Introducing: The concept of self-managed Cloud Hosting

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The “Cloud” is in existence since last 20-25 years. The term “Cloud  Computing” was coined in 1996 by Compaq.

Once everyone started understanding the possibilities the “cloud” can open, We started shifting to the cloud. However, It took a very long time after it was first “invented”. The cloud is a concept and there are many technologies built around it. In simple words, It helps you quickly host and scale your business on the internet.

However, The cloud became mainstream at enterprise level after the launch of AWS by Amazon, GCP by Google, and other similar major cloud platforms. When it happened, startups and companies with higher computing demand started shifting to cloud from a traditional web host.

There is one more set of companies that made the cloud mainstream. They made a huge impact in the “small business” and “beginner-friendly” market. Since 2015-16, we saw the companies like Digitalocean, Linode, Vultr, Upcloud and others grow. The first cloud platform I have ever used is Digitalocean, and You might have same experience.

The major difference between these two types of cloud computing services is, the user interface and the set of features. AWS provides hundreds of services and the user interface is not beginner friendly. If you are a cloud expert, It is easy, and let’s say, perfect. But it’s not the case when you are just moving to the cloud and you have small business with small cloud computing requirements. In this case, The beginner friendly versions of Cloud, or say, Infrastructure as a Services (IaaS) are better.

All the Cloud Platforms are Unmanaged!

Note: Cloud Instance/Server/VPS/Dedicated, all are the same thing, a server! Do not get intimidated by names.

Ideally, A cloud platform only provides you a cloud instance with an operating system installed on it, that is all! It’s same for all the types of cloud platforms. You can get EC2 from AWS, Droplet from Digitalocean, or Cloud instance from Vultr. All the servers are same. The only difference is the RAM, CPU and Storage combinations they provide at competitive rates.

Once you have a server, You have to make a choice if you want to install a control panel on it or you want to manage it with the command line interface.

The later one is as scary as it sounds. However, It was my first choice. I got a cloud instance from a certain platform and realised it was a mistake to create a server without an open-source control panel. I realised I just had command line access to the server and I had to host a whole WordPress site on it. Being a technical person, I fought with the learning curve and hosted my WordPress site on the server successfully, Unfortunately, After working for 6 months. It was a soul breaking experience.

Meanwhile, I also tried several open-source control panels available in the market. The only issue was, If the stability of control panel, that comes with “as-is” and “no support” clauses goes south, Your site is down and you are not technical enough to edit the code of a panel to solve your issue, anyone will panic in this case.

Why not Pre-installed Applications?

It is not as good as it sounds. Almost all the cloud platforms provide you instances with pre-installed applications like WordPress and Mautic. However, Once you create a server, Where do you go to add the second website on the server? There is no answer to this question. Do not even look for it.

Another thing is, When your site goes down, and it throws server error, where do you go for support? The best thing to do in this case is hire a freelancer to solve the issue.

If you are not a technical person, You might not know that the pre-installed Apps are configured with a most basic configuration possible, without optimisation. You would soon have to upgrade if you are expecting any kind of spike in traffic, even small.

But that does not feel like 2022! In 2022, We should have better solutions to host websites. Right? We have!

There are two solutions that solves your following problems for cloud hosting right now.

  1. Optimised Server Configuration
  2. Host multiple sites on a single Server
  3. Get Support for Server Errors when they arise

The two solutions are:

  1. Managed Cloud Hosting
  2. Self-Managed Cloud Hosting

We all know what is “Managed Cloud Hosting”. It is a very popular topic. However, Let’s understand Managed Cloud Hosting in brief, It’s a very small topic for this article.

What is Managed Cloud Hosting?

Managed Cloud Hosting is a first choice of majority of the people when they decide to move their sites to cloud.

It is very simple. You want to host WordPress sites? Get managed WordPress hosting. All the same for all other CMS and custom apps made on various programming languages.

It is very convinient. You just get an account and your site will be up and running in less than 10 minutes.

And the most important, The 3 cloud hosting requirements I listed above are covered.

But, your hosting expense is going to grow exponentially. Why? Managed cloud hosting usually comes with limits on number of hits your website can get in a specific plan. Or the limitations in CPU time and memory usage.

You might have seen different WordPress hosting plans with many different tiers of pricing with different limits on number of hits/pageviews. If you know any host this kind of plan, check the pricing for 100k pageviews a month.

We can do better. Let’s see how.

What is Self-managed Cloud Hosting?

Most probably, No one has ever promoted self-managed cloud hosting. Mainly because self-managing servers is synonymous to learning and writing commands to do your job. Usually, You contact your server management guy or hire someone from Fiverr to do one-time job at human hour rates. Who wants that, right?

In 2022, I self-manage my servers, just not on command line. But I still have the exact user interface you have with managed cloud hosting, even better. Here are the benefits of self-managed cloud hosting that gets dwarfed in front of the convinience of managed hosting.

  1. Full Control over the server
  2. Can host more than 1 sites on the Server
  3. Automated and Fully Integrated Set up (In 10 minutes!)
  4. No Limits on number of pageviews
  5. Support when you encounter server error
  6. Limited Management Expenses (The Panel!!)

