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Recommended Host for Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails combines the simplicity and versatility of the Ruby programming language with Rails, a framework designed to give programmers a quick and easy method for building and deploying online applications.
While most hosts provide basic support for Ruby on Rails, some hosting companies specialize in it.
What Is Ruby on Rails?
As technology has evolved, so, too, have customer expectations. A company whose website is devoid of now-ubiquitous features like real-time customer service, customer account management, and online ordering may soon find itself devoid of online customers.
In the past, it was difficult to keep up with that kind of constantly-changing information enough to make it readily accessible to customers. But the technology to automate those processes and provide live data is more accessible now than ever, and one of the best ways to do so is by using Ruby on Rails to build web applications.
Ruby on Rails (or just "Rails") is not a programming language, but a web application framework. Rails is written in Ruby, a general-purpose programming language. Ruby was created in the mid-1990s to be a more streamlined, easy-to-use scripting language as an alternative to other languages like Perl or Python. Its creator, Yukihiro Matsumoto, intended Ruby to be not only productive but fun, and to help its users "to enjoy programming, and to be happy."
The Rails framework was created in 2003 by David Heinemeier Hansson to allow website owners to easily create applications optimized for ecommerce, social media, and more.
Why Ruby on Rails?
Ruby on Rails is a free, open-source framework with extensive documentation and a passionate and helpful community. It’s used by scores of popular websites in a variety of applications: Discount sites LivingSocial and Groupon, project management giant Basecamp, and even social media titan Twitter all rely on Ruby on Rails to create and manage content for their websites.
The framework provided by Rails allows for applications created in Ruby to interface not only with software on the server, but other network applications and users accessing content on the site itself. Twitter, for example, created a Rails-driven queuing system, Starling, to sort and organize incoming tweets in real time (the company has since moved its queue and other "middleware" tasks to Scala, but continues to rely on Ruby on Rails for front-end updates).
Groupon and LivingSocial use Ruby on Rails as part of their messaging systems as well; applications designed to track orders, process shipments and send out daily updates to millions of customers are all handled by the framework. The customer service app Get Satisfaction also chose Ruby on Rails to build their app, which almost 50,000 businesses now use to build their online communities.
Why did they choose Ruby on Rails over other programming languages? While many dynamic websites use PHP, it’s often better suited for more simple, basic websites such as blogs. If you need to build a more robust website or web-based application that accesses a database, Ruby on Rails can be a more effective solution.
Ruby on Rails has become popular among web startups because it’s efficient and concise, which enables programmers to build web applications much faster. Its speed and efficiency also make it ideal for prototyping web apps to identity issues before development.
Selecting Ruby on Rails Hosting
Because of Ruby on Rails popularity, many general web hosting companies provide support for Ruby on Rails as part of their standard hosting packages.
However, if your site requires dedicated support for application development/deployment, you can readily find it, since hosts specializing in Ruby on Rails hosting remain popular. Ruby on Rails hosts may optimize their servers to run it more efficiently, provide pre-installed features, continuously update to the latest version, and provide expert support. Some, like Site5, have positioned themselves as the "ultimate" in Ruby on Rails hosting by building and deploying their own network and server management systems using the framework, including a Ruby on Rails-driven billing system and customer account manager.
For hosts specializing in Ruby on Rails, pricing is consistent with traditional hosting, with basic hosting starting at $5 a month and "high end" packages coming in at around $20 a month. When Ruby on Rails is an included feature, it generally does not impact the price of service, but as always, check with your host for details.
Ruby on Rails Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
What is Ruby on Rails?
Ruby on Rails is a web development framework built using the Ruby programming language.
What is a web development framework?
A web development framework is a set of tools for speeding up and standardizing the development of a web application. A framework includes modules for handling common development tasks such as user login and session management and usually provides an architectural paradigm to follow. Ruby on Rails follows the Model-View-Controller (MVC) pattern of application development.
What is Model-View-Controller?
