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 encourage you to read this article carefully before committing to some random web hosting service.
TL;DR: If you are in a rush, here are my Rails hosting recommendations, summarized.
* In fairness, it becomes very easy and low maintenance if deploying Ruby on Rails to a VPS (or any server) with a great tool like Hatchbox.
Please do consider reading the article, as it will provide you with more information about the various hosting options.
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 (the language) and Rails (the framework) 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. Other fast application servers for Ruby have emerged as well (e.g., Puma) so dealing with the complexity of clusters of app server instances, a load balancer, and all that jazz, just to host a regular Rails application is now history (thankfully!)
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) have the experience needed to support Ruby on Rails customers. Some of these hosting services have appealing names that include terms such as Ruby on Rails Hosting, Ruby Hosting, RoR Hosting or similar variations (technically in violation of Rails’ trademark rules to boot.) 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, unless you are opting for the DIY Rails hosting options we’ll discuss, in which case you’ll perform the server maintenance and can, therefore, have full control of your deployment stack.
Below I’ve identified the best Rails hosting providers, divided by category (and budget). These are Rails hosting companies you can trust.
Ruby on Rails Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is typically inexpensive and claims to offer large quantities of monthly bandwidth (i.e., 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 from its app server).
Hence, shared hosting is not ideal for Rails, but it can definitely be a cheap hosting option to start with, only to switch to more performant (and expensive ones) when the need arises.
Shared hosting companies often advertise “unlimited resources”. There is no such thing, but the companies mentioned below are very reasonable in terms of honoring their promise of enabling you to use plenty of disk space and monthly bandwidth resources.
My top Ruby on Rails shared hosting picks are:
HostGator: They are one of the largest shared hosting services and serve countless sites. They’re extremely inexpensive (their Rails shared hosting plans start at a few dollars per month), 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.
DreamHost: A very common alternative to HostGator, DreamHost is very similar to HostGator when it comes to price and features. Two key advantages 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, either choice will work great.
VPS Ruby on Rails Hosting
Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting is ideal for most Rails applications. Starting off with 1 or 2 GB of 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 opting for Digital Ocean. It’s an incredibly inexpensive hosting option for VPS and your virtual server gets SSD drives! You can’t beat that if you are on a (reasonable) budget.
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 websites is not something you’re interested in becoming an expert in, you may want to opt for the peace of mind that a managed Rails hosting service like the ones I indicate in the next section. In fact, I highly recommend that you go with this solution if your budget permits it.
PaaS Ruby on Rails Hosting
There has been a great deal of talk about the Cloud over the past decade. 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 developers working with Rails. If your project takes off, you’ll pay more, if it remains small, you’ll pay less.
That’s the theory at least. In practice, handling deployment of a secure, scalable Ruby on Rails solution in the cloud (or any stack for that matter,) with various requirements such as testing and staging environments, continuous integration and delivery, etc. is a big business on its own.
Many companies have entire DevOps teams dedicated to this complex task. (Just ask them about Docker, Rancher, etc, if you want to learn about a whole new world of virtualization and containerization fun.)
Now, if you are a solo developer or a small startup, you probably don’t need the same degree of complexity in your deployment solution. Nevertheless, you might still want the peace of mind of knowing that experts are taking care of maintaining the servers, securing them, as well as the option of scaling your Rails app with a few clicks should the need arise.
That’s where Platform as a Service (PaaS) hosting solutions hit the sweet spot. You can think of them as developer playgrounds of the sort, where you put together a series of services your app needs to use and deploy them to the cloud without having to do any setup or maintenance. PaaS hosting solutions will typically allow you to scale your app by simply adding more resources through a visual administrative panel, as well.
The only downside to PaaS is that the convenience they provide will typically come at a higher cost than the equivalent, say, VPS server you manage entirely on your own. For many, this is a worthwhile trade-off.
Heroku is the probably the most popular option within the Rails community for historical reasons. IBM Cloud (formerly Bluemix) is the cheapest of the three and a great option if you intend to build Rails applications that interact with Watson AI services. EngineYard builds upon Amazon AWS and it’s essentially the equivalent of an outsourced DevOps team. They are really good, but you might want to price them out against the other two Rails PaaS options.
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 are a few options, with New Relic and Scout being very popular choices.
The basic idea is that you install a lightweight gem within your Rails application and it will collect data on errors, slow queries, etc. for you to analyze in a dashboard. 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, this Reddit thread offers are a few options.
While not strictly related to Rails hosting, let me say a word about registering domain names with someone that is both trustworthy and affordable.
I do not recommend buying domain names from GoDaddy. Aside from having questionable commercials and aggressive upselling, there are countless stories of people who have had their domain taken down for what allegedly are “questionable reasons”.
Although I’ve gone with GoDaddy in the past, I have personally moved all my domain names to Namecheap. They are cheaper and they served me well for many years (never a problem and their technical support team is quite competent as well.)
That’s it. I hope this page helped you figure out which Ruby on Rails hosting option works best for you. If you are on a very tight budget, opt for Rails shared hosting. If you have a slightly larger budget and have the technical know-how, opt for a VPS. And if you can afford it, enjoy the convenience of a hassle-free PaaS solution.
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? 🙂 But seriously, thank you for your support.