A cheap application server for rails

Published on 03/19/09

When I got started as a freelancer back in 2007, I spent a little time developing a client website with rails that I could use to generate invoices for completed work. The app had been running on the same server that net-at-hand is running on, which was fine until I upgraded net-at-hand to rails 2.2 a couple months ago.

After the upgrade, I found myself looking for a way to get aib (an idea billing) off that server. I didn’t want to move it to my email serever because I didn’t want to have the expense of upgrading that server.

I have a server here at home (a hand-me-down quicksilver G4) that I thought of using, buy after some experimenting, I discovered that Cox, my ISP, blocks port 80 for inbound taffic. So I thought I was out of luck.

After a couple of days, it hit me that I could just use my server at home as an application server, with requests going to my net-at-hand server, but then Nginx proxying the requests to my appplication server on port 3000.

Obviously for a production setup of a major site, this might not be the best. It definitely is increasing bandwidth usage. But my billing site doesn’t get many visitors, and the websites responsiveness has definitely improved since the move. And I saved money in the process.

UPDATE
I’ve been thinking about this some more and I realized that the data going between my web server and my home-made application server is probably not encrypted. I am sure that I could remedy this, but I probably won’t any time soon. The information passing through is not really sensitive. I guess if one of my clients wants to pay a hacker thousands of dollars to find out how to erase an invoice of a couple hundred dollars, I should just let them have it.

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