DigitalOcean Hosting Review

No affiliate links are inserted in this post. I did not have and do not have any monetary benefits in posting a positive review about DigitalOcean (or any other hosts in this blog), either. No host is perfect. So, I am posting only what I like about DigitalOcean. There may be some cons of using any host. If you search the internet, you may find them. I use Google Compute Engine for hosting this site, though.

Logo - DigitalOcean

Time to Restart the Whole Server

Whenever I build a server from scratch, I make sure that the automatic security updates are enabled. Most security updates are applied automatically. However, certain updates, particularly, the updates related to Linux kernel needs a restart of the entire server. This means a short downtime of the site/s hosted in that particular server. No one likes a downtime. At least, Google Search Bots do not.

The server restart and the resulting downtime is the primary reason for the popularity of containers such as Docker, LXC, LXD, etc. Of course, there are other benefits of using a container. Not everyone can afford to use containers, load balancers, etc. Maintaining them cost a lot more than maintaining a single server without the container eco-system. Most individual site owners and small businesses opt for single server system to lower the cost of running a server.

In shared hosts, the Linux kernel updates are applied on-the-fly, using one of the multiple technologies available, such as kpatch, livepatch (commercial), etc. Most of them are commercial services. The free services come with a big warning such as the following…

WARNING: Use with caution! Kernel crashes, spontaneous reboots, and data loss may occur!

So, most vendors (shared hosts) opt for paid commercial services to apply Linux kernel updates without a complete restart of the server. If you use a shared host, then no worries. This post is valid only for VPS servers and dedicated servers. The term VPS may also mean cloud servers with certain hosts. Some popular VPS providers are AWS (Amazon Web Services), Google Compute Engine (GCE), Linode, DigitalOcean, Vultr, etc.

The time to restart a server (VPS or dedicated server) depends on various factors. The number of running processes, the number of running programs, the choice of web server, the database server, etc. Every tiny thing matters. Even the hypervisor used by the host can have an impact on the time to restart the whole server.

Choosing a host is hard. There are lots of factors to consider. Price, the location of data centers, the Operating Systems provided, the bandwidth or the network speed, overall value for money, etc. Among these, you might also want to consider the time to restart a server when choosing a host. Because, some hosts take more than 5 minutes to restart a server, resulting in a downtime that may be a considerable amount for Google Search Bots.

In my experience working with various hosts, DigitalOcean restarts the servers in the shortest time possible, often less than 30 seconds for a server with a memory of up to 32GB. An idle server with no sites hosted on it, may restart much more quickly, like less than 15 seconds.

There are other advantages of choosing DigitalOcean. I will update this post with those, if it is worth mentioning.

Happy Hosting!

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Looking back at 2018

With respect to work…

I switched the workplace from Srivilliputhur to Madurai, from BSNL broadband to Airtel broadband, from ADSL to VDSL. I have had a lot of downtimes with BSNL last year. Fortunately, I had JioFi, as a backup, at that time (I was one of the early adapters of Jio 4g in general). However, as more users joined Jio 4g network, the overall speed reduced after each passing month. I used Airtel around 10 years ago (when Airtel had only ADSL), when I was in Madurai. Never had any issue with Airtel.

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Brotli on Nginx

Brotli compression was introduced by Google, exactly 3 years ago. It is yet to come by default with the standard Nginx packages of OS vendors or the official Nginx repo. Google maintains its own repo for brotli support on Nginx web server. However, it’s been two years since we had the last commit. Fortunately, a Googler, named Eugene Kliuchnikov, continues to develop a fork of Google’s repo. There are even plan to merge both repos. Still, there isn’t an easy way to compile Nginx from source.

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I am hiring!

I’ve been a freelancer since 2008. So, it’s been a decade. I am currently looking for a freelance system admin with keen interests in hosting WordPress and PHP sites. Even though, the hosting market, especially the WordPress hosting market, has some big names in it, there are still plenty of problems to solve.

If you have interests in open source technologies and if you have contributed to open source, that’d be awesome. But, it isn’t mandatory. If you know your stuff, or if you can learn stuff, that’s more than enough. At the same time, communication is a big part of our job.

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Local LEMP Box

I develop sites locally, then migrate the changes to the staging site or to the live site. I never make changes without testing them in my local server. I already have a repo to bootstrap a live server with Nginx, MySQL, PHP and a few more other goodies. However, there are lot of areas to improve to speed-up the development of local sites. For example, PhpMyAdmin runs on its own domain named https://pma.dev (it doesn’t exist on the internet, just a local domain). Since, I do not expose my local server to the internet, I wouldn’t want to enter the credentials whenever I type it in my browser. It saves time! So, here’s my next project… local LEMP server.

Note: This works only on Linux servers and desktops (such as Juno from Elementary OS). Particularly tested on Ubuntu 18.04 based distros. There are a number of alternatives available if you wish you to develop sites locally on a mac or on a Windows PC. Since, I host most of the sites on the latest LTS version of Ubuntu, it make sense to closely resemble the live environment.

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Uptime Monitoring

WordPress is easy to use. Behind the scene, it is a complex piece of software, running on PHP and MySQL. Monitoring the uptime of WordPress sites may seem straightforward. But, in reality, it is easy to miss the downtime using conventional methods.

Let me provide you with an example. Let’s take this site… tinywp.in . I monitor this site using multiple uptime monitoring services. They keep watching the home page at https://www.tinywp.in and see if it shows any errors. They notify me in case of the following errors

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