RT Cunningham


Virtual Server Management as a Path to Web Development

virtual server administration Virtual server management is something I’ve been doing for years. First, I managed my own virtual server at Media Temple. Now I manage one at DigitalOcean (they call it a “droplet”). And yes, that’s an affiliate link.

Before Media Temple, I hopped from one shared web hosting provider to another. I would never wish shared web hosting on anyone.

Virtual Server Operating Systems

When you sign up for a self-managed virtual server, you get to choose your operating system. Some providers offer just about everything and some just offer one Linux distribution or another. DigitalOcean offers FreeBSD as well as some Linux distributions.

I always go with the latest version of Ubuntu because of all the support I can find on the web for it. It works well as a server operating system, although I prefer Linux Mint for the desktop (which is based on Debian and Ubuntu). In my situation, virtual server management is the same as Linux server management.

Virtual Server Management

I like DigitalOcean for multiple reasons and DNS management is one of them. There isn’t anything I don’t like, that I can think of.

When a previous version of Ubuntu neared its end of life, I was able to set up a new droplet and discard the old one, without any assistance from DigitalOcean technicians. As far as I can remember, I’ve never sent a support request of any kind.

I spent some time hardening my side of the network until DigitalOcean introduced network firewalls a couple of years ago. It made much of my previous work redundant. DigitalOcean seems to be constantly updating and introducing new features and services.

Management Tools

When you sign up for a virtual server, you need to keep all the information the provider gives you. I’m talking about things like the root password and the server IP address. You need software to manage your virtual server unless, of course, you consider yourself a command line commando. If you are, you can probably do almost everything from the command line. I’m not and I can’t.

I use PuTTY to connect to my server using public key authentication. I use PHP scripts to parse log files and I use FileZilla to download the results. Geany is my text editor on Linux and Notepad++ is my text editor on Windows.

Server Software

I use Apt to install, update and remove software from my virtual server. I don’t have anything installed that I won’t use. Here’s a short list of most of the software on the server, that I personally installed:

I configure everything on my own. It isn’t hard to do once you become familiar with each software package.

Web Development

I spend far more time creating and editing scripts with PHP than anything else, probably more time than writing articles. I’m constantly trying to improve performance and find better ways to do the things I do regularly.

I’m the only person with access to my virtual server and the public-facing software is as secure as I can make it. I don’t really have to think about virtual server management very often. The only server commands I issue every time I log on are:

sudo su
apt update && apt dist-upgrade

And the second command just keeps all the software up-to-date. I probably have to reboot due to a kernel update once a month.

How much does my virtual server cost me? A measly $5.00 USD per month.

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By RT Cunningham
June 30, 2019
Web Development