Hosting Review: Slicehost
As you may or may not know, Building Browsergames was offline for a short while this weekend. I was transferring Building Browsergames from running off of my own, dedicated server to a Virtual Private Server from Slicehost.
Now, you may be wondering exactly why I made the switch – and it’s a fair question to ask. Previously, I was running Building Browsergames off of a single Linux server, affectionately referred to as “Max”.
While dedicated hosting allows you to find everything you need in a webhost, it also introduces a few things that you need to worry about – namely, supporting your hardware. If a hard-drive fails, or a system goes down and won’t come back up, or your website gets slashdotted/dugg and your server starts to melt, that’s your webhost’s problem – except for when you’re running your own dedicated server. In that situation, anything that goes wrong with your system is your responsibility.
I’m not ready for that responsibility. I have better things to do with my time than work out optimal RAID configurations to make sure there is 0 downtime in the event of a drive failure. But at the same time, I like the flexibility that’s afforded to me by running a dedicated server – if I ever need something non-standard, or I want to install a piece of software, I don’t need to ask anyone – I simply log in to my server, and install the software. Piece of cake.
Slicehost provides the best of both worlds; I get the reliability of having a company managing my server so that I don’t need to worry about drive failures or server meltdowns or anything, but I also get the freedom of having a dedicated system – only virtualized.
The ‘virtualized’ part is a pretty big deal. It means that from Slicehost’s handy web interface, I can do a lot of mundane(but still useful) things – things like backing up my slice(their word for ’server’), rebooting it, dynamically scaling it up or down, and even giving it a handy name to remember it by(my slice is named ‘Max’, just like the server it’s replacing).
There are lots of neat (and handy) things that you can do with Slicehost – but one of the biggest ones is that you can dynamically scale your slices.
What does that mean? For a developer who’s building a game on the cheap, it means Great Things. You can start your game with their basic slice, for $20/month – and run as many websites as you want to off of that single slice. You can even have a single slice for a single website, if you want to. At least to begin with, the starter slice will probably be more than enough for a fledgling browsergame – and with the ability to size it up as you need to, it’s the perfect way to expand without any of the hassle of re-configuring servers.
Want to know about some other cool features? With all but Slicehost’s biggest slice size, you can get a backups plan – for a little bit extra every month, you can keep 3 exact images of your slice. You get one daily backup, one weekly backup, and the ability to create ’snapshots’ of your slice – essentially allowing you to roll-back to any time that you want to(I took one just after I finished the server migration, as an insurance policy in case anything went wrong afterwards).
You can also dynamically add slices to your slicehost account – although each slice does have a monthly cost associated with it. And if you’ve also purchased the backups option, you can create slices based off of your other slices – which means that should I ever want a slice with the exact same configuration as my “Max” slice has, all I need to do is go to “Add a Slice”, and select a snapshot of Max to use as the system Image(If you don’t have a snapshot or want a fresh system, you can choose from a few Linux distributions – Ubuntu 6/7/8, Arch 2007.08, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, and Gentoo).
I had Slicehost recommended to me by someone I respect very much, who justified his choice by saying “if your core competency isn’t hosting, why are you focusing on it?” – and he’s right. And if your core competency is building browsergames, you should be focusing on that – not on getting niggling hardware details in place for your servers. I will warn you that you need at least some experience with the command line in Linux to get started – but if you’re really stuck, there are some great tutorials on HowToForge that will get you up and running in no time.
If you’re thinking about signing up for Slicehost, consider using my referrer link – while it (unfortunately) won’t result in any discounts for you, it will get me a slight reduction in the costs for my slice. If you’d rather register without giving me anything, you can use this non-referral link – or just visit their website to learn more.