Drupal hosting solutions and service providers

By shane
Wed, 2014-09-17 08:02
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There are many different ways to host a Drupal website. These ways each have their pros and cons depending on your specific website needs. In this article I will break down Drupal hosting into three major categories: Drupal specific hosting, Cloud/VPS Hosting, and shared hosting. There are probably arguments for other categories and some possible overlap, however it's a good starting point when beginning to look for a Drupal hosting provider.

Code Karate's 5 Secrets to Becoming a Drupal 7 Ninja contains a more in depth look at Drupal Hosting Providers. Check it out for a more detailed overview.

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I personally believe all the products below can be helpful when hosting a Drupal site depending on your needs and budget.

Drupal specific hosting providers

The first type of Drupal hosting service provider we will look at are Drupal specific hosting providers. These companies focus exclusively on hosting Drupal websites. By going with one of these providers you are able to take advantage of hosting providers that have optimized their hosting environments for the creation and management of Drupal websites.

The Pros of Drupal specific hosting services

Because the environments are tuned specifically for Drupal, you know that you are getting a reliable Drupal hosting environment. These environments are typically tuned specifically to optimize Drupal website performance.

The Cons of Drupal specific hosting services

The prices on Drupal specific hosting providers varies greatly depending on your needs. However, using a Drupal specific hosting provider typically costs a little more than some of the other available options. One thing to remember though is that these hosting providers are typically going to save you time and headache. Also, because these environments are tuned specifically for Drupal, it is often not possible to host other types of websites or applications on these platforms.

Drupal specific hosting providers

There are four Drupal specific hosting solutions that we will look at in more detail.

  • Pantheon
  • Acquia Cloud
  • Omega8.cc
  • Aberdeen Cloud

Pantheon Drupal Hosting

Pantheon provides a flexible and scalable platform for hosting Drupal websites. On top of that, the platform allows you to follow Drupal development best practices by setting up a Development, Testing and Live Drupal website and using the Git version control system to move changes between your Drupal website environments. The platform is free to use to develop a Drupal site and the price for hosting live Drupal websites is also relatively affordable.

If you want to see the Pantheon platform in action and learn how to make it work for your Drupal development, check out The 5 Secrets to Becoming a Drupal 7 Ninja eBook.

Acquia Cloud Drupal Hosting

Acquia Cloud is a dedicated Drupal hosting platform geared more towards medium to enterprise sized Drupal websites. Acquia Cloud provides a feature rich set of Drupal specific tools that make developing and managing a Drupal website very easy. The Drupal development platform that Acquia provides also follows Drupal best practices and makes it easy to get a Drupal website up and running quickly. Acquia's pricing is more expensive than some of the other options listed on this page, however with all of the Drupal specific development tools they provide and the quality hosting platform, it is definitely worth it for bigger Drupal websites. You can get started with the Acquia Cloud platform for free and only have to pay when you are ready to launch a live website.

If you are curious to see how Acquia Cloud can fit into your Drupal development process, you can see how in The 5 Secrets to Becoming a Drupal 7 Ninja eBook.

Omega8.cc Aegir Drupal Hosting

Aegir is a platform for deploying and managing multiple Drupal websites. Essentially Aegir is a Drupal website, that creates and controls other Drupal websites (pretty cool huh?). You can download and install your own Aegir environment on your own server, or you can turn to the experts in Aegir hosting, Omega8.cc. Aegir is not for everyone, but if you are trying to manage a large network of Drupal websites, it is often the perfect solution. You can even easily set it up to allow other users to FTP into these Drupal websites to add modules/themes. This is one of the reasons I used it for so many years for developing a large number of Drupal websites for many different clients. It is all point and click, and it is all awesome.

Aberdeen Cloud Drupal Hosting

I have never tried the Aberdeen Cloud Drupal platform, however I have heard great things about it and met people who swear by it. From what I know, it seems similar to the platforms that Acquia and Pantheon provide. I have heard many good things about the underlying technology as well. If you have experience with Aberdeen Cloud, please let me know in the comments.

Cloud/VPS Hosting

Cloud or Virtual Private Server hosting is a very popular way to host Drupal websites. Essentially you have a virtual server that you can set up and use to host your website. There are different levels of support available for these servers depending on your needs. If you want to manage everything yourself (including server updates and server software), you can do that with many VPS providers. You can also elect to go the managed hosting route. Typically in managed hosting, the hosting provider will take care of server updates and maintenance, and leave you to focus only on your Drupal website. This of course comes with an increased cost for the additional support the service provider is offering.

