I’m using a single dedicated server to host ourairports.com, megginson.com, and a couple of minor domains. OurAirports is a database-heavy application using (currently) a MySQL v.5 database hosted on the same server. I’ll offload the database to a separate server if traffic keeps increasing, but as long as I’m getting compliments from tech people for my fast response times (mainly thanks to MySQL’s built-in query caching), there’s no point paying for extra hardware.
My ISP set up the server for me last summer with a bare-bones Ubuntu distro, then I installed the extra packages I needed using aptitude over ssh. Since then, I’ve done many Ubuntu in-place upgrades, rolled out hundreds of changes and upgrades to the web apps and dozens to the database schema (some very significant), and upgraded WordPress n-teen times. Check this out:
$ uptime 13:08:31 up 175 days, 10:02, 1 user, load average: 0.23, 0.06, 0.02
That’s right — since my ISP first set up the server with a basic Ubuntu system, I’ve never had to restart it. In fact, if Apache and mod_php (PHP5) had ‘uptime’ commands, they’d show almost the same amount of time, since I restarted them only to make configuration changes in the first few days of setting up the server (unless apt stopped them to install a newer version during one of my upgrades). I’ve restarted MySQL more recently, but again, only to experiment with configuration changes (especially for fulltext).
-1 for being cool, +10 for having a life
Using reliable old technologies like Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP doesn’t win any cool points, but it certainly makes maintaining a web server and its applications easy. I can go on vacation, for example, without worrying about being able to get online to fix or restart my server every couple of days. I don’t have to stay up until 3:00 am on Sunday night so that I can take the server offline to roll out new software versions or bug fixes (aptitude installs any security fixes in place). I spend lots of time with my family. I go to my kids’ school concerts. I learned banjo and mandolin (why not, since I have the free time?).
It’s the developer, not the language
And yes, my PHP web app is easy to maintain and extend, because I designed it to be that way (I can often implement, test and roll out new features in a matter of minutes, even when they require database schema changes) — it’s the developer, not the programming language, that determines the quality and maintainability of an app. A lot of newbies use PHP, so there’s a lot of bad PHP out there, but the same can be said for any language, even Ruby.