— Tim Owens (@timmmmyboy) February 15, 2012
Last week Hippie Hosting celebrated it’s first birthday. A year ago I was talking with D’Arcy Norman and Dave Cormier about what it would take for a group of people to share their own server space instead of everyone paying upwards of $120/year or more for their own accounts. We discovered MediaTemple had a virtual private server space that included a piece of software called Plesk that would allow us to create segregated accounts with their own control panels and I volunteered to set it up. A year later it looks very different than it did back then, but the spirit is still very much alive and thriving. I wanted to take a few moments to look at all the milestones of what we’ve done in a year as well as where we’re going (and yeah, I’ll probably remind you at least once why paying for hosting anywhere else is lame and you should join us hippies
As I mentioned we began on top of Plesk Panel because we had no clue what we were doing and MediaTemple included Plesk with their service (as well as the Customer and Business Manager Add-On necessary to allow users to sign themselves up and pay for an account). I didn’t know how to set pricing back then and even had dreams of whether we could run on donations alone (which wasn’t realistic). At the time I set it at $1/month. Between that and donations we actually made it all the way until September before we started having real problems. We were running out of memory and after having upgraded our server twice we were paying $180/month to MT for the server and couldn’t afford the next plan. I started looking for other options and happened to find Cirrus Hosting, which had a virtual private server identical to the one we already had but with twice the memory and half the cost. It was a no-brainer to migrate to it.
I did mention we had no idea what we were doing right? So yeah, migrating a server is a pain in the neck. Plesk had an automated tool I thought would do it all and it ended up not working properly. People were missing databases, nameservers weren’t resolving correctly, permissions were wrong on a lot of folders and files. The largest downtime we’ve had to date, which was about 3 days that we were completely offline. Even though the migration sucked, it was good to be sustainable again financially and not feel like I had to continually beg people for more money. It also gave us room to grow and I was able to turn signups back on for the first time in months. Throughout the fall we had on and off downtime here and there as a result of configurations on the new server that weren’t working properly. Nothing major, but a pain in the neck. I learned a lot about Linux and web hosting (maybe now I can qualify the statement as “I know a little bit about what I’m doing”). We ended the year without being in the red financially, 80 people on the server with room for growth, and a 99% uptime report. That to me is a hell of a success for a first-year experiment.
I started 2013 on the eve of our first birthday with some larger plans. I’ve wanted to move to cPanel for quite awhile now because Plesk is so buggy and cPanel is practically an industry standard in web hosting (with good reason, it’s awesome!). I hadn’t been necessarily searching for a new server (given how gun shy I was from our last migration) but when I came across pricing for a dedicated server for the same cost as what we were paying right now for a virtual server container and they included cPanel in their price, I thought it was time to experiment. Unlike the fast and furious migration of last fall, I had enough money in the coffers to run the new and old servers side by side. Once I got things configured I offered folks who wanted to to get moved over. I also made the switch so new signups would automatically go to the new server. That allowed me to move about half of the users over in a months time. Once we reached a critical mass I decided it was time to move the rest. cPanel has a migration tool that has been a dream come true and helped move all these accounts over. Last night I stayed up late moving the final accounts and making the necessary changes and by 7am this morning we were live on the new server. Zero downtime. I can hardly believe it myself. The transition was really smooth and where my inbox would normally be exploding everything actually seems to be just working, and working well.
So we have a dedicated server with 1TB of disk space and the load on the server is barely even noticeable, even with over 120 people running websites on it. Sites are blazing fast to load and work in. cPanel has automated backups which is a first for Hippie Hosting and something I always worried about. It’s also running ClamAV antivirus to keep things clean on the server. We have a brand new automated installer called Installatron I blogged about over on the Hippie Hosting Blog. And we have lots of room for growth. I’m amazed by how far we’ve come and how much I’ve learned in the past year.
At the risk of turning this into an ad, I do want to briefly just say if you’re paying over $100/year for hosting, you really shouldn’t (unless you’re running a business maybe). I’d love to help more people move to Hippie Hosting and moving sites (even a lot of sites) is not as hard as people would have you believe. You don’t have to be tied to your current host. Sign up and shoot me an email if you’d like me to help you with the move. And if you don’t have your own space yet, there’s never been a better time than now. You can get your own domain and hosting for $40/year and start owning what you put online. And help is abundant when you’re amongst hippies.