The Pros of Cloud/VPS Hosting

Using cloud or VPS hosting gives you much more control over the hosting infrastructure and environment. If you need to connect or host multiple applications, this can be very helpful. Having more control also means you have the flexibility to fine tune the platform however you see fit. Scalability is usually not a problem when working in VPS environments. It is typically easy to scale up and down by adding or removing servers. Depending on the level of service you select, VPS hosting can be very affordable.

The Cons of Cloud/VPS Hosting

If you are managing everything yourself, you will need to invest significant time and effort to get everything set up the way you require it to run your Drupal website. This often means knowing the intricacies of the server operating system. Also, while the scalability is easily possible, you have to have the knowledge of how to correctly configure the servers in order to get the entire system working. Going the managed hosting route can save a lot of these headaches, however it comes at an increased monthly cost.

Cloud/VPS Hosting Providers

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Linode
  • Rackspace
  • BlackMesh
  • Firehost

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

I have hosted many Drupal websites on Amazon Web Services, or more specifically Amazon EC2. Amazon provides an ultra-scalable platform for launching servers and scaling your Drupal infrastructure. I have also hosted an Aegir installation on Amazon EC2 with much success in the past. There are some quirks to AWS and some terminology that you have to learn to understand all of the options, however it can certainly work well if you are willing to invest the time to learn how to set things up properly.

Linode

My first ever client Drupal websites were hosted on Linode. I have always liked Linode's simplicity in both their setup and plan options. Whether you are just getting started with a VPS or are a more advanced user, Linode can probably work well for you.

Rackspace

I have worked with quite a few Drupal development teams that run everything off of Rackspace. Rackspace provides scalable cloud servers and dedicated servers that can be used to build simple and complex Drupal hosting infrastructures. They also provide different levels of support.

BlackMesh

Although I have never used BlackMesh directly, I have heard so many good things about them that they had to make the list. From meeting BlackMesh team members at DrupalCon's and DrupalCamp's, to hearing other Drupal developers talk about how great they are, BlackMesh is definitely a company to think about when considering Drupal hosting options. BlackMesh provides managed hosting which means they will take care of the server details for you and let you focus on your Drupal site. This can be helpful for you as you can still have administrative access to the server, but do not have to worry about the general maintenance and updates that is typically involved with running your own server... The best of the both worlds.

Firehost

Firehost is similar to BlackMesh in that they provide managed hosting. I have used them in the past with pretty good success and always found their customer and technical support teams ready and willing to help out. Definitely a name to be considered if you are looking for managed Drupal hosting.

Shared Drupal Hosting

For the cheapest and most affordable Drupal hosting, you will most likely need to turn to shared Drupal hosting. Shared hosting means you are sharing server resources with other websites. This setup has it's pros and cons.

The Pros of Shared Drupal Hosting

You will not find a cheaper way to host a Drupal website. You can often find shared hosting providers with a monthly charge of just a few dollars per month to host your Drupal website. Many shared hosting providers also offer VPS hosting and/or dedicated server hosting as well.

The Cons of Shared Drupal Hosting

Because you are sharing resources with other websites on the same server, spikes in traffic on the other sites can cause your site to slow down or even become unresponsive. The biggest negative of shared hosting in fact, is that there is typically no real guarantee of the performance of your Drupal website. While most shared hosting providers are fairly reliable, this is still the least reliable option for hosting a Drupal website. I would always recommend going with a Drupal specific hosting provider or managed VPS Drupal hosting if you can afford it, however shared Drupal hosting is a valid option for small websites.

Shared Drupal Hosting Providers

Site5

I have used Site5 and know some people over there so I know first hand they provide great customer service and are a high quality shared hosting provider. They provide a solid and reliable Drupal shared hosting service, built specifically for designers and developers. They also provide a fully managed VPS option.

BONUS: Use the code CODEKARATE during checkout to get 3 free months of shared hosting.

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Bluehost

Bluehost
is a trusted name when it comes to hosting. If you are looking for a way to host a Drupal website at an affordable cost, Bluehost could be the answer.

