Rails Deployment Tips with RimuHosting VPS

Weve been using`s VPS servers for a couple of small prototype style RoR applications that dont warrent the “full” treatment of their own dedicated servers in a clustered, redundent, scalable, etc environment. An example is my side project learning about the Semantic Web and Microformats: HighTechCville.

One of the parts that I really like about RimuHosting is there very complete use of the Webmin administrative console. The more I work with it, the more I like it. While the GUI isnt anything incredible, it is very serviceable. And you can pretty much do most SysAd tasks from it, from installing packages, which really surprised me, to setting up log file rotation.So here, in no specific order are some tips for folks doing a fairly plain jane RoR deployment on a RimuHosting VPS:

  1. Dont forget Log Rotation! We did some load testing for a day on one app and generated a 1.2 GB production.log! Webmin provides this under System -> Log File Rotation. You can easily rotate all your mongrel logs by doing /opt/apps/hightechcville/shared/log/mongrel.800*.log. By gzipping them you get much smaller files, and they will be pruned after 4 rotations. I did have an issue with BackgroundRB not being happy with the log file being moved under it, however I get so little output from that that when BackgroundRB restarts it resets the file.
  2. Process Monitoring! Under *Others -> System and Server Status *is the ability to monitor how your server is working. You can do both local monitoring, for database, processes, memory usage, but also you can check if you RoR app is up and running by adding a Remote HTTP Check, and just supply the url of your application. Whats nice is you can add a text pattern to look for, or to ensure isnt there, so you can check and verify you are NOT getting the usual Service Down or An Error has happened page. Of course, if your box goes down in a bad way, then you may not be notified, but its at least a quick and easy first step.
  3. Cron related tasks. Often we need timed processes to do a bunch of work. Before investing in the complexity of integrating something like BackgroundRB, can you do what you want via a Ruby script or write a Rake task? The invoke it from Cron. Alternatively, if you dont want something external to your Rails app, just add the periodic task code to some sort of RecurringJobController, and invoke it from cron via wget localhost:3000/recurring_job/run call! Sure, your mongrel will block, but if you have a cluster, who cares. You can also schedule this via a HTTP Remote Process check 😉
  4. Tweak Postfix? We really like the ExceptionNotification plugin for RoR, getting immediate notice of errors on lower traffic sites is great. However, we found that we had to tweak the local_recipient_maps setting to get email to be sent out, otherwise you get a 550 server error. Just go to Servers -> Postfix and choose edit config files. You want to edit the and set local_recipient_maps= so it is blank.

Got your own tips for easily setting up a reliable RoR app on a VPS, please let me know in the comments!