Question about ServerPilot

dreamcompute

#1

Hello Everybody,

I have stumbled onto ServerPilot from a suggestion mentioned to me way back in 2016 that I finally had the time to follow up on. First impression, OMG I found “my” solution to use DreamCompute and why did I not go there earlier!

Does anyone else use ServerPilot to manage their DreamCompute instances?

Can anyone help me out with some Pros/Cons? Things I should consider before moving forward with ServerPilot to manage my instances.

Thank you all for your time and have a great week!


#2

I spent weeks trying to figure out DreamCompute and kept failing. Then I discovered ServerPilot, after actually coming across a thread on these forums and someone recommended ServerPilot with DreamCompute which made everything easier. ServerPilot is definitely an amazing tool. It took me over 5 tries – the destruction of 5 instances – before I was able to get anywhere and succeed with DreamCompute and Serverpilot. I think there was an issue with my own firewall or wifi blocking me and once I corrected that issue, everything in terminal was smooth.

As much as I loved being with DreamPress on an optmized WordPress server with HHVM for 2 years, it was costly and my major issue which pushed me to seek an alternative: absolutely no control over your own server. In other words, when my website went down, which it did randomly at least once every few months, I had to contact the DH support team for help to restart the server. They could never figure out what was wrong. The restart button was an important thing in having and I knew nothing about Terminal or a VPS at the time. They took away that simple restart button in the control panel which basically turned me off of wanting to continue paying for DreamPress. If they had not done that, than I would’ve still been paying the $16+ a month. At least once or twice, my website had been down for well over an hour because no one responded or I had to hop on chat to get a hold of someone to let them know of my sense of urgency.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy DH support and it is probably the reason I continue to be a customer of DH. They are extremely helpful. But there are just some things I’d like to do myself. Anyways, I finally got DreamCompute and ServerPilot setup, and over the weekend, I moved my website over.

Confessions of the Professions now proudly sits on DreamCompute in its own cloud. It has been almost 2 weeks so far and I love it. While I did have issues in the beginning, not realizing that because the website is semi-popular and has some plugins running, the website was crashing because 512 MB really wasn’t enough. If you run a non-WordPress website or are just developing, this is probably best.

So I upgraded it to 1 GB for now… and for a day or two, I had run into the website crashing. After optimizing it with Supercache and some other techniques, the website is up for the most part. I also wrote a script to ping and detect a response from the website IP address. A cronjob runs every 5 minutes to detect whether the website is up or not and attempts to restart the server automatically if it does not respond.

I have seen it go down for a minute or two and it goes back up. So I had success in getting the script to work.

So what can I tell you about the pros/cons of ServerPilot so far?

Pros:
ServerPilot really does make it easy to get up and running in minutes. ServerPilot has a firewall to protect your website as well as automatic updates so you don’t really have to worry about anything. ServerPilot is very well documented and fairly easy to understand. They certainly get an A- for finally speaking English and not so technical – something DreamHost is kind of guilty of in their documentation, though they are improving. ServerPilot also led me into a lot of research and installing new software, trying out new things, and not being so scared to do it like I was in the beginning.

I’m certainly far from a professional, but I no longer hesitate to create new instances and spin up test sites via command line in the terminal. ServerPilot does all the hard work for you in helping to set up a PHP or WordPress site in minutes. ServerPilot also optimizes the server with Nginx, Apache, and PHP-FPM, which seems to help protect and speed up your website. ServerPilot offers a free version and you don’t have to feel obligated to ever leave it and you can create as many servers as you need. Upon upgrading for just $10 a month, you can have access to free and unlimited SSL certificates, users, and other stats.

ServerPilot is certainly there to help make life easier for those who want an unmanaged VPS that they can understand.

Cons:
While ServerPilot is great for anyone, it is really geared towards beginners. In other words, in a lot of their documentation, it is like they lead people away from trying different things because it will probably mess up their own configuration. The “red” they use is quite scary, although there are some people who have looked past it and experienced benefits, even with ServerPilot installed, such as installing HHVM. There are some other programs, similar to ServerPilot out there, that can be installed via Terminal that are just as beneficial, though you have to have a bit more knowledge than the norm. Your freedom of doing things on your own server is seemingly limited by the ServerPilot configuration.

