Hosting and DevOps


In light of the recent GitLab fiasco in which someone accidentally deleted 300GB of their production database, it's worth pointing out there's a reason some organizations take hosting seriously. As you may already know, we're primarily a Drupal shop when it comes to web development and because of this we are die-hard believers in hosting our projects on the Acquia Cloud platform—and we strongly recommend our clients do as well. Acquia's hosting packages range from roughly $160/mo up to $2,500/mo or higher. In a world overrun with ultra-cheap shared hosting options, Acquia can appear to be an expensive proposition, but the platform comes with a slew of security measures, performance enhancements and devops efficiencies that mean your website is primed for stability and scale-ability.

Acquia was just Named a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: Web Content Management Systems, Q1 2017, extending their three year run at the top of the charts.

So why is web hosting so important and what makes Acquia our go-to for web applications? Well let's dive in a little to what is important in a hosting company and how our choice encompasses those essentials.

Uptime, availability, tuning, and reverse proxy. With Acquia's Cloud Professional series you get a single web server with shared load balancers, and the Enterprise plan provides you with a custom server cluster and balancers spanning multiple availability zones. This means you have a server (or cluster) which is tuned and highly optimized to specifically run Drupal. A lot of hosts just throw you on a LAMP stack with no load balancer and no tuning for the software you plan on running. Acquia Cloud websites run on a Drupal-optimized platform hosted in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud environment. Acquia's software load balancer (nginx) and a reverse proxy cache (Varnish), fronted by Amazon's Elastic IP service help to ensure your server resources are used appropriately on all incoming requests. With the option to have multi-region availability, your site can be available from two distinct zones. This works both for fail-over—if one server goes down traffic can instantly be routed to the other—and also in speeding global load times as traffic from various regions can be routed to the closest server location.

Redundancy, security, and performance. Your hosting instance comes with a three tier environment; A DEV (development) environment, STAGE (staging) environment, and PROD (production) environment. Each environment's database is backed up every morning automatically, and manual backups can be generated with the click of a button. A multi-tier hosting environment like this makes concurrent development or content generation a breeze, and provides another layer of fail-over redundancy. Meanwhile, the tuning and reverse proxy we previously discussed provide a huge performance boost over your standard LAMP stack. Integrated with your hosting account is a suite of tools for both performance and security. Enterprise accounts are provided with a deep audit from a qualified technician prior to a site's launch, and all Acquia Cloud customers have 24/7 access to the insight tool. This suite of tools monitors and reports in real time for your site's performance, security, Drupal best practices, code analysis, database statistics, and even SEO. Each of these categories within the system provide analysis that shows you where you're doing well or what issues may exist, and how they can be resolved. The system will automatically alert the administrator to any security patches as they're released or announced and can be fine tuned to alert for even minor changes within the other categories.

Development, team management, and operations. Complex and costly devops is a thing of the past for our team after migrating to Acquia Cloud. The multi-tier environment means our team members can work on new enhancements or maintenance without stepping all over each other. An environment is there to test new systems and integrations and another one to stage content and preview work to the client. Acquia's interface makes it easy to manage the files and databases across all three environments. Plus the integrated version control (Git) system makes complex code base management easy and efficient for even the largest of teams. Finally with a robust team management system, permission control be as granular as we need on any given group or project.

The bottom line. As I said above, some folks would faint at the idea of spending $2,000+ per year on their web hosting. But if your digital platform is a core piece of your business or organization's marketing, commerce or lead generation program, it pays to consider the alternative. Every time your low-cost website goes offline or experiences performance degradation, resources are allocated to troubleshoot and resolve the issue—there are expenses associated with that, expenses that rapidly exceed the investment made in a premium hosting platform like Acquia offers. And that's a best-case scenario... What if your site gets hacked? Or goes offline for days? On low-cost shared hosting, it's not a question of "if," but "when." And when it happens, it's very expensive, if not fatal to the business. And then there's the question of efficiencies gained: We are able to reduce budgets by 20-25%, thanks to devops performance gains Acquia's platform delivers. Additionally, our customers save time in review and testing thanks to the multi-tier environment. The calculus is simple: If your website matters, your hosting choice does, too.