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November 15, 2006 / jnolen

Contegix rocks for Rails hosting

My partners and I have been working on WishRadar in our spare hours for quite a while. For most of that time, we were doing development and testing on an inexpensive hosted server from one of the many, identical hosting providers out there. David knew enough about systems administration (having been drafted into that roll too many times now) to get us up and running with the standard set of development tools and to prepare a testing environment to which we could deploy. That's what we used for our friends-and-family beta period.

But as we started to prepare for launching WishRadar to a larger number of people, we were quickly frustrated by the whole "deploying Rails in production" problem. We're Java developers by training, and all of our production experience, thus far, has been in that realm. Moreover, production deployment of a Rails app is still a relatively new field. There's very not a surfeit of information available about servers, tools, best practices or performance tuning. (I'm not saying these goals can't be achieved with Rails, I'm just saying it was hard to find a whole lot of how-tos.) We were learning everything as we went, and it was slow. Every hour we spent on a sysadmin task was an hour that we weren't coding. And it was starting to chafe.

On the other hand, during work hours I had the pleasure of working with Contegix, who host all of Atlassian's servers. The difference couldn't have been more stark. There has never been a question we've asked that Contegix haven't been able to answer, usually in five minutes or less. They're like having a full-time sysadmin on staff who knows everything about your systems, who never goes to sleep, and who always seems chipper at the thought of making any change you might need — no matter the hour of the night. So I decided to find out if Contegix could do the same for a Rails app.

I contacted Matthew Porter at Contegix, and it turned out that they have been doing quite a bit of Rails hosting. Matthew was incredibly patient with our many questions and ever-changing configuration plans. He helped us decide what kind of hardware we needed, what software infrastructure to choose, what database to use and how to set it up. He offered us a quote which, while more than the hosting we were using at the time, was just within our budget. It felt like a reach at the time. We thought hard about it. But now, a few months later, we feel like we got an incredible bargain.

From the moment we said go, they had our hardware up and running in two days. Over the following two days, they worked with us to set up apache, mongrel, postgres, email, monitoring and backups — all without us touching a single command line. As we first deployed WishRadar to our new server, they stood by us and helped us tune the app and the database until it could support our initial influx of users. And in the weeks we've been running, they haven't let up: emails are turned around immediately. They have answers to every question. They monitor the server and warn us about problems, and often correct them without needing us to intervene.

Bottom line: Contegix know their stuff. They're unbelievably responsive. And they're worth ten times the amount of money we're paying. I feel confident in saying that without their help, we still wouldn't have WishRadar launched. If you're searching for hosting for your Rails app, you couldn't do better than Contegix.

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