In this report I outline what I consider to be some of the best Ruby on Rails hosting companies available on the market today. I highly urge you to read this article carefully before committing to some random web hosting service.
Ruby on Rails Hosting: what you need to know!
I’ve been working with Ruby on Rails since 2004 and let me tell you, in the early days, hosting Rails was an absolute pain in the rear-end! Keeping a Rails site up and running required considerable hosting know-how and effort. Furthermore, Rails was very resource intensive, and the lack of a solution like a Rails equivalent of mod_php, for the web server Apache, made it challenging for shared hosting companies to offer a cheap and easy solution. At the time this issue was actually one of the few drawbacks of an otherwise ever-increasingly more popular and highly productive framework like Rails.
Thankfully, both Ruby and Rails have matured considerably over the years, during which time a lot of emphasis has been placed on performance, reliability and ease of deployment. Hosting Rails today is far easier and more accessible than it was in the past. In particular, a Dutch company named Phusion created a product called Passenger (aka mod_rails or mod_rack), which is similar in scope and ease of deployment to what a PHP developer may be accustomed to with mod_php. Dealing with the complexity of clusters of mongrel instances, a load balancer and all that jazz, are now history for all but the most demanding of Rails applications.
These days, you no longer need to make a major investment when it comes to your time, money and resources in order to host a simple Rails site. That said though, you still need to be careful. With Ruby on Rails’ explosion in popularity, nearly every hosting service out there suddenly decided to try and jump on board. Unfortunately, many of them didn’t (and still don’t) know what they were doing and lacked the experience needed to support Ruby on Rails customers. Some of these services have appealing names that include terms such as Ruby on Rails Hosting, Ruby Hosting, RoR Hosting or similar variations. Despite the use of these specific words however, they are not really any better (or more specialized) than a general hosting provider.
Having people on staff who truly understand Rails is a fundamental aspect that you’re going to want to seek out in any hosting company you go with for your Rails projects. You’ll also want a company that can stay relatively up-to-date with the newest versions of Ruby and Rails.
Below I’ve identified the best Rails hosting providers, divided by category (and budget). These are Rails hosting companies you can confidently put your trust in.
Ruby on Rails Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is typically inexpensive and able to provide large quantities of traffic and disk space. However, the amount of CPU and RAM you’re allocated is quite limited (and Rails is notorious for demanding decent amounts of such resources). Hence, shared hosting is not ideal for Rails, but as long as you’re not running too many Rails applications (or ones that are excessively resource intensive), you should be all right. Shared hosting companies often advertise “unlimited resources”. There is no such thing, but the companies mentioned below are all very reasonable in terms of honoring their promise of enabling you the use of plenty of disk and monthly bandwidth space.
My top Ruby on Rails shared hosting pick:
- HostGator: They are one of the largest shared hosting services that serves countless sites. They’re extremely inexpensive, provide SSH access, have Rails integrated into their service, and have made a serious investment in supporting Rails. Via their customized CPanel, you can control which gems you install and which Rails applications you want to run (all through a web interface). This service is very easy and definitely recommended for beginners – especially those on a budget. Use the coupon PROGRAMMINGZEN for a discount.
- DreamHost: A very common alternative to HostGator, DreamHost is very similar to HostGator when it comes to price and features. Two key differences are that it uses a powerful, custom control panel rather than CPanel, and it has a longer money back guarantee (97 days vs. 60 days). As long as you understand the limits of shared hosting, DreamHost is a solid choice. Get a $47 discount on the yearly cost, if you use the coupon PROGRAMMINGZEN.
Ruby on Rails VPS Hosting
Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting is ideal for most Rails applications. Starting off with 256MB or 512MB or RAM should be more than enough for most Ruby on Rails apps that have a moderate amount of traffic and processing requirements). If you’re a Linux expert and can set-up a box on your own from scratch (perhaps with the aid of a few online articles as you go along), I recommend opt for Slicehost below, or Linode. Really, you can’t go wrong with either of these. Do keep in mind though, that you’ll have to handle all the set-up, security and maintenance of your Rails app in production. If something goes wrong, you’re on your own.
If configuring linux boxes and hosting Rails web sites is not something you’re interested in becoming an expert in, you may want to opt for the peace of mind that a managed VPS Rails hosting service can deliver. In fact, I highly recommend that you go with this solution if your budget permits.
Ruby on Rails Cloud Hosting
There has been a great deal of talk about the Cloud lately. Remove the hype, and what you get is a very scalable, pay-as-you-go architecture that does a terrific job of serving the needs of startups working with Rails. If your project takes off, you’ll pay more, if it remains small, you’ll pay less. Pick this hosting solution if you think that your application may make it big (and may need to scale quickly).
Just like Rails VPS hosting, Rails Cloud Hosting can come in two forms, unmanaged (wherein you handle the administration of your machine(s) yourself) and managed (in which expert Rails staff work around the clock to keep your apps running.)
When it comes to unmanaged Ruby on Rails Cloud Hosting, you really want to go with RightScale, along with the various Amazon AWS they support (Amazon EC2, S3, EBS, etc..).
For Rails Cloud Hosting that provides Managed support plans, the absolute best in the business is EngineYard. They employ several of the top Rails guys in the world and are pretty much the authority when it comes to deploying Rails in production. Their support plans are expensive when compared to others mentioned in this article, but they take care of everything for you. Without a doubt, EngineYard is amongst the very best Managed support plans on the market today . If your Rails app is mission critical, they’re a solid and highly worthwhile investment.
Two alternatives to all of the names mentioned here are Mor.ph (Cloud) and Heroku (Virtual/Cloud). Both are very solid as well (the latter is particularly popular among rubyists, but it’s pricey).
Monitoring Ruby on Rails
While we are on the subject of Ruby on Rails hosting services, let me give you a word of advice. Deploying Rails is only the first step. The second (very crucial) step is monitoring your application. When it comes to monitoring tools, there’s nothing better than New Relic RPM. You install a very lightweight plugin within your Rails application and then have access to a control panel that’s hosted on the New Relic site. You’ll be able to spot and prevent all sorts of issues related to the performance of your application. If you are serious about your Rails application, you need New Relic RPM. Click on this link and use the coupon ACANG210SXA if you’d like to try a free 30 day Pro trial. After the trail period, you’ll go back to the free version, unless you decide to opt for the commercial, full-feature version.
While not strictly related to Rails hosting, let me say a word about registering domain names with someone who is both trustworthy and affordable. Do not – I repeat, do not – buy domain names from GoDaddy.com. Aside from having terrible commercials and trying to upsell the entire world to you, there are countless stories of people who have had their domain taken down for “questionable reasons” by GoDaddy (as well many legitimate website owners have had their sites held ransom unless they ponied up $200). Though I’ve gone with GoDaddy in the past, I’m personally moving all my domain names elsewhere as soon as they are about to expire. I recommend that you use Namecheap instead. They are cheaper and skip all the hassle that tends to come part and parcel with using GoDaddy.
Disclosure: Some of the links above have my referral id. Pretty much any hosting site out there offers affiliate programs these days. Here I only report the Rails hosting sites I consider the best for you, regardless of the small commission I may get. By buying through these links, you get to support this site, and ensure its continued operation. At zero cost to you. Isn’t that nice of you? I feel a bit of love already. : )