance. I’ve gone to HostingRails and signed up for the business plan running 2-instance mongrel and it knocks Dreamhost’s socks off. Really impressive. And great value for money.

  33. VPs says:

    hello
    To select hosting in terms of space required,availability,and hosting cost.
    For all plans i refer to just go onVPS Cost Description.
    It realy satisfied you by providing all fullfiling all basic requirement.

    I am just sugesting the thing which i feel to discuss here.
    If you have any more question the reply me. I show my best..

  34. looked at most of the same sites you did when looking for Rails hosting. I ended up going with Rails Playground over the others due to one simple factor; they were the cheapest solution that also provided hosted version control along with their packages.

  35. Nick Snels says:

    Finding a good Rails hosting company these days can be quite hard. As you have said they are popping out of the ground like mushrooms. And it isn’t always easy to separate the good from the bad. That’s why I created a site Railshostinginfo.com for people to compare and review Rails hosting companies. That way it should become a lot easier in the future for other developers to find a good home for their projects.

  36. Micah says:

    Just a note: Site5 does not officially support InnoDB tables in MySQL, which I believe pretty much all Rails sites will be using. You can still use them, but you MUST be sure to back them up on your own. Otherwise, you’ll be out in the cold when your data gets corrupted.

  37. Emanuele says:

    Very interesting post. Thanks!
    I found this blog while looking for reviews about Site5.com. It seems the offer a fast hosting service with lots of space and traffic, but you say they have downtimes. Is there anybody able to suggest me a -possibly fast- web hosting service under $20/month, with more than 50GB space/1000 GB traffic and a real 99.9% uptime?

  38. Luca says:

    Antonio, what do you think about BlueHost.com?

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