Model-View-Controller is a way of organizing application functionality that separates three areas of software concern. The Model defines the data structure and communicates with the database. The View handles the presentation of content to the user. The Controller handles application logic. In an MVC application, each group of data objects (users, blog posts, projects, products) has a single model that defines its properties. A single model then can have many views, for each of the different ways a user might want to view that information. Controllers can be written to handle the business logic, such as sending an email when a new project is created.
Is Ruby on Rails Open Source?
Does Ruby on Rails provide code generation support?
Yes. Ruby on Rails provides command line tools for quickly scaffolding up new Models, Views, and Controllers. These automate the generation of “boilerplate” code and the tedious-to-write links between models, views, and controllers, allowing the programmer to focus on defining data structures and writing application functionality.
Does Ruby on Rails provide support for testing?
Yes. Rails comes with a robust set of testing tools and is compatible with a number of testing engines.
What database system does Ruby on Rails use?
Rails uses a database abstraction layer to define models, so it can be used with several different relational and non-relational databases without significantly altering application code. The default database is SQLite, but that is usually recommended only for development. The most common production-level database choice for Ruby on Rails is PostgreSQL, but many others are supported, including MySQL, MariaDB, and MongoDB.
What operating systems does Ruby on Rails work on?
Ruby on Rails works well on most operating systems, including OSX, Linux, and Windows. Some Windows users have reported difficulty with installation and deployment, though. Therefore, most Rails developers work locally on either Mac or Linux computers and deploy to Linux-based servers.
What web servers does Ruby on Rails support?
The most popular web server for deploying Rails applications is Phusion Passenger, which works as a module added on to Apache or Nginx, or as a standalone server. Ruby on Rails also includes its own built-in web server, WEBrick, but this is intended for development use and is not recommended for production.
Can I run Ruby on Rails on a shared hosting plan?
In theory, yes. And several shared hosting plan companies state in their support documentation that you can do so. However, a number of hosting plan reviews and support forum threads reveal that many people have difficulty getting Rails apps to run properly on shared hosting. Ruby on Rails depends on the Ruby Gems system for dependency management, and any single Rails application may need to download and install dozens of individual gems. This can cause problems with shared hosting plans and their permissions systems. Some shared hosting providers have developed somewhat arcane methods of dealing with gem installation, such as a requiring a user-level gems lists with individual approval from the hosting company for each gem. We advise caution when considering a shared hosting plan for a Ruby on Rails deployment.
What are some alternatives to Ruby on Rails?
Ruby on Rails vs. PHP frameworks (Laravel, CodeIgniter, etc). Which is better?
Most people would say Ruby on Rails. Ruby is a more powerful and (some would claim) easier to use language than PHP, and dependency management is much easier to deal with. Much of what makes Laravel and CodeIgniter work well are concepts borrowed from Ruby on Rails (For example, the Active Record implementation.) However, many people suggest that PHP is a better language for getting things done quickly, that it is easy to “hack on” PHP code. (This is why Facebook uses PHP. Zuckerburg thinks that coders iterate through ideas faster in PHP.) Really, though, the same types of things can be accomplished using either tool, so the best determining factor is your own comfort with the languages.
Ruby on Rails vs. Node.js. Which is better?
That really depends on what kind of application you are attempting to build. Node.js runs on an event-driven architecture, which makes it ideal for real-time interaction. If you are building something where multiple users need to interact with each other, such as a chat app or a game of some sort, Node.js will likely be a better choice. On the other hand, Ruby on Rails deals better with data persistence and data processing. If you need a more transactional application or a content-driven application, Ruby on Rails is likely going to be a better choice.
Ruby on Rails vs. Java. Which is better?
Java is more portable across different types of hardware and software platforms, so if you are planning to package up your applications for deployment in a wide variety of places, Java will work in a way Rails will not. Additionally, it is probable that Java performs better under load than Rails. (This is why Twitter eventually moved away from Ruby on Rails to Java for some of its core services.) However, Ruby on Rails is generally recognized as having the advantage of a faster development cycle.