Last month, Gandi.net sent a tweet providing free hosting for a month on their simple hosting package. As I already purchased a domain from them and was already looking for a host, I immediately replied and received the promo code within minutes. I’ve been using their service for about 20 days now. So, here is a quick review on how it went on so far, how it fares comparing to other hosting providers, its advantages over others and its unique disadvantages!
Once you are signed up (and paid for a month or year of hosting in advance), you’d be provided with three logins.
- To administer the instance
- sFTP info
- Database login (phpMyAdmin)
Once you log in to administer your instance, there are details about processor usage, disk usage and network usage (very handy to see everything on the same page).
Advantages of Gandi.net “Simple Hosting” Platform
Let me start with the advantages with this setup:
APC – Also called as Alternative PHP Caching, it is not available with any other shared hosting provider that I know of. APC is the first thing I’d install on any VPS or dedicated server. So, when I saw APC in gandi.net’s simple hosting, it was a pleasant surprise for me.
Varnish – I can’t believe myself when I’m presented with Varnish cache too. However there is no way to purge the Varnish cache via the administrative panel. On the other hand, APC’s opcode cache can be cleared via the control panel. Please note that you can still purge the cache using a plugin for WordPress. Please see the updates below.
Security – If there is one thing that everyone is scared of on a shared server is that of the security. There are a number of instances where the security is compromised just because a site was hosted on a shared webhost. By providing only sFTP to connect, your instance is already protected to some extend.
mod_deflate and mod_expires – I always miss these two modules in Apache on many of the shared hosting providers. This is one of the reasons many of my clients move to a VPS too. By having these, all your static files are cached on the visitors’ browsers so that speeding up the time to load consecutive visits to the same page or other pages.
Price – Most people who start building online presence would usually go for a shared hosting for a price between $5 to $10 per month. Once the site becomes famous and starts attracting a lot of visitors, they usually go for a VPS plan that costs at least $50. Gandi.net fills the gap by having a flexible upgrade path of $5, $10, $20, $30 and $40 (+ VAT).
Everything looks great. So, what’s the catch?
No cPanel – As you could have guessed by now, there is no cPanel. If you have used cPanel for a while, you’d know that cPanel has always been a resource hungry monster. But there are others who prefer cPanel. So, if you are specific about having a cPanel, then you may stop reading this article now and search for other hosting providers that offer cPanel.
Purging – Varnish can be tricky to work with, especially if you make changes frequently and if you don’t know how to purge the old cache. I sent an email to Gandi.net asking how one could purge the Varnish cache in Gandi.net. They did reply and here is how to purge the Varnish cache in Gandi.net Simple Hosting. If you are making the changes in your theme or any other CSS files related to plugins, then you may have to force CSS changes to “go live” immediately.
Learning Curve – Even though it is named as “Simple Hosting”, there is a bit of learning curve involved in getting started with it. Every traditional shared web host offers cPanel. So, switching to a particular host is only a matter of setting up the name servers and wait for up to 48 hours to get started. Some hosts even provide a temporary URL to get started. In “Simple Hosting”, no cPanel, so no name servers to switch. You’d be pointing your domain to your instance by updating the “A” record in DNS. This involves a bit of learning curve, if you have never setup or tweaked your site’s DNS for yourself. There are other areas you may want to learn too, but the mileage varies from person to person. As a sysadmin, I was at home with the “Simple Hosting” in no time. For you, to feel at home, it may take some time. :)
Overall, I’m more than happy and satisfied with the features offered at this price ($5 + VAT). I highly recommend Gandi.net’s Simple Hosting for anyone who is serious about their hosting. For more information, you may visit Simple Hosting in Gandi.net.
I’d like to thank Nicolas (from Gandi.net) for clarifying about deploying multiple domains using a single instance.
Update (as of August 2012): I used Gandi.net’s “Simple Hosting” only for a month (in February-March, 2012). Since then, I moved to their VPS to deploy all my test domains and sites.
Looking for more hosting reviews? Check out my web hosting reviews. Happy Hosting! :)