Since this is of interest to some people, here is what my technical problem was, and what I did to resolve it: I’ve had – for many years – my hosting with Blacknight, web and email. It’s a decent package, a finite number of sites and domains for an annual fee. It’s reliable, and I don’t need high performance. However, what I have needed is SSL certs, the now ubiquitous padlock that you see in your browser address bar, which indicates that your communication with the site you are looking at is secure. This is something that until now, web hosting companies have been able to charge a lot of money for, and I can’t justify that for a set of personal sites. What I need are SSL certs from a company called Let’s Encrypt which are free, the only catches being that you need to replace them every three months (this is usually automated), and hosting companies don’t like them because they are free. Natually, Blacknight doesn’t support Let’s Encrypt.
So after much procrastination (and propelled, as noted previously, by displacement behaviour) I took the jump and ordered a VPS hosting package from OVH. VPS hosting means that I get a blank virtual computer somewhere (in this case from a French company called OVH) and set up everything myself, which is normally provided by the hosting company. I have become a web hosting company, in other words. This isn’t a problem! This is something that I do myself all the time, as a job and also as a hobby, because I don’t get out enough and have interests like a real boy would do.
I installed the required software for web hosting, the firewall, a control panel (so that I have a web interface to what is happening on the server and to set things up) and repointed the DNS, which is the addressing for where to find things on the web. I left my email on its existing hosting with Blacknight because I don’t want to get into hosting email myself; this is trickier than web hosting, and can be destructive if I make mistakes. This all took a few hours and I’d love to say that the second site went even more quickly, but the opposite was true and it all took much longer. Having done all that, I then ran into performance problems, regretted the entire project, solved the performance problems, and now I have one remaining (highly esoteric) issue to solve and I can say that I am truly the master of my own web destiny. Or at least a moderately competent webmaster.
Don’t try this at home. Actually, I could have literally tried this at home; I have a number of Raspberry Pi computers at home (the famous €65 barebones computer), and I could have hosted the sites myself, on one of those, from my home broadband connection. Any one of them would have been a lot more powerful than the VPS that I’ve rented, and with much more free space. So why not do that? Reliability. I couldn’t guarantee uptime, the availability of the server and the sites on it to the world. There are many things that can go wrong, between my patchy router uptime, power, the server software itself not being so reliable on Raspberry Pi, and I’d like the server to be something that I can just forget about.