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Managed Drupal Hosting
Open Source vs. Custom Code
There are many kinds of websites, but the most common ones are Open Source Content Management Systems (Drupal, Wordpress or Joomla) and custom coded systems (Flash, Dreamweaver or Ruby On Rails).
One advantage of Open Source is that you can be trained in an hour to change the text, pictures, and menus on your website yourself, without having to pay a webmaster to find time to do it for you. That saves you money. Also, you never have to get "custom code" when you decide you want your site to do new things later (add a store, a blog, a newsletter, a discussion forum, etc.) and you aren't wedded to the person who develops your site if he stops finding time for you. That's a great thing, but Open Source sites cost more to host, particularly Drupal.
If you do not need a Drupal site, you will probably not be happy paying for one. In a Game Face's first free consult with clients who do not seem to need Drupal sites, we recommend local web developers we know who charge less than we do.
If you are building a Drupal site for the first time, you need to understand the reason why Drupal hosting is more expensive than generic hosting, and what you should expect for that extra cost. You also need to know the difference between "cheap hosting" and "managed hosting".
Cheap Drupal Hosting
Drupal is a PHP/MYSQL CMS with thousands of modules that are being continuously updated. If you do not know what those words mean, don't think about managing your own Drupal website. Drupal is constantly being updated and added to by people all over the world, and if those updates are not applied to your website, you can end up in a dead-end fast.
As PHP/MySQL application, Drupal can be installed from publicly available files and hosted on a standard LAMP (Linux / Apache / MySQL / PHP) platform for very little money. http://www.bluehost.com, for example, charges under $10/month - but the less they charge, the faster their client base grows, and the more likely their service is to degrade.
The important thing to remember with Cheap Drupal Hosting is that you're on your own: nobody cares about you until you complain. You do your own module updates, regardless of how difficult they may be (ask anyone who upgraded WYSIWYG recently!), and if you get into serious trouble you will either spend hours on hold, or pay for the help that would have been included in your Managed Hosting fee.
Managed Drupal Hosting
Everyone means different things by "managed hosting", however, and rates can vary from $7/month to $500/month for the service. There is no "bible" on Drupal.org to define the term, though there are these links (and others):
- http://drupal.org/node/202401 - Searching for a New Hosting Company
- http://drupal.org/node/9169 - So, what host providers are REALLY Drupal friendly?
- http://drupal.org/node/70303 - There has to be a better way to find a web host
- http://drupal.org/node/110531 - Hosting Evaluations and Recommendations
Managed Drupal Hosts are also developers, always developing new sites and making changes on old ones, so they are on top of changes, updating their clients sites. They are therefore able to dive right back in on a moment's notice when clients need something new.
Game Face Hosting Rates
Game Face offers managed hosting to our Drupal clients only. We like having total access to and control of all our tools, because we can do things much faster that way, saving everyone time and money. We have two hosting tiers: basic managed hosting without a great deal of traffic, and premium managed hosting for larger sites.
- "Basic Managed Hosting" clients pay $25/month ($250/year) to have their sites updated, to have us available at a moments notice (during business hours) to answer questions and make changes (though the changes may not be free), and to be "kept in our hearts", so to speak. If we will have only one point of contact with your company and your site does not have a great deal of traffic, this is the right option. You will be unlikely to find managed Drupal hosting for less, without giving up support and specialization.
- "Premium Managed Hosting" rate as of January 1st, 2009 is $50/month ($500 per year). We charge this rate when there is more than one point of contact (e.g. different people are telling us what to do or asking us for help), or when there is more traffic than shared hosting can accommodate.
Game Face does not host Drupal sites for other people, although we do provide expert advice to people looking to choosing a Drupal hosting provider on an hourly basis, starting with a pre-paid retainer.
Why Go Through All That?
Drupal sounds so complicated - why not just ask your brother-in-law? Drupal does many wonderful things "out of the box" - which would otherwise require developer time to theme and integrate into a "flat site" if you were working with Dreamweaver or (shudder) FrontPage. Bryght, an industry leader in Drupal hosting, grouped these functions as follows:
- Blogs: Every member can have their own blog, including per-member RSS feeds, as well a combined feed of all blog posts
- Photos: upload images into a central site gallery or use as a simple asset management system
- Forums: for threaded discussions
- Polls: find out what your community thinks on an issue
- Profiles: share as little or as much of your individual personality as you choose; a social network with the fields you think are important
- Events: flexible date handling lets you build calendars and schedules with moderated submissions.
- Files: share PDFs, Word docs and other "non-Web native" content with your community
- Rich Text Editing: use a simple browser interface to include styled text, links, and even images (see a screencast of Lee drag and dropping from Flickr)
- Content queuing: allow users to submit content or comments into an approval queue, and decide what you want to publish
Syndication and Aggregation
- Syndicate everything: every topic (and even every member) has it's own RSS feed; you can also use this with aggregation to share content amongst many member sites
- RSS Aggregation: pick custom news sources to have dynamic content constantly update your site.