With managed hosting, You do not have full control over the server. Even if you have selected a good platform like AWS or GCP, You do not have full control over the server, Your site will be hosted there.

Also, Point No. 6 in above list. With managed hosting, You are paying higher and higher just to get the full package. Usually, bigger the requirements, Bigger the server management expenses.

It’s not the case with self-managed cloud hosting. If you are charged $5 per server, You will be charged same even if you have 32GB RAM on the server. It’s same for 4GB RAM and same for 64GB. The cost of management does not change in case of self-managed cloud hosting.

And, There are no limits on number of pageviews with self-managed cloud hosting! If your site is light and optimised, which is usually recommended, You can have as many pageviews as your server can handle.

How Self-Managed is different than Managed?

In case of Managed Hosting, You receive the whole package, Server + management panel, combined.

In case of self-managed hosting, You create a server in your favourite cloud platform and then manage it by yourself. The only thing missing is an automated system to manage all your servers, right?

If you use any self-managed cloud hosting platform, You can integrate your favourite cloud platform and bypass the server creation hassle. The server will be created in your cloud platform account with an integration. And then it will be automatically configured in minutes. No hassle!

A Self-managed Cloud Hosting Platform?

A self-managed Cloud hosting platform is any cloud management panel that allows you to manage your own server. If you can connect with a server management panel using IP address and root access, It is a self-managed cloud hosting platform. However, not all cloud management panel provide integrations with cloud platforms. In that case, You would have to create servers manually and then connect them with a cloud management panel.

ServerAvatar is a Self-managed cloud hosting platform we are developing since 2016. We started out with very simple goals.

  1. Auto-configure the server with Apache, MySQL, PHP.
  2. Create multiple sites on the server.
  3. Install WordPress on those sites.
  4. Install Custom SSL Certificates.

Between 2016 and 2017, ServerAvatar was managing it’s first 100 servers on automation. So, We continued.

Right now, ServerAvatar manages thousands of servers as a self-managed cloud hosting platform. And Here are some things that are possible now for you, out of the box!

  1. Auto-create and install a server, with Optimised stack, in 10 minutes.
  2. Auto-install 5 different CMS and apps on your server.
  3. Install multiple sites on a single server.
  4. Deploy and set Auto-pull from Github, Gitlab and BitBucket.
  5. Manage the security of your server.
  6. Automatic Backups and Restore.
  7. Secure the sites with Automatic SSL Certificates (Yes, they auto-renew!)
  8. File Manager for all your sites!
  9. Out-of-the-box Redis!
  10. Much more, See everything here!

There are lots of server management panels available in the market. Some of them are WordPress specific, some of them are generic.

ServerAvatar is a generic self-managed cloud hosting platform. You can connect a fresh Ubuntu 18.04, 20.04, or 22.04 server in minutes. You just need the public IP address of your server and the root access. After that, it’s just copy-paste two commands, Your work is done. In 10 minutes, you will get a fully managed panel to self-manage your servers.

ServerAvatar also has integrations with Digitalocean, Vultr and AWS Lightsail. So, You don’t have to shift tabs to create a server and then connect it with a management panel. For example, Integrate your Digitalocean account with ServerAvatar, then you can select Digitalocean server from ServerAvatar’s user interface. Rest will be handled automatically.

With self-management, people usually worry about the learning curve. Let’s see what do you need to know before getting started.

How steep is the learning Curve?

Here are the few things you need to understand to get started, That’s all.

  1. Public IPv4 Address: IP address of your server. All the cloud platforms will provide you a dedicated IP address of your server. AWS and a few other platforms change the IP address when you restart a server. That is a good thing to know up-front.
  2. Root Access: Root access means accessing the server as a root user. Usually your cloud platform or server provider will give you root access. Either with the password or with the SSH key.
  3. Cloud Platforms: A cloud platform is a collective of any server provider. You can say, Your VPS provider is a cloud platform. Just for simplification.
  4. Tech Stack: With ServerAvatar, You can set up a server with one of the three web servers. They are Apache, Nginx or OpenLiteSpeed.
  5. Terminal: Terminal is a “Console” or command line access to your server. Most cloud platforms provide console option to directly access the server with command line interface as a root user.
  6. Firewall and Ports: When you create a server in any cloud platform, It might also create firewall for that server. If you encounter port issues while connecting a server, You need to open the required port in order to create the connectivity.

So, That’s all you need to know to get started. Atleast if you want to try ServerAvatar as a self-managed cloud hosting platforms. Different platforms might need different knowledge. But our goal is to make everything as simple as possible, so we try to minimize the learning curve for you.

Conclusion

As you can see, There is almost no difference between Managed hosting vs Self-managed hosting. But, You get all the benefits of owning a server in case of Self-managed. Benefits like no limits on number of pageviews, You can utilise 100% of your server capacity, no incremental management charges.

I hope the whole new possibilities are opening for you with this bit of knowledge. If you have any questions, or you disagree with something, please comment down. I will be happy to discuss.

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