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Please understand that this post is very old and completely outdated.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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