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POSTED: May 18, 2021

In November 2016 I switched all my websites from HostMonster, where I had had them hosted for many years, and began to host them myself on Linode. I had begun to feel that I wanted to learn more than I could learn from the unhelpful documentation and non-responsive helpdesk at HostMonster.

I decided that I should learn how to run a server myself and get to grips with the processes that a commercial web hosting service hid from me. In the four and a half years since then I have indeed learned a lot. I started knowing next to nothing about Apache and building LAMP stacks. I trembled at the thought of using a command line interface. By now I have sheafs of notes and a lot of experience, and have kept my websites afloat through it all.

In fact I have done more than that. I have built three sites for Helsinki and hosted them, and I have built a site for our work in Kerala and hosted that.

However, having said this, I have come across several things that I have not managed to do. I have never anaged to get an email server working properly, with the result that my contact form has never forwarded messages to me. I have never managed to get cron jobs working reliably, which means I have had to retrieve my backups from the server manually.

Recently I have not managed to work out why I have more than one version of php installed, and I have not managed to convince the server to use the version that I want it to use. This has resulted in my SSL certificates refusing to renew themselves automatically.

I have now decided that I do not want to spend my time solving these issues when I could spend that time writing and doing other things that will later provide content for the sites. Knowing what I now know pleases me, and makes me more confident about many things (including my ability to continue learning new things), but I feel I have reached the end of this particular journey.

I have come to realise that I do not do the things I need to do to host the sites myself often enough to have them become second nature. Every time I find a problem I have to diagnose it and remember (or look up) techniques for fixing it. If they do not become second nature, if I do not build up a bank of knowledge I can put to use without thinking about it, every problem becomes a big problem.

Last week I had one such problem. This site would no longer allow me to use a plugin I had used happily for years. This prevented me uploading images from my iPad. This made me realise that a hosted site would never have these kinds of issues – or if it did then they would turn into someone else’s problem and not mine.

I hunted around and found Green Geeks, who claim that they effectively put 300% of the electricity that they use back into the grid, and that they strive to have as small a carbon footprint as possible. And so on.

I switched my site at the weekend and the process proved as painless as I could imagine. In doing it I tidied up some of the php that had started to get outdated, and performed a few updates here and there.

The result? My backups now send themselves to Dropbox, my mail contact form now talks to my email, and I find myself amazed at how much cPanel has changed since the last time I saw it.

I do not yet recommend Green Geeks wholeheartedly for the simple reason that I have not had time to come across any problems that I might have with them. So far everything seems hunky dory.

Their server lives in Amsterdam, so I live under EU data rules and not US ones. My site seems faster. Their site does not try to upsell me anything (unlike the GoDaddy site, for example, which makes you trawl through multiple chances to buy more at every possible opportunity). I can choose to install ClassicPress rather than Wordpress (which I did). Their documentation tells you what you need to know. Their hosting plans offer simple easy-to-understand options. I understand their admin interface and did from the moment I saw it. The only thing that I did need to ask got answered in chat within 90 seconds.

One nice surprise: they not only gave me free email accounts but they also activated them. I can now close my Runbox accounts which I set up to house my mail in Europe.

Having said all this, if you notice anything not working please let me know. That especially includes you, John!