Update 02/02/2017

In 2016, Rackspace sold their Cloud Sites business to Liquid Web. During 1Q2017 they will transition their customers to Liquid Web. The information below may no longer be completely accurate.

Wondering if Rackspace Cloud Sites is right for you? I wrote this Rackspace Cloud Sites review to help you make an informed decision — maybe it will save you a bit of time and frustration.

First, accept that your website will “go down” occasionally.

Before you make a drastic move and incur the increased web hosting costs, you need to be realistic and accept that websites “will go down” from time-to-time for many reasons. Generally there can be a:

  • Problem with the domain name server pointing to your web hosting.
  • Problem with the web hosting — hardware, software, dramatic traffic spike, etc.
  • Problem with the connection between the name server resolving to the web hosting.
  • Or sometimes it can be a human error — misconfigured setting or incorrect character in a line of code.

The point is there isn’t any perfect solution for small business website hosting. All you can do is try to find the right combination for your needs.

I was frustrated that the hosting company I’ve been using for three years had at least two serious outages per month for a year and a half. Keep in mind that VPS hosting starts around $40/month and up depending on the configuration.

Each time, all the websites hosted on both of the Virtual Private Servers (VPS) I was paying for would be inaccessible. Sometimes it was 20-30 minutes. Often 45-60 minutes. Typically during business hours. I’d feel sick to my stomach each time I’d get a flurry of text message alerts coming from my web monitoring service.

Finally I got super angry and started a search for a new web hosting provider. There are so many affiliate link “review” websites and biased reviews that make it difficult to find authentic opinions from real business owners and website managers.

Rackspace Cloud SitesIt took a lot of research until I decided to try Rackspace Cloud Sites, one of several cloud hosting solutions they provide. At $150/month it’s actually not that much more expensive than what I had been spending collectively. Stability/reliability is what I’m after.

I tested Rackspace Cloud Sites for 3 months to make sure the web hosting seemed reliable. I setup a few different websites scenarios. The good news was that I only experienced one occurrence where the websites were briefly unaccessible (about 15 minutes). Eventually, I moved 30+ websites to Rackspace Cloud Sites.

Rackspace Cloud Sites Positive Features

  • You can setup “sub accounts” to manage websites separately. If you have multiple clients, create a sub account for client. Within a sub account you can set up multiple websites.
  • You can configure a website for either:
    Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP
    Windows Server 2008/IIS 7/.NET 3.5 (or some prior versions)
  • They have a one click install ready to install one of several open source Content Management Systems (CMS): WordPress, Joomla, Drupal
  • You have the option to use Rackspace’s Name Servers, in case you don’t want to use your domain registrar or a service like CloudFlare.

Rackspace Cloud Sites & WordPress

WordPress Open Source Content Management System (CMS)Most of the websites we develop are based on LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP). The majority use WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS).

Some important things to keep in mind about managing WordPress websites on Rackspace Cloud Sites:

  • There’s no comprehensive cPanel like you might find with a VPS.
  • There’s no easy way to make backups. You’ll need to install a WordPress plugin like BackupBuddy. Or set up a Cron Job and Perl script if you have the skills.
  • They no longer have a web-based file manager, which is frustrating because…
  • …unzipping/uncompressing a file is a hassle. You’d have to create a script or contact customer support to do it.
  • Sometimes the RCS Control Panel pages are slow. It “feels” like speed has improved lately, but I can’t quantify that.
  • RCS recommends using caching plugins like WP SuperCache or W3 Total Control to speed up website performance for more complex or heavy traffic WordPress websites. You could also use Cloudflare.
  • Compute Cycles (CC) is something to monitor. Rackspace calculates CPU processing time and disk I/O. Consider this example: There’s so much attempted hacking banging away at CMS login pages. If you use a software plugin to try to block/limit/throttle unauthorized access attempts, it does seem to drive up the CC usage. Rackspace will charge if you go over the monthly allowance. So be mindful and tweak your settings to find a sweet spot that works for you.

Rackspace Customer Support

So far, the Rackspace phone and chat support I’ve used has been sufficient. Their online Help section has many articles that solve my questions first without the need to talk to anyone.

How to make sure your website is live.

You should have some sort of website monitoring to alert you in case your website goes down or is inaccessible. There are many solutions available to fit your needs and budget. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • My favorite, Pingdom offers an annual flat rate fee for monitoring websites or IP addresses. They can ping your website from servers around the world. I set it up so that if a website fails to respond after 2 consecutive pings five minutes apart, an alert is sent to me.
  • Rackspace has started offering a solution called Rackspace Cloud Monitoring, but I don’t like complicated pricing schemes.
  • A free solution is to set up a daily Intelligence Alert in Google Analytics to notify you by email or text message if your website traffic falls below a standard norm. But you’ll only get an alert once per day.

How to move a WordPress website to Rackspace Cloud Sites

I use BackupBuddy to migrate each WordPress website from one host to another — it saves me an enormous amount of time and hassle. It’s user friendly and also has a built-in database find/replace function.

In conclusion:

$150/month for Rackspace Cloud Sites is considerably more expensive than $40+/mth VPS/VDS, or super cheap, poor performing Shared Hosting.

So far RCS seems to a reliable solution for our specific needs — hosting multiple WordPress websites. It’s certainly been better than the ongoing frustration I’ve had with other web hosting providers. It’s not perfect and has had an occasional hiccup. Their support seems to be proactively on top of problems. I still use other tools proactively to cache web content and monitor uptime.

Hope this Rackspace Cloud Sites review was helpful. Please share your experience with Rackspace in the comments below. Thanks.

-Roland