Selecting a rails hosting service

Is there is one thing you could agree with, it is that there are many hosting options for your Ruby on Rail application. And this is a good thing for you. This is good because this means that there are a lot of companies competing for your business.

But it can be easy to get lost in this multitude of offers. So you need to define a selection process before you begin. Write down the criteria that you find important. And as you do your research, that list may change, and that’s ok. This is only a starting point. If you change that list too much, this may be warning flag that you are getting influenced too much but what you are reading.

To help you get started, here’s the list I used when selecting a hosting service:

rails support: that’s the main reason you are looking for a hosting solution. So get the best you can get! This one almost trumps all the others. Ideally you want to find someone that has had quite a bit of experience with rails, and has had a chance to fine tune their systems over time. You also want to make sure they offer more than just plain CGI, something like FastCGI, or FCGI, or even offer LightTPD support. If you don’t have to set it up, any of these will do. In my experience, it is not so important that they provide the latest gems and rails versions as you are better off freezing your gems.

Subversion support: to use Capistrano, this is something which is going to be helpful. You may be able to get CVS working, but subversion is a much better solution overall.

Capistrano support: with ssh and svn, you should be good
Price: Price matters, but most offerings are in the same ballpark, making this secondary. Get something you are comfortable with.

Disk space: you need enough to get your application running. If you envision something with a lots of graphics, sounds or movies, then you will need a lot.

Bandwidth: same as for disk space. You can start small to keep the price down, and most hosting companies will let you upgrade to their next offering, which generally gives you more bandwith, and only charge you the price difference.

Number of domains: how many domains do you really need? 5 to 10 should be more than you need. The thing you really need is the ability to have real domains, without some sort of redirection or frame redirecting to a subdirectory to your main domain.

Number of subdomains: I would not settle for less than an unlimited domain.
Number of databases: you only generally need just 1 or 2 for your application, but why you be charged by the database? They already limit the disk space and the bandwidth. So you’ll get the more serious ones by selecting one that doesn’t limit you.

Backup: once your application reaches production state, you need backups (trust me on that one, you don’t want to get caught without a backup). Site5 has a very nice feature where you get to restore your onw backups whenever you want.

Statistics: you need at least decent statistics. although you may feel the need to use a specialized service, such as Google Analytics, SiteMeter, or more analytics options which will give you a lot more details that what most hosting services give you.

SSH access: this one is a must. To run Capistrano, you need this. Plus this generally comes with ftp access, you get to run rails by hand if necessary, etc.
Email: that’s a no brainer, and I would just look for a good spam solution to go with that.

Excellent uptime: 99.9… or so. You can only go with what the vendor claims. If they are willing to back it with some refund, then they really mean it.
Moneyback: all the serious hosting company will let you try it for at least a month. To weed out the less serious, insist on 60 days or more.

Once you’ve defined your list of criteria, do some research, use google, ask your friends, look for what other people are using.

Create a spreadsheet where you list the various plans for each hosting company with some notes on each criteria.

Very quickly, the top 2 or 3 will start to emerge. Then you can dig a bit deeper, look for what others are saying, look to see if there are a lot of people complaining. For the price, you may even want to give your top 2 or 3 a test drive and see for yourself.

Good luck!

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By the same token, I just found out that this page just got a page rank (5 if you must know). Not bad for being up just over a month. And I would think all thanks to [RubyCorner](] who has a 6. That was news to me. The time it took is one up against the Google Sandbox Myth I guess. I’m dismissing the possibility that I did everything just right.

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More stats options has the most details about individuals visits. I gives you a blow by blow account of what happened, where people came from (referrer, search keywords), the pages they visited, in the order they visited, and where they went when they left. Quite amazing.
They have a free option, but if you want more stats, it is going to cost you! If the free option is not enough, they have plans ranging from $9 to @29 per month.
Check out the killer Visitor path page.

The second one is going to keep us waiting for some more time. Thank you Mashable! for alerting us about Crazy Egg. Their big thing is going to be to superimpose directly on your page where people click, either as a plain stat, or has a heatmap! Looks really cool. Remains to see whether this is going to be as useful as hyped. We’ll just wait patiently.

In the meantime, I’m going to give statcounter a test drive.

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