Grumbly Review - VidaHost hosting (is bad for devs)
Warning: I’m going to have a bitch here, although I think I make some good points; the purpose of this piece is pretty much just as therapy for my coder-rage.
I’ve been hosting mrshll.uk with UK-based hosting company Vidahost for a little while now, and as the year has went on I have increasingly grown to dislike them. Tbh, I only have myself to blame as I bought their hosting package in a fit of urgency without any particular market research as to the best hosting company for my needs. I was young age of 22 and I didn’t see myself developing much web software in my little spare time, so shoved up a holding page and got on with my life.
That changed when I began seriously developing my own indie CMS, and I learned very quickly that I was going to have to jump through hoops.
First the good. Gotta start on a positive.
Decent PHP support I develop Brimstone CMS in Symfony 2.x, and I can’t recall a specific incident that’s made developing the application harder by being through Vidahost. They let you use
.htaccess, and let you choose your PHP version pretty much all the way up to PHP7. I’ve largely been able to fire and forget.
Splendid customer service Every time I’ve posted a support ticket to Vidahost I’ve had some pretty swift replies, and they’ve usually responded within about 25 mins day or night. Most of the time they solve the issue within an hour, and the rest of the time I’ve been on Stack Overflow and realised I was the problem all along.
Easy spin-up of basics It’s been pretty easy for me to add subdomains, MySQL databases / users, email accounts, etc. The basics that you expect a hosting company to do. Some of the one-click installs for Wordpress etc are also pretty nifty.
Here we go.
Slow I’ve noticed that sites I’ve developed on other hosting services have had pretty similar speeds to having everything run on
localhost. Not Vidahost. It’s relatively sluggish in a Web circa 2008 sort of way. I’ve even just pushed a feature involving more Twitter functionality, with shiny ajax requests for favouriting (screw the like/heart combo), and it’s broken it straight away and gives me timeouts on pages that were admittedly slow before – but not game-breaking.
Shit SSH Vidahost begrudgingly let you SSH into a domain’s hosting area in order to play around. For serious users of a web framework you’ll probably need command-line access to run various tools or scripts that come bundled with your framework (Symfony and Doctrine for example). Every time I push a feature or update a template, I need to ssh in to update the database schema or clear the template cache. This is obviously not a problem except that Vidahost don’t allow you to add any SSH keys, meaning you need to remember a password that they auto-generate for you. I’m not necessarily complaining about the auto-generation – it stops people from choosing silly passwords and potentially weeds out those who don’t know what they’re doing, but if you’re that security conscious surely the extra step of letting me use SSH keys makes it equally secure? Grrah. Also, I know it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and let SSH sessions expire pretty quickly – but I’ve logged in, switched to my text editor to make a very quick change (like, uncommenting-something quick), upload it, and then the session’s frozen and I have to re-log in. Bah.
PHP Session clear-up I’ve got a whole control panel back here that most of the dev time is spent on. I can log in, and then interact with Twitter and post blog posts and all sorts of standard CMS clart. I’ve had it before where I’ve logged in, and then went to write a Note (Tweet) which is sent over AJAX, only to have the server respond with the login page as the session’s been cleared. This process taking roughly 20s. Wtf? That’s mental.
SSL Certificate aka. Vidahost love to squeeze you for cash. When I knew that I wanted to build an indie site and I would often be sending my password (or precious blog posts) across the pipe I knew I had to encrypt it. So I looked at the SSL options. I was presented with the option of paying £40 for a fresh cert, or £20 for the privilege of having them install a home-generate one. I parted with my cash. When Mozilla’s Let’s Encrypt came of age I enquired as to whether Vidahost would be supporting this, as Let’s Encrypt is designed to be automated (my logic being that after an initial set up effort they could set domains and certificates away running forever and be happy). Wrong. Vidahost responded with a resounding “Sorry!”, presumably whilst rubbing themselves in £20 notes and bathing in the tears of web devs everywhere.
Use vidahost if you’re just looking to set up shop with a presence on the web and use stuff like Wordpress. Don’t use them for any serious development work. I can’t wait until my hosting expires and I move to Digital Ocean.