We recently put together a complete guide to setting up a Drupal website on Bluehost. If you are looking for a quick way to get started with a Drupal website or if you have an existing website you want to host, our Bluehost Drupal guide will get you pointed in the right direction.



GoDaddy

I have hosted a few Drupal websites on GoDaddy. It can definitely work and GoDaddy provides a few tools to try to make the setup and installation process easy. The hosting is also very affordable.


Owning a business is awesome…except when it isn’t. Let GoDaddy help with $1/mo Web hosting!

GreenGeeks

GreenGeeks is another shared hosting provider that offers an affordable hosting service for Drupal websites. GreenGeeks however claims to provide the "cleanest" hosting available and is powered by renewable energy.


Other options

I did not mention self hosting or dedicated hardware hosting. These options are similar to Cloud/VPS Hosting but you also have to manage the hardware of the server yourself. Anyone who has ever hosted a website off an old computer in their basement will understand this one. It is certainly a viable and affordable option in some cases, however because of the similarities to VPS hosting solutions I decided not to spend too much time on it.

Choosing the right Drupal hosting solution for you

Deciding on a Drupal hosting provider is not an easy option. There are many variables you need to consider such as time and/or budget. If cost is the number one concern, shared hosting is probably the answer for you. If you have time, but a limited budget, then a self managed VPS might be the better route. If you are concerned with Drupal best practices and want to set up a streamlined development process, then one of the Drupal specific hosting providers might be the best option.

What am I missing?

Are you seeing quality hosting providers that are missing from this list? If so, let me know and I will get them added. I want this list to provide a lot of information and options for Drupal developers, site builders, and designers who are new to Drupal hosting. Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

For shared hosting, I often send people to Hot Drupal based in Asheville, NC. Now that it's widely available we're also using our own Platform.sh for projects we develop at Commerce Guys. : )

For personal usage, I've been very happy with my VPS from DigitalOcean; turned out to be a cheaper alternative to my old Rackspace server, just as reliable.

I haven't heard much about either of these options, but will check them out. Thanks for the suggestions.

I actually had a demo back in the early stages of Platform.sh at DrupalCon Portland. I haven't had time to look into it much since, but would be interested in seeing a demo. Expect an email from me in the next week or so. Thanks for the comment!

Has anybody heard of Drupion? They seem to be in between the drupal specific and Cloud/VPS hosting categories: they claim everything is "tuned" for drupal, but you can apparently use them for other things (Wordpress for instance).
I would be curious to know if anyone has experience with them.

Hi Michael,

We've been hosting number of our Drupal projects on Drupion and can not complain about anything. On the contrary, after trying several different hosts we finally found peace of mind after we switched to Drupion. Drupion's platform comes with Git, Drush, Apache solr, which made easy to administer our Drupal websites.

I am pretty sure we would be happy in the same manner with Acquia or GetPantheon, however Drupion seems to be offering same service quality for much affordable prices. Performance using Drupion's Varnish, Memcache and APC settings (also provided by default) and better pricing were the main reasons why we chose and have been staying with Drupion for already many years.

Hi Owen,
Thank you for this valuable feedback on your experience with Drupion.

Green Geeks and Blue Host is shared hosting provider. It is no doubt proud supporter of Durpal Website .It is cheap and anyone can afford it easily

Agree on the above.
iPage also one of the web hosting technology which is providing unlimited domains, disk space and bandwidth, Free site builder, photo galleries, blog, forums free security suite, eco-friendly hosting, ticketing system, online help center and so on.

While I pay big (to me) bucks to host my work site at Acquia (and now I think you get what you pay for there), I am trying shared hosting at a company I have used for about 15 years for PHP/mySQL hosting. I have had nothing but great service and support there. They just got into the Drupal shared hosting business. Beware, you must ask how long it will take a shared host with a control panel install how long they will take to release a security update for your use. In my case the actual time was about four days. Beware.

Thanks for the information. It is important to consider Drupal security updates and the time the shared hosting provider will take to provide those updates. In some cases, if you are using shared hosting, you may be forced to update your Drupal sites on your own.

Thanks for sharing your experiences and providing a fair warning to those considering using shared hosting for their Drupal websites.

I prefer go4hosting for shared hosting, also they provide best web hosting solution for drupal at an affordable prices with 24*7 support.

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