Having recently completed a few large sites, I have found myself in that quiet limbo period before new projects commence. So I thought that now would be a good time to finally update this site (more on that later) and write a blog post about the recent changes that I have made to my hosting setup.

Several years ago, I bought a dedicated server through Hetzner, a German budget hosting company. At the time, I was hoping to expand my business, host several client websites, and end up with a nice monthly profit. As it turned out, I stuck with agency work and hosted just enough websites to break even on the €60/month hosting fees. Skip forward to last month and I came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t worth having my own (now very out of date) server.

I recommended Tsohost to all my clients, having had a positive experience with them through various agencies. They are very reasonably priced, but more importantly provide good customer service. Quick word of warning, if you go with a cloud (shared) hosting package, make sure your sites are up to date and secure. A couple of older sites were infected with malware soon after I migrated them across. I guess it serves me right for being a bit lazy with updating the sites in the first place.

Get 10% off all Tsohost’s packages by using the above link, or the promo code: davewardle. Full disclosure: I’ll get a small kick back.

For this site, I decided to try something else and I am using Digital Ocean. DO is a little more pricey than Tso but still very reasonable (from $5/month). For the small price bump, you get a lot more bang for your buck with your own virtual server (droplet). You’ll need to be comfortable with using shell/command line as the servers are not managed by DO. They do offer pre-configured images suitable for WordPress, etc however it is probably best if you set the entire server up from scratch. I used a very good guide from Delicious Brains. I did have an issue when I tried to downgrade my droplet; something that is not automated. Thanks to DO’s excellent support, they helped me to fix this very quickly.

Using the above link to DigitalOcean, you should get a $10 coupon. If you then go on to spend $25, I will also receive a $25 credit.

Since then I have learnt about ServerPilot, which may be worth checking out if you would like to use DigitalOcean but don’t want to get your hands dirty with setting up a server.

I have to admit that I have fallen behind on the latest best practices. So now that I have an entire server for my own site, I can experiment slightly without risking downtime on client websites. I am taking this opportunity to use Composer to mange the site and it’s dependencies. Using the aforementioned guide from Delicious Brains, I am using Nginx for the first time and have configured the site for caching. I am also trying to improve my sysadmin skills, and play around with additional security features such as port knocking.

At the time of writing, I am just using the basic Twenty Sixteen theme. When I have a bit more time (or rather less lazy), I will make my own theme (kickstarted via the excellent Sage from Roots). For now I just need to keep this site updated on a regular basis. I know that I won’t have the motivation to write something weekly, but hopefully I will post an article at least once a month. It may just be a little code snippet, a summary of my recent work, or something a bit more random. No doubt I will tweet whenever I publish anything new.

I have changed SSL provider from StartCom to Let’s Encrypt. Let’s Encrypt is a little bit easier to use, and can be set up to auto renew albeit every 90 days opposed to a year.

Finally, I set up my domain’s email to use ProtonMail. Whilst I don’t really need the extra level of security, the Snowden revelations, attempts to ban encryption, etc does worry me. I am happy to support ProtonMail in their efforts to improve email security. I won’t be leaving Gmail just yet as ProtonMail’s web and mobile apps are both pretty basic. It’s still very early days though and hopefully these will improve over the year.

Thank you for reading, and if you have any comments please ping me on twitter: @davewardle.