My Current Stack Part 1

How did I get here?

For years I ran a bog standard setup. I changed hosting companies a couple of times but it was all pretty much the same. Shared hosting that provided PHP and MySQL running Wordpress sites for the most part. I dabbled with Drupal and maybe some other CMS packages but that was about it.

Some time, I don’t know how long ago, I decided I wanted more flexibility. I wanted access to the OS and the ability to try out things outside whatever box the shared hosting put me in. I did some looking around and landed on Digital Ocean. I think I was drawn to them over the other options based primarily on 2 or 3 things.

They had plans in my price range. This is essential. They could have the most awesome setup ever but I can only put so much towards these kind of efforts in good conscience. I get all kinds of ideas that never go all that far and I’m fine with it as long as I don’t blow a bunch of cash on these things. Finding out I could spin up a droplet at a lower cost than I was paying for shared hosting was huge. I could make the move, and save money instead of spending more. (Over time I have ended up being pretty close price wise to what I was spending on the shared hosting. I added some more features so I’m about even with where I was before.)

The second thing that pushed me towards DO was their documentation. Long, long before I considered this move, whenever I had issues with Fedora or CentOS and googled those issues, I found answers quite often in Digital Ocean docs. It was crazy how often this happened and this made me have a very positive view of them in my mind. I knew I’d be able to run my preferred OS. I knew they’d have a lot of good documentation on how to get things done. That’s probably the biggest motivator outside of price.

Those two things were 90% of my decision. There may have been other things like posts on hacker news or something that helped me make my choice but I’ve been very happy with it since I made the switch. I was able to migrate all my stuff over, take care of the OS myself, install what I want and do it all very economically.

The one issue I ran into was trying to run 5 wordpress sites on my droplet was not fantastic. MySQL would get shut down on a regular basis when the machine ran out of ram. If my primary goal were keeping those sites alive, I’d have probably moved back to my old model. But that wasn’t the case so I started trying to dig in and understand what was happening. I was slowly making progress but I realized not too far into the process that WP was overkill for a lot of what I had going on. I didn’t really need all that it brought to the table for sites that had little traffic and not a ton of content. (I say little traffic but all my public facing content on WP was getting constant hostile traffic. This uses resources even though it’s no one viewing the site.)

This lead to 2 realizations on my part. The first was that the shared hosting was a better value than I had thought. They had kept a lot of WP sites up and chugging along with zero issues for a great price. When it was up to me on my own I was having a lot more down time than I’d ever had in that environment.

The second was that I didn’t need comments or a ton of other features that WP brought and so this took me to trying out static sites. That was what finally solved my resource issues for good. It wasn’t only the resources, but that was a lot of it. The other facet to this was GDPR. As I was learning more about GDPR and how to deal with it, I realized for my own sites I had no good reason for analytics, cookies, etc. Going to a static site made everything super clean and easy with that regard.

So this is the first part of my stack - a droplet on Digital Ocean. I love having it and it’s worked out really well for me.