In the past couple of weeks between E3, TechEd, and just the regular pace of technology, there have been a lot of new things to learn about. One of them is the new Azure.
If you are completely unaware, it is Microsoft’s cloud-hosting service. You can host an application on a virtual machine in the cloud, and rapidly scale it up (more CPU and ram) or scale it out (more servers) with a click of the mouse.
So, up until present-day, that wasn’t really on my radar because the only websites I host, are hobbyist-type websites. That means that the price point just didn’t make sense. For example, to get the VERY lowest option with Azure (or Amazon EC2, for that matter) – you’re looking at at least $25/month – because you are basically get your own managed VM. Meaning, they set up a Windows 2008 R2 server and you can Remote Desktop into it and set it up how you want. This isn’t hosting content on a shared server, you are actually getting your own server instance set up.
Considering that traditional web-hosting costs like $4/month, it just doesn’t make sense for me.
In the past couple of weeks, they released a new version of the management console and started offering something new – you can host a “website” on a shared server… for FREE. In fact you can host up to 10 for free. You can also host SQL or MySQL databases up there too, on a shared server, for free. So, I checked it out and used them a fair amount in the past week.
So, after dabbling with this for a week, I drew a couple of conclusions. First, Azure is extremely impressive. They’ve done a fantastic job with what it does and the interface. The downside is that you can only host SomeAppName.azurewebsites.net there – it has to be under azurewebsites.net. If you want to host your own domain name or have an SSL certificate, you can’t (right now). For that, you’d have to upgrade to a “reserved instance”, which again, I gather costs around $25/month and up.
Traditional Web Hosting:
I have been using Web Host for ASP.NET (here is my referral link if you’d like, or the regular link) for a couple of years now. I used WebHost4Life for a long time until they were bought out. I had several catastrophic issues, so I ultimately left. WebHostForAsp.net on the other hand has been REALLY great!
In the past week or so, I was up for renewal – which is also what prompted me to look at Azure. In the end, I realized that I needed a traditional web host. So, I renewed with WebHostForAsp.net and they have been awesome. The support staff is responsive around the clock, across several days, and I’ve had zero issues with them.
With a web host, you either don’t need them for 11 months, or all-of-a-sudden, you want them to be responsive. That is what happened with me. I haven’t touched these sites in months, but in the last few days I’ve been re-organizing and restructuring things, so I’ve been interacting with the host support staff quite a bit.
Their control panel is very full-featured, they support .NET 4.0, SQL 2008, MySQL, php, etc – and again, what you can’t do through the portal, you open a ticket. They generally seem to respond within 10-20 minutes, every time and the staff seems to be very competent.
The bottom line for me is that traditional web hosting is still the way to go for any sort of hobbyist hosting. That is, until Azure decides to take the next step and do more with shared-hosting. I don’t know if they will, but they are very much ready for it with their tooling. They have a very powerful management console. However, unless or until that happens, I continue to be very pleased with WebHostForAsp.net (referral link for me | regular link)