A new host

I migrate to a new host, leaving DigitalOcean after more than 10 years as a customer

A new host
Photo by Stephen Phillips - Hostreviews.co.uk / Unsplash

In my last newsletter, I outlined plans to overhaul my creative platform, starting with my website. After forking Scriptorium into a subdomain, my next priority was to find another hosting provider. I’m pleased to say that I’ve found a local (Australian) company and successfully migrated my Ghost, Umami, and WordPress instances several days ago.

Note, that I changed Scriptorium’s domain to members.chrisrosser.net, and set up the appropriate redirects in Cloudfare, so hopefully it won’t impact you or Google’s web crawlers. The only downside to the migration is I’ve lost post comments, as Ghost’s exporter doesn’t seem to include them.

More about my new host later, but first, I want to reflect on DigitalOcean, the hosting provider I’ve left after more than 10 years.

When I first joined DigitalOcean as a customer, it was on a recommendation by the Jupiter Podcasting Network who promoted them hard on their Linux and developer-focused shows. Back then, DigitalOcean was cheap, yet innovative — a plucky underdog taking on the industry heavyweights. DigitalOcean pitched itself, I felt, at indie developers like myself, looking to spin up a backend on the cheap for pet projects. Their low-cost VPS droplets were fantastic when you needed more control than what you got with a shared web host, but didn’t want to pay Rackspace thousands of dollars for bare metal.

Since then, they’ve grown considerably more than I have. They’ve added tonnes of features, acquired companies, and are now a credible alternative to AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure for businesses that are much bigger than mine. But they’ve also grown pricier, particularly for me in Australia. They price in US dollars, while Australia’s is much weaker than it was 10 years ago. They’ve increased their VPS prices. Furthermore, they collect GST (tax) on behalf of the Australian government — even when for years they didn’t have data centres in Australia and I hosted my VPS in Singapore and the United States.

Although I need a VPS to run Ghost, I considered replacing its core features — blogging, newsletters, memberships — with on-demand cloud functions or third-party services. A VPS costs time and money to operate and maintain; it runs 24/7 and your host charges you accordingly, even when you’ve no traffic. By contrast, cloud functions are priced only for what you use, and most have very generous free tiers that I’m unlikely to exceed.

However, as I noted in my newsletter, I enjoy using Ghost, and would prefer to use it, at least for newsletters and as a headless blogging CMS. Finding another host means I can continue to do so, without burning a growing hole in my pocket.

So, who’s my new host?

Enter BinaryLane, a low-cost Australian VPS host that’s even more barebones than DigitalOcean was back in 2013 when I started using them. Yes, this is no-frills cloud hosting, and I love it! Their service boil down to VPS hosting, load balancers and Private Clouds. Here’s what they’ve got going for them:

  • Their prices are in Australian dollars — no more getting gouged on the currency market.
  • They’re cheap — their VPS plans start at $3.75/mo ex GST for a 1 GB RAM, a 20 GB SSD, and 1 TB of transfer. DigitalOcean’s equivalent is more than double.
  • They offer more flexibility when configuring your VPS’s memory, storage, and backup options.
      With DigitalOcean prices rise in fixed tiers. So, if you need more RAM you have to pay for more storage and transfer too, even if you don’t need it. With BinaryLane, you can add more RAM without paying for things you don’t need.
  • Their data centres are located in Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth), so my access speeds are fantastic, and the only government I now have to contend with for data sovereignty and access, is my own.

I completed the migration several days ago, bringing along the websites of a couple of friends I host in the process, too. So, far so good. Performance is what I expected, the speed/latency is an improvement over DigitalOcean, and everything seems stable. While the dashboard isn’t as fancy as DigitalOceans’ it’s powerful and intuitive, and I get the feeling I’m not being priced to fund a platform with far more bling and features than I require.

Concluding thoughts

No matter what I decide to do in the future, migrating from DigitalOcean to BinaryLane has given me respite from rising costs. I feel like I now have a comfortable margin, and I’m much better insulated from currency fluctuations and rising rates of inflation.

I’ve got options now, and time to consider them. Likely, I’ll continue with BinaryLane for several years to come, as I think it’s an excellent host on which to build my backend services. I can go on using Ghost where I think it shines and a platform for indie writers and publishers like myself.

My next step, is to rebuild ChrisRosser.net into an author’s website I can be proud of, using a tech stack that can deliver a (very) fast, reliable and secure user experience.

If you have any thoughts or strong opinions about what a good author site should offer, then do let me know!