Website Hosting

So, if anyone has visited the site recently you likely noticed two things immediately. A distinct lack of posts and an ever changing roulette wheel of Content Management Systems (and if you dug a little deeper, an ever changing hosting provider as well). Why? Why would I do that?

I wanted to try a few different setups. I started out on Squarespace, moved to WordPress on Linode, and then moved from there to Ghost on Digital Ocean. Now I’m back on Squarespace. Between each jump I had to export and convert the posts of the blog. I also had to figure out themes, the look and feel of the site, setup an SSL cert (or not). I actually wrote blog posts about each jump, why I was moving from Squarespace to WordPress, why I was moving from WordPress to Ghost, now I’m writing about why I ended right back where I started. I mean that literally. I logged into Squarespace to fire up a two week trial and found my old site was just there, just inactive. I re-upped with Squarespace, manually copied over the pitiful 3 or 4 posts I’ve made in the few months since I moved to WordPress and was good to go.

Part of the reason I moved from Squarespace to WordPress was because this is a Systems Administration blog. It seemed (and in some ways still does) a little lame for me to not roll up my sleeves and ssh into my server and keep things running in tip top shape. But I do that all day every day at my 9 to 5 job. Do I really want to sign up to do that in my off hours as well? If I’m honest with myself, no……I really don’t. I like certain aspects of it, sure. But all in all, I get more than enough of that at work. After being on WordPress for a while I realized that all I got done with my “free” time is screw around with the underlying OS of the blog and tweaking bits of WordPress instead of actually writing for the blog. I also realized that at $10 a month, Linode is at the very high end of what a small site like this would cost to host. So between my $10 a month Linode instance, worrying about WordPress exploits, and in general feeling a bit “bleh” about the whole thing I moved to Ghost on Digital Ocean.

Ghost doesn’t use a traditional SQL database like WordPress. Without MySQL, I didn’t really need a VPS with 1 GB of RAM. The smallest Droplet at Digital Ocean would work fine (cutting the hosting cost by a whooping $5/mo or a much more impressive 50%). So I setup Nginx and Ghost (actually I used the Digital Ocean Ghost template) and configured it to host multiple separate instances of ghost. One for this site and one for my personal site. My thinking was the droplet costs the same no matter how I use it and both sites will be very low traffic so why not. The personal site never got a single piece of content written for it or posted. I spent an evening or two making it all work together and be happy with the free SSL cert from Let’s Encrypt. I got that setup and working and the only blog post I ever wrote was a brief post explaining that I moved the site to Digital Ocean and Ghost and to stay tuned for new awesome posts!

Eventually what I realized is that once you pay for a whole year of Squarespace at once to get the 10% discount and then apply another 10% off discount from your favorite podcast it’s less than the $10 a month for Linode (and my uber awesome oh-so-cheap DO Droplet….was saving me literally $2.50 a month). I decided it was time to just admit it. I love screwing around with servers just a little too much. I can’t help myself. I’d rather do that than write blog posts. Plus none of the themes and tweaks I did to either Ghost or WordPress made it look half as good as this theme from Squarespace. So why not use Squarespace for my blog? It’s cheap. It looks great. And on the occasion I get mentioned by someone with a few thousand twitter followers I don’t need to worry about my site crumbling under the load.

In addition to that stunning realization, I discovered something incredible.

Migrating content between different web sites really sucks. Like really. Yeah, import/export features get you 95% of the way there. But man, that last 5% is awful. If only there was a way to write and save blog content in plain text while keeping the formatting, etc intact. That’s right! There’s this thing called Markdown and I’m an idiot for not using it sooner! Actually I started using it back when I wrote that one post while on Ghost. But YES. Starting with this post, and all posts going forward, they will be saved as Markdown formatted files saved on my computer. Where they can be easily backed up and easily manipulated if I ever move away from Squarespace (not anytime soon).

So here I am, here I’m staying. Maybe once Google reindexes my site this post will save some other sysadmin from thinking “I wonder where I should host my blog? I know! I’ll spin up an instance of WordPress on a VPS!”. Trust me. It costs just as much to host on Squarespace once you factor in your time, if you are like me (not an artistic person) the site will look better for it, and on the chance someone famous links to your site you don’t need to worry about the server falling over.