Web Application Development

Benefits of the Cloud for the Small Developer

Problems with a production server – that took much longer than I’d have liked to fix – led my thoughts to the opportunities provided by Cloud computing for solitary developers like me.

I’m a single developer working for myself on small client projects and a few personal ones too. To date I’ve extensively used virtual machines from a number of providers and been quite happy with most.

I rarely need to configure a new Virtual Private Server (VPS), and regular maintenance isn’t a major headache since they’re few in number. So beyond the light use of Amazon S3 for backup storage, the Cloud seemed to hold little of interest.

But then the afore-mentioned problem cropped up, and it’s origin was a mystery. I’ve setup Linux systems for years now, but the cryptic application errors and the server logs were distinctly unhelpful. I ended up created a new web app just to debug the root cause, and it all took time.

I was lucky, I could afford it since this VPS wasn’t hosting client projects. Had it been I’d have felt obliged to rent a new VPS to maintain continuity, and the experience would’ve cost me, so this is where I revisited the idea of the Cloud.

Developmental benefits

Staging on an identical platform without the cost of a permanent staging server was the first benefit that struck me. It’d make ironing out deployment and dependency issues much more cost effective for the small developer.

Operational benefits

In the context of my recent problems, there’s the option to rapidly spin-up and configure a new server instance from a saved image. I could have skipped fixing that broken server configuration and just replaced it with a fresh one.

Switching a public IP address to another server is quick and easy so if one of your servers does fall over you can switch to an alternative without messing with the slow to refresh Domain Name System (DNS).

Cost benefits

When it comes to cost, apart from the hourly versus monthly pricing, the main difference lies in the way bandwidth is charged.

This complicates things a bit, in fact with Amazon Web Services (AWS) instances it’s even more complex, but overall it seems that for light traffic applications the cost of Cloud servers is very competitive with their VPS cousins.

Still it’s in my nature to fire up a spreadsheet when things get messy, and that’s a topic for another post.