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Art to Aid, Shopify to Spree, VPS to Ninefold – It’s All About Satisfaction

Blog by David Biagi from https://www.arttoaid.com

Several months ago we were reaching a critical point in Art to Aid’s development. We had begun using Shopify about six months prior to test our theory that creatives and consumers want to work together to create good in the world; at least ten percent of every sale on Art to Aid goes to support a charitable organization of the artist’s choosing. We were closing in on flipping the switch on our own custom platform built on the popular Ruby on Rails ecommerce platform Spree. I had been happily denying the need for a deployment strategy more complex than a capistrano task pushing out to a single VPS.

Platform as a service hosting is really popular right now, especially in the Ruby on Rails community, and for good reason. It allows you to offload all your system management concerns to the platform which then allows you to focus on continued improvements for your application and responding to the needs of your users. We were invited to try out Ninefold and it’s been an unanimously positive experience. Our marketplace has consistently great performance, deploying to the platform is a breeze and their service is incredible.

It all started when I attended SpreeConf in February and was quickly brought to reckoning with the realities of deploying a full scale ecommerce platform. I’d always known, in the back of my mind, that I could deploy to a PAAS with little fuss if need became apparent, but I wasn’t sure why they were becoming the default platform for so many of my friends and colleagues.

Enter the team at Ninefold, lead by Daniel Sim Lind. They gave an amazing presentation (slides here) about scaling applications on Ninefold and how their prices/performance compare to their competitors (cough Heroku cough). The presentation is really very good and has some great visuals to reinforce their point, but for me the sticking point is that Ninefold owns their own hardware (unlike Heroku which is basically a service layer for Amazon’s EC2) which allows their performance to be more consistent and keeps their prices low. Not to mention they’re working closely with the Spree team to make sure they’re optimized for the ecommerce platform.

I’ve been on Ninefold for about three months now, with the last four weeks or so being live. It’s been an amazing experience. Deployment is a joy, you tell Ninefold to watch a branch in your git repo and it deploys your app every time you push to the specified branch. The online dashboard is easy to use and has a great log viewer and options for adding hooks to run commands during the deploy process. Optimizing the site for performance was easy enough and it runs super quickly on Ninefold.

As I continued to develop on the platform I ran into some things that I can only describe as weird. For instance, I ran into a “Stack level too deep” error on Ninefold that I wasn’t getting on my local system. I submitted a bug report to Ninefold support and they were able to identify it as a bug in their platform and had it resolved the next day. I asked around and found that the platform is very young (launched December 2013), so they’re still working the kinks out. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty stinking close, and this brings me to my favorite part of Ninefold.

Ninefold has, without exception, the best customer service reps I’ve ever corresponded with. I’ve submitted several tickets and each one has been resolved in a timely manner by knowledgeable staff. Whether it’s a bug in their platform or an issue on my side, they’re always helpful and courteous. I’ve had several issues which, once resolved, lead me to wonder why they helped me at all instead of telling me to buzz off and fix my busted code. The overall effect is that every time I talk with a service rep I feel like I’ve got not just support for my hosting, but a QA team helping me improve my product.

We’ve been live on Ninefold for a while now and I love knowing that all my hard work is in good hands. My marketplace runs quickly because Ninefold works closely with Spree to optimize their platform, deployment is as easy as a git push to my production branch and I never have to wait to talk to a service rep if I botch something! I’m confident in the platform and I don’t have to worry about foundational issues like uptime, system admin and hardware maintenance. I can focus on my customers and their needs because Ninefold is focused on me and my needs. I am constantly delighted by their service and quality and look forward to growing my business on the Ninefold platform.