ServerPilot does not, but would do well to offer a backup service for your servers, especially in their paid versions. ServerPilot could also improve its one-click install dashboard or even offer some preset installation scripts to help you install other things. Offering WordPress is great, but offering just WordPress plays favoritism. They could easily have other one-click install apps on there. Currently, ServerPilot is a very minimal platform and while I am not complaining about that, I’d love to see more features offered.

Having said all that, I would still recommend ServerPilot to anyone, and will probably use it for my other websites, though as you learn more about terminal and getting a DreamCompute instance up and running with a website on it, you may find yourself no longer needing or dependent on ServerPilot.


#3

Thanks for the reply. You have answered a lot of my questions regarding ServerPilot. I have tried the free plan over the weekend and have decided to change to a pay plan this upcoming weekend…the only time I have to mess with these sites in earnest.

My Linux skills are such that I can get my site hosted just fine with DreamCompute following the guides here at DreamHost and on Ubuntu’s doc site. How secure is the server though and am I missing anything that will create issues in the future is a concern with DreamCompute, and of course my lack of current knowledge on how to manage a Linux server. Still learning! :slight_smile: In fact, DreamCompute did give me the desire to start using Ubuntu on one of my laptops…so +1 to the Linux community.

Granted my Linux skills have increased greatly, I just need a managed environment and one feature that DreamHost doesn’t offer via VPS, using Barracuda for MySQL. Plus, as understanding as I am that DreamHost’s process for updating MySQL and other software is limited to protect the functionality of their customers websites, it does limit me on my needs for the type of sites I have and want to create.

To close, I was looking at moving to another provider and pay them to manage my more needy site environments. Which is fine and paying is not the problem, I just want to stay with DreamHost. I like it here… :slight_smile:

It seems that ServerPilot will be my anchor.


#4

ServerPilot installs its own firewall which has good protection.

Take a look at this for some advice on what to do after ServerPilot installation: http://www.tutdepot.com/first-steps-after-serverpilot-has-been-installed/

You should definitely install that automysqlbackup.

Ubuntu itself out of the box may also have some basic protections.

DreamCompute may come with some basic protection, though I could not really find too much on what DreamHost does to protect its servers. I am pretty positive, however, that DreamHost would invest in some infrastructure security to protect their investment – you the customer. Of course, if you give the hacker easy access by choosing easy passwords or giving out your SSH keys, than they obviously can’t do much to help you there.

There is this guide to install additional security: https://github.com/dreamhost/dreamcloud-docs/blob/master/source/dreamcompute/tutorials/how-to-install-modsecurity.rst

Here is also some advice on what you should do before creating an instance in setting security groups: https://help.dreamhost.com/hc/en-us/articles/215912838-How-to-configure-access-and-security-for-DreamCompute-instances

You can harden your security with this guide: https://www.thefanclub.co.za/how-to/how-secure-ubuntu-1604-lts-server-part-1-basics

If you have WordPress websites, I recommend you get something like BackUpWordPress ( https://wordpress.org/plugins/backupwordpress/ ) and have it backup at least once a day.

As for your images and other files, use the DreamSpeedCDN plugin if you are using WordPress and back them up to DreamObjects. Even if you aren’t using WordPress, it is still a good idea to back your files up to DreamObjects.

Following all these steps, even if your site gets hacked or whatever, you can contact DreamHost support to help you figure it out.

And if you are backing up your data, you probably wouldn’t have too much downtime.


#5

Thanks mgates!

Security and server performance/optimization is the primary concerns for my instances. Your post elevates my sense of security using DreamCompute.

If I understand correctly DreamHost locks down access to SSH only and as long as my key is safe, I don’t have too much to worry about. Of course weak passwords are always a concern for others, I make a habit of using strong passwords for everything I use…getting hacked because of your passwords is on you, not your systems. :slight_smile: Limiting access to certain directories and files by IP address is great too.

I have been working on creating a step-by-step guide for setting up my instance and the guides and tuts you provided will help greatly! Thank you for that. I have been creating and terminating instances for a couple of months now just to get comfortable with Linux.

