Virgin Servers and Nerd Pr0n

As weird as it sounds, for legal reasons I had to move my side project onto a server I have root access to. This posed some serious problems for me. I’ve developed tons of sites, and I’m no stranger to a command prompt, but a sysadmin I am not. Postfix? iptables? munin? monit? The extent of my exposure to the intricacies of system administration was whatever was available from within cPanel plus whatever I could change from my shell account. Admittedly, this was limited, if not comfortable.

After hemming and hawing and researching I settled on a VPS setup on Slicehost, which was recently purchased by Rackspace. I expected a painful transition to a self-managed server, and honestly it wasn’t all shits and giggles, but the experience was (and is)….Amazing. Liberating. Invigorating. Confidence building.

I got plenty of help. The Slicehost tutorial articles were an incredible resource. I could have barely done it without them. I also got some key help from A. DeRose an ex-coworker who had recently worked through moving the Tripology site to Slicehost. Even still, I learned an incredible amount about how to configure and run a server. It’s an experience I wish all developers could have at least once.

Almost on a whim I decided to use nginx as my web server instead of Apache. Nginx is stupid fast. I don’t really have anything against Apache, but I can appreciate how simple nginx is to install and configure. For basic web sites, it makes Apache seem like a big fat mouth-breathing mooch that won’t leave your apartment. I haven’t regretted that decision yet, and I don’t expect that I ever will.

I also heartily recommend Monit, Munin, and apticron. Between those three I feel that if something happens to the server that I need to know about I’ll be the first to know. Lastly, I can recommend Pingdom as a external 3rd Party service to make sure the server is responding.

The most exciting part of all of this is that after all these years of nerdom there’s still something to learn. It’s what geeks like us live for.

Update: Don’t know how I managed to forget this article for setting up Ubuntu on Slicehost. This article was pretty much my bible for 2 days. Whoever wrote that deserves a special place in nerd heaven as far as I’m concerned. Great stuff.

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