Hosting vs Development Services

One of the struggles we have within our company is drawing the line between our hosting services and our web site development services. This most often comes up when we come across sites we built 5-6 years ago and suddenly the technology behind them no longer works. For example, we built sites using our own custom systems. Granted they were based in open source technology like PHP and MySQL and they worked back then. But both PHP and MySQL have advanced. And server systems have advanced. But the original scripts have not kept up with those advances.

So, when a customer calls and says “My site is broken”, we have to make a decision. Do we fix the current site to comply with server systems, or do we draw the line and say we can no longer support those scripts (that we built) and the client will have to upgrade? It’s not a clear cut decision, but it’s one that eventually has to lean toward the latter. Most often, though, we band aid sites to keep them lumbering along until the organization can find the resources to bring their enterprise into the 21st century. Given that we started our hosting service because of all the bad practices we ran in to with large commercial hosts, I tend to bend over backwards to accommodate our clients.

I like to keep our hosting services available because we do a good job customizing our servers to make things run fast and smooth for the majority of our clients. And many of our development clients appreciate dealing with a single vendor for both hosting and site development. But sometimes I wonder if the hosting side is more of a drain on our small company and we should take advantage of all the great cloud services out there and let them deal with the hardware and underlying hosting software while we focus on delivering great web sites.

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3 comments for “Hosting vs Development Services

  1. Sys RQ
    6/3/2010 at 2:48 pm

    One aspect to keep in mind with cloud hosting is how much control you have over the “box.”

    Some cloud hosts offer root access where you can essentially run it as if it was your own server. Some require you to use an API to run your virtual services. In a good setup, you can put as many clients on as you want and load whatever tools you need. For PHP, this comes in very handy as you can edit php.ini files individually for each client as you would on your own server. This also aids in making efficient backups where you can load software to do incremental backups and run cron jobs to backup mysql databases regularly. (And upload to another cloud service)

    Like on-site email servers, on-site web servers are quickly becoming relics. It used to be that so-called “shared” hosting was crippled and expensive, but now the pendulum is swinging the other way.

    I don’t have a favorite service. I use a combination of Amazon AWS/RDS, Mosso, Joyent, and GoGrid. All are fine for web data and are relatively simple to migrate between. My paranoia is also helped by backing up data to several services at once. I haven’t used Azure for storage because I feel uneasy supporting Microsoft given their track record… and because they chose to use poker slang (“All In”) as their cloud computing motto. I don’t think making a gambling analogy was the best P.R. choice for promoting a service where savvy customers already have difficulty trusting Microsoft servers to protect their data. They might as well have said Microsoft Cloud Services: double down with us, we’ll cover the spread with your critical business data.

  2. Sys RQ
    6/3/2010 at 2:49 pm

    I really love your new blog template as well. It looks very professional.

  3. Sys RQ
    6/3/2010 at 2:52 pm

    I forgot to mention, prior to going cloud I used HostGator which did offer everything I talked about except for RAM/CPU scaling. HostGator also cost more per month than multiple cloud subscriptions, making the choice easier.

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