Why VPS accelerated my career? How it started long ago

Everyone has a mission, should have, or still searching for. By writing this entry I want to encourage „youngsters” and unsure of their technical skills to dive into the deep ocean of servers. This long rambling will take you (not so briefly) through the process of gaining my web and server administration experience. Get a tea, wrap in a blanket like a burrito, and start reading.

First steps, the first blog

My adventure with creating websites started very early. I was in middle school. One of my friends Michał got the idea of creating a technological blog. Precisely about Apple products, AppStore apps, and hardware service.

Free hosting, free domain, free blog engine, free theme. Freemium all the way! Provisioning the first WordPress site was very easy. Copying files to the appropriate directory on our web hosting, creating a database through their GUI and we were set up.

Slowly customizing our blog, modifying a theme, adding plugins, and widgets. We were getting familiar with all of it. More and more entries on our blog started getting us traffic. A little traffic like 1 000 UU (unique users) per month.

First domain and better hosting

After a few months of writing and getting more and more popular, we decided to buy the first domain in OVH. It was 2009 and I didn’t know what DNS is and how to connect a domain to a web server. Our free hosting was quite slow so I reached one of my other friends to provide us some cozy space. He currently had a kick-ass dedicated server in Kimsufi. Of course, I didn’t know how much time and effort he needs to make it all working as it was. One more time as at the beginning with the free hosting I copied our files and moved the database to a new server.

Maybe forum?

Apple was slowly expanding in Poland (that were iPhone 3G times) and we were quite popular at that time. Our next idea was a forum to connect Apple users with the same problems. Space where they can share their thoughts and ideas. In 2010 it was live on the same server as our blog with several dozens of active users.

Surprisingly big and on the web hosting

Our friend was getting rid of his server so we need to find a solution. I’ve read many resources and finally choose web hosting. ViPower was one of the few companies that provide Litespeed web servers. Advertised as faster than Apache, reliable and bla, bla, bla. That bought me and I bought them…not the entire company but the smallest hosting package.

We are moving, first blog, next forum. Everything went perfectly fine until the end of the mount. We excited our hosting package transfer by 50%. Well, that was probably expected by professionals but not by me. We were getting about 30 000 UU per month. Yes that not mistake, 30 000 UU, and about 40-60 000 views with 170 users reading us in peak times.

After minifying images and being more conscious with the configuration I modified my .htaccess file. Getting rid of hotlinking was the solution. Our traffic usage falls down a little below our hosting limit.

We slowly started to have less and less time. The number of entries dropped to 0 in 2012-2013, so we closed this chapter. The site is vegetating since then, but it was a big lesson of web hosting.

Personal domain, personal email

In December 2011 I bought this domain. Yes, personal one that now serves many subdomains (7 and still counting), projects, and services.

The main reason why I bought this domain was email. I want to have my personal address. I tried to create a Gmail account but all user names that suit me were not available. So I got pissed off and created my own Gmail with G Suite that was free at that time and still is for old users. I’m currently using it without any problems.

That was the first time when I need to configure some DNS records (not DNS servers). The process was very easy and within a few minutes after adding TXT and many MX records my domain was fully set up to work with G Suite.

Not long after that I created my home page and in 2013 this blog. Yup, I was writing in polish, mostly about music, and creating some cool lists of YT channels like this „The best electric cars YT channels” or more traditional like „The best motorization YT channels #2”.

First VPS

On my Bachelor of Engineering, I met Bartłomiej. That guy introduced me to VPS servers and Cloudflare. After many lively talks, he pursued me to buy the first server. In June 2017 OVH started selling VPSes that are located in Poland. First machines, big discount, nothing to lose. I’m getting one!

I was bombarding him with many questions about backup, characters encoding, and other configuration parameters. Despite the uncertainty about my skills he easily carried me through this process and I started moving my websites.

Immense shock, that was my first expression after loading one of my websites. It loaded so fast, so effortless. I was fascinated how much changed VPS priced the same as my hosting package.

I can’t stop it

I have VPS…I can install whatever I want…so I’ve done this! For my studies, this little OVH machine (1 core, 2GB RAM) served many university projects for my and my collages. MongoDB, Redis, Parse Server, Node.js, and many more. I gain a ton of knowledge investing so little money. That impossible to impress how this accelerates my IT career.

Having your own server slowly pushes you to a new project because why not? No additional costs, having fun, learning? Only benefits, no excuses.

After basic configuration, I got a craze for optimizing everything, literally everything. Starting from a web server, database, PHP-FPM ending on websites, and digging deeply into Cloudflare. After a few years, I gained a ton of new knowledge and unusual experience that make a difference in many companies.

Of course, many friends were using my server to host their websites, some university projects, and many more. Backends for my two theses (engineering and master of engineering) were created using databases and other services on my VPS.

The knowledge that few have

Looking for a new job, making some hobby projects, helping friends – it will payback. That knowledge about hosting, web applications, and servers are priceless. My investment paid off when I need to configure Wildfly, Jenkins, GitLab, PostgreSQL, and all of the continuous integration/continuous delivery chains when I get a job in the new branch office. Maybe that was key aspects that get me a job? I don’t know, but probably that was it.

Starting from a little VPS (1 core, 2GB RAM) and getting a more powerful one in 2018 (4 cores, 8GB RAM) was one of the biggest steps in my self-development. Well, getting the first one, not the upgrade.

The end

Getting the first VPS was never cheaper. Two machines from Oracle Cloud with 1 OCPU and 1GB RAM cost you nothing. Check their free tier, performance-wise it’s a great deal. I’m currently stuck to one of these little guys hosting docker containers for a few projects and I’m amazed by stability. Don’t wait, create an account!

Maybe you have a similar story to tell? Let me know in the comment section. Don’t hesitate to leave a link to your blog post.

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