OpalStack Review – A Webfaction Hosting Alternative

Truth be told, we had other plans for this space. Our growing little fleet of websites has been happily parked at Webfaction for the past decade, where we started with a Python shared hosting account and upgraded to a couple of vps (virtual private server) machines in the cloud. This was pretty much a settled issue, until a certain large web hosting company (GoDaddy) decided to buy out Webfaction.

And then gave us a lovely notice last month that we had an entire sixty days to move to a new web hosting provider before they turned off our machines, since they were moving our account to a host that didn’t support things like free SSL certificates (but hey, they’ll happily sell you one) or custom Python web apps.

And I’ll skip over the timing (in the middle of a pandemic, a contested election, and the US holiday season!). GoDaddy officially gets the 2020 Scrooge award for most annoying web-hosting provider.

In any event, where to next? Welcome to our quick review off Webfaction alternatives, focused on the two which we’ve been doing business with: Opalstack and PythonAnywhere. We first discovered PythonAnywhere as part of our quest for the best free python hosting plans. They’re a good solution for free and low cost Python hosting plans, especially for academic and analytics users. If you like using IPython or Jupyter notebooks, it’s a quick and easy way to start publishing your code on the web.

But for business users? We recommend checking out Opalstack. Here are a couple of things which helped convince us to move our business there…

  • Basic UX and server setup is very similar to Webfaction (same basic core thought process)
  • Easy management of free SSL certificates (via Lets Encrypt) – saves $20 – $100 annually per site.
  • Python-friendly technical support team and SSH access to the servers (shared hosting or vps)
  • Implemented a bunch of obvious improvements that GoDaddy was dragging their heels on (for example, supporting installers for many of the other popular open source frameworks)
  • Better support for Blogging (WordPress) and static content serving (outside a python web app)
  • Better support for email and other business communications

I have accounts with both organizations. Please note a few of those links below are affiliate hyperlinks.

Who is OpalStack? (OpalStack Review)

Opalstack was set up in 2019 by some former Webfaction employees. They managed to bring the culture of the old Webfaction to their new hosting startup, providing excellent and highly competent support for Python and Linux issues. It’s a refreshing blast from the past – a Python hosting support team which is empowered to dig into the gaps of their platform, give helpful tips on how to set up a Python web app, and otherwise simplify the life of a Python application developer. (Can you tell I had a rough ride with GoDaddy?)

The core setup of their platform is very similar to what we used to have at Webfaction. Basic app and website configuration is handled via an intuitive control console; clients can use SSH access to work directly with a Linux environment. Their servers and shared hosting plans can support custom port web applications, giving you a great deal of flexibility in terms of what you can deploy.

Similar to Webfaction, their platform supports two database options. They can provision a PostGres database or MariaDB (which is a fork of a MySQL database). From an SSL perspective, they offer free management and renewal of Lets Encrypt SSL certificates, which should be sufficient for anything short of a banking application.

As of this writing, you can get an annual web host plan for about $100 (and buffed up servers for $200 – $400). They offer a 14 day free trial for a basic plan, which starts at $9.50 per month. Click here to sign up for a trial plan.

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