WebFaction is ‘web hosting for developers’, which means that it’s hosting for a more advanced user. If you are a total beginner, this probably isn’t the right hosting company for you. However if you know your way around a server, you will be hard pressed to find a company that offers you more control, access (we’re talking full shell access here), and quality hardware and software for a better price. Your account is also active as soon as you sign up, no waiting around for hardware or software to be configured.
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WebFaction bills themselves a ‘hosting for developers’ company and one customer review described them as ‘the perfect mix between DIY and full-service’. If you are tech savvy and like more freedom and access then WebFaction is a great choice. They offer full SSH access and also the convenience of one click installation for popular applications such as Django, Rails, WordPress, and Ghost. Since they are a smaller company you also get less crowded servers and a more personal customer service experience. You will need a certain level of knowledge to be comfortable using their service though, there is no cPanel here as they have their own custom control panel. The help forums also look a bit daunting for anybody who might consider themselves a ‘beginner’ when it comes to web technologies. It’s entirely community supported, if you are a web deve and know your way around a server then it actually looks like a great resource for lots of technical and really specific answers.
But as they say, with their service you can be a developer and not a sysadmin. The team at WebFaction will handle the server maintenance and security tasks so that you can focus on writing code or building websites. Their servers are fast. They’ve got RAID-10 setups on Nginx servers that won’t have a thousand other sites hosted on them, and their data centers are top quality. They have locations in the USA, Amsterdam, and Singapore.
About Nginx Servers
At WebFaction you have the choice of using traditional Apache servers, or you can use Nginx servers which are typically faster. Similar to LiteSpeed servers, Nginx uses and event-driven architecture instead of creating threads to handle requests. What this means is that you can handle more simultaneous requests without your website slowing down or crashing altogether. Some very busy websites use Nginx servers to handle their traffic, such as Netflix, Hulu, WordPress.com, Airbnb, SoundCloud, and Eventbrite. If you think that you might experience a large amount of traffic then Nginx servers are a great choice. Their servers are also easily scalable, you can add or remove extra plans quickly and easily.
User Reviews of WebFaction
Being that they aren’t a huge company they don’t have a ton of user reviews out there, but the few they do have are all positive. It’s becoming an industry standard to have no downtime at all, but it’s worth mentioning that one user reported having absolutely no service interruptions in over a year of hosting with WebFaction. Not surprisingly since they use Nginx, their web servers are touted as being fast and reliable which isn’t always something that you get in a shared hosting environment. One thing that I think really sets them apart from the competition is the fact that they support Python, Ruby, and Perl beyond just your standard PHP and .NET. One user who had trouble with hosting his Rails application at Dreamhost was very happy with his switch to WebFaction. As I’d mentioned before, instead of using the industry-standard cPanel, they have their own proprietary control panel software. As far as people can tell there isn’t anything cPanel can do that WebFaction’s control panel can’t, and it has none of cPanel’s restrictions. For example, cPanel only lets you install one SSL per account, but on WebFaction it’s unlimited. With Google’s recent announcement about SSL affecting search result rankings, this is pretty important.
The other thing that came up in a few reviews was that users really liked the company’s attitude towards their clients. Due to their focus on providing quality web hosting for developers, they are technicians rather than sales people and you won’t be subjected to constant upselling or high pressure sales tactics. Another thing that people really liked was how upfront WebFaction is about how much bandwidth and storage you really get. Unlike most web hosting companies that offer ‘unlimited’ bandwidth and storage, WebFaction tells you straight up that you get 100GB of storage and 600GB of bandwidth per month. If you need more, you can purchase it for an extra $5 per month per 50GB of storage, or an extra $5 per month per 300GB of bandwidth. Read the ‘Terms of Service’ for any company that claims to offer ‘unlimited’ bandwidth, it’s actually unlimited up to the nebulous description of ‘a reasonable amount’ which is never actually defined. After that point your bandwidth will be throttled, slowing your website to a snail’s pace.
One-Click Installation for Ghost blogging software
Ghost is a relative newcomer on the open source software scene, and unlike other systems that try to do it all like WordPress (which started as a blogging platform) and Drupal, Ghost is literally just a blogging platform. That’s it, it doesn’t try to do anything else. After being Kickstartered and wildly exceeding their funding goal, Ghost is now available to use for free as open-source software. As it is relatively new I haven’t seen it offered as a one-click install on many other hosts, likely because it runs on node.js rather than PHP, and not all hosts support that (but WebFaction does!).
One of the cool features of Ghost is it’s split-screen editing pages. You get your markup and code on the lefthand side, and the righthand pane shows you a live preview of what it will look like on your website. Now that is handy! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve published an article only to notice that something looked wonky, or I’d missed a closing tag somewhere. If you use WordPress you can preview your article in another window, but this saves you having to constantly update the preview window and flip back and forth between the preview and the editor. If you are looking to start up a blog powered by Ghost, then WebFaction is definitely one of your best/easiest options.