I currently use DO to backup MySQL using mysqldump and files already, I will checkout automysqlbackup.

Thanks again.


#6

Yeah, I documented my every move and step of the way when I did it. I know the first time, it took me more time than I’d like to admit, but now I can spin it up and have a website up in 5 minutes. Rinse repeat and get faster.

Here is my step-by-step guide using ServerPilot.

Feel free to credit my account DreamHost :wink:


#7

Hi @mgates, great write up and reviews, thank you! There is good content in your blog post, like the instructions to create an SSH key (which I realized we don’t have on help.dreamhost.com) and the step-by-step instructions to setup serverpilot.

I’d be happy to give you the credit for your account: are you planning on writing a document that can go in a knowledge base? The best way is via github pull request as described on https://github.com/dreamhost/dreamcloud-docs/blob/master/CONTRIBUTING.rst. If you use Windows, here is a guide to get started https://github.com/dreamhost/dreamcloud-docs/blob/master/how-to-contribute-on-windows.rst.

If you’re not familiar with git, not interested, too much work whatever … I’d take a google doc too, so we can more easily help with the formatting and styleguide https://github.com/dreamhost/dreamcloud-docs/blob/master/styleguide.rst


#8

Thank you for the compliments @smaffulli.

Google docs work best for me, but I do have Github Desktop smaffulli that I can learn.

I could definitely re-write that documentation and gear it towards people who come across the actual documentation on DreamCompute.

Step-by-Step is awesome. I just felt that is what I needed… and I’m sure others did too. And once I was able to get past it and learn how DreamCompute works… I love it. As a huge fan of DreamHost already, I would hate to see people deterred away because of misunderstandings.

There’s a bit of a learning curve, but once you get past it, DreamCompute is really powerful and awesome. Sure, I miss DreamPress and HHVM a lot (Not having to use a cache plugin for 2 years was amazing), but there is now no turning back: I love DreamCompute. To put that power in my hands… once you’ve had that taste of it… holy greatness! And I can create backup instances so if I mess up the server or install something that breaks it, I can restore in seconds… really awesome! Planning to get a few of my other non-WordPress web apps up and running on it soon.

I love the DreamHost Shared Hosting which is great for building things, hosting small websites, and client websites who don’t need much, but the fact that with DreamCompute, I don’t have to share resources gives me that peace of mind, and all for a great price!

I see the DH CEO boasting about how great DreamCompute is… and he’s totally accurate to do it! Spinning up a cloud server in seconds? Speed. Security. Backups. Price. Access to a bunch of different Linux systems. Really. Really. Great. Underrated product. Unfortunately, most of the non-tech people just don’t really get it, as I didn’t get it, but I wanted to! So it is failing to reach that audience who wants something more than Shared, but less than Dedicated.

Sure, its called VPS and is great for those who just want everything managed… but for those who want more control for themselves… DreamCompute is that affordable and unmanaged solution! Hopefully just by posting this thread… helps capture those thinking about converting or looking for a great cloud solution.


#9

@mgates,

Thanks for your feedback and info!

I have just finished moving over one of my domains and databases (Moodle, some other apps, and my own custom PHP/MySQL app) to DreamCompute and I love the ease of setting everything up with ServerPilot. I had to make some adjustments (add APCu, aspell, graphviz, and etc.) to the server afterwards, and communicating with their support team was amazingly fast. Setting up SSL with auto redirect is pretty nice with a click of a button.

The peace of mind that I get is pretty great since I have no idea if I can configure Fail2Ban correctly. I already have confirmed that the updates happen without me doing them. That was a problem I couldn’t seem to get working on my own. Setting up auto updates for my Ubuntu DreamCompute instance never worked for me…and no, I have no idea even how to find out why… :frowning:

I will still spin up another instance to continue to “play and learn” with, but for now, ServerPilot will be my go to.

DreamHost should consider offering a similar service…I’d rather give them my company’s money then some other company. :slight_smile:


#10

Yeah, I should consider before moving forward with ServerPilot to manage my instances. Thank you for that. I have been creating and terminating instances for a couple of months now just to get comfortable with Linux.