Escaping the Spider’s WebFaction

Intro

Yes, yes, I know the title is lame. What am I talking about anyway?

WebFaction is a hosting provider that targets the “hobbyist” or higher. Someone who wants to feel like they are installing and managing their own applications – like Word Press, etc. Their proprietary interface makes it pretty easy to use some common building blocks like “Domains”, “Applications” and “Websites” to put together most things you could want to do. Their lowest plan is only $10/month with no limit to how many websites you can host for yourself.

This is a pretty great deal, and it’s attractive even to people who know all the technical details behind setting up these web applications, but just want it a bit simpler for their “daily driver”.

Things were going pretty well until we all got a shock e-mail: WebFaction joins forces with GoDaddy.

The very top post should tell you everything you need to know,

“This is true and really, really bad news… Like thousands of others, I chose WebFaction after my previous ISP of 10 years was bought and destroyed by one of the large ISP megacorps … I have had the displeasure of using GoDaddy hosting on many occasions …”

cpirazzi

As you can see, this was probably less of a “joining forces” and more of a “I’m buying you out so I can squeeze the life out of you, and the money out of your current customers”.

Thankfully, a number of other people also strongly disagreed and decided to make their own version. It’s called Opalstack and it looks pretty promising. It’s still in the beta phases. Unfortunately, their price starts at $15/month. For me, this was too much. We need more WebFaction alternatives.

My Hero – YunoHost

$15/month is still a pretty good deal – but it’s 50% more than Web Faction, and 200% more than a cheap $5/month VPS from someone like Vultr. The problem with these, is they require a lot more technical knowledge to setup.

I decided to look around for something that was close enough to Web Faction’s philosophy of using some basic building blocks to put your apps together, I stumbled across YunoHost.

They work mostly the same way. You can simply add your domains, and install pre-defined apps like WordPress, and many others. Best of all, they even have a one click install for Portainer which will let you easily run Docker images on your server and then expose them to whichever domain you want. They even have Let’s Encrypt integration so you can easily get free certificates for all of your domains!

Does it require more expertise than the basic WebFaction configuration? Yes. But I’m willing to bet that most people who use WebFaction a lot have needed to do some customization anyway, or have the desire to learn more about how things work.

How to?

It was pretty simple. I’ll summarize the high-level steps:

  1. Get a cheap VPS. The $5 one from Vultr works fine.
  2. Install YunoHost
    • with a pre-configured ISO (if your provider supports it) or
    • Install Debian 9 (most providers have this) and run this super easy command: curl https://install.yunohost.org | bash (more about the security of this here)
  3. Back up your applications from WebFaction
  4. Test Install / Restore your applications on YunoHost
    • I used the super simple All-In-One Migration Tool to move my WordPress from my old server to the newly installed one on YunoHost
    • I suggest to first try with domains like: myapp.myYuno.com
    • Confirm everything works
  5. Move your DNS to another provider (NameCheap can do your DNS and is also a good place to buy domains)
  6. Point your domains to your new YunoHost server
  7. Add your Domains in the YunoHost admin panel and install your certificates
  8. Change the URL for your apps in YunoHost to point to your domains
  9. Enjoy!

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