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My company's web server is on shared hosting which means we do not have SSH access.

I want to use GIT for our version control, but without SSH access I'm wondering whether or not it is acceptable to deploy my websites via FTP instead. Am I losing anything by taking this approach?

What might be the major pitfalls for using FTP and not SSH, if any?

Since we're a relatively small web consulting agency, could it be worth spending the extra money for a dedicated server?


This is what I imagine to be the pitfalls:

  • File management is Less Efficient
    • The extra effort made to upload only the files that were changed
    • Loss of push/pull/clone functionality on the server
  • Trivializes Having a Remote Central Repository (i.e. Github or BitBucket)
    • File management will always be from Local to Server...
    • ...never from Central Repository to Server or vice versa
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4  
This isn't the main question, but shared hosting does not mean no SSH access. I actually can't remember the last shared plan I had access to that presented this situation. So, as far as possibly moving to different hosting you're not necessarily looking for a dedicated server, just a host that gives you more access. –  Su' Jan 28 '12 at 10:35
    
I don't know what you pay for you shared hosting, but a VPS isn't really that expensive. –  PeeHaa Jan 28 '12 at 15:43
    
All the shared hosting plans I've looked into lately allow SSH. They offer Plesk or cPanel access for various much needed administrative tools. Time for an upgrade? Or to check if your current provider has another segment to their offerings? When I mentioned the need to move elsewhere for SSH, our hosting provider moved us to a lower count system they have for higher traffic sites at little cost over the original plan. Non-SSH was only to keep the cost down from user self-inflicted wounds. –  Fiasco Labs Jan 28 '12 at 19:28

2 Answers 2

I know this isn't what you asked about, but I have to fully agree with Su' in the comments: if your hosting provider doesn't give you SSH access, you should seriously start looking for a new provider.

It's not so much about the lack of SSH as such, but about the fact that your current provider apparently isn't giving you what's nowadays considered a very basic and standard feature of even cheapest web hosting packages. Such a lack IMO raises serious questions about their general competence and/or level of customer service.

From the provider's viewpoint, setting up SSH access has limited up-front costs (mainly to do with ensuring the security of the service and teaching their staff to admin it) and essentially zero running costs above the usual expenses of running a web hosting service. If they don't want to do it, the only explanations I can think of are that either:

  • they still live in the last millennium, and think that SSH is some newfangled thing that nobody really uses,

  • they're afraid of security issues caused by giving their users shell access, and lack the know-how to either provide secure shell access to their users or set up SCP/SFTP access without shell access, or

  • they do support SSH, but they're trying to nickel-and-dime you by charging extra for it.

In the first two cases, I'd seriously consider what that implies about the company's technical and security competence, particularly since most of the security issues associated with shell access are present anyway if the hosting company allows its customers to use any kind of server side scripting (PHP, CGI, ASP, Rails, etc.) at all.

As for the third case, it's of course a legit pricing strategy, even if it does feel a little bit unethical to me, both because it's basically a way to artifically lower the baseline price by charging extra for basic features they could provide for free at essentially no cost, and also because the feature they're charging extra for is a basic security feature. It's a bit like selling a really cheap car and then charging extra for seat belts.

Ultimately, of course, it's up to you whether you want to stick with your current hosting company and either pay extra for SSH or deal with the lack of it. Still, I'd like to point out that many providers these days do include full SSH access as standard even in low-end hosting packages. My suggestion would be to at least look around and see what choices you have.

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I second this. Any decent shared hosting provider would have SSH access as SFTP is pretty standard these days for security reasons. And I've been using shared hosting since at least 2001 and have never come across a shared hosting provider that didn't provide SSH access. Maybe the lesser ones only allow you to have a single SSH/SFTP account, but they all provided it as a standard feature. DreamHost costs less than $9/month and lets you create unlimited SSH/SFTP accounts. –  Lèse majesté Jan 28 '12 at 19:23
    
This is very interesting. I spoke directly to their support (hmm...maybe it was sales) folks and they said this: "Thank you for your patience , Mr Jeff . No, there is no way to use ssh in shared hosting, and in case it is mandatory you will need to contract a dedicated server" So yeah... I'll dig a little deeper and see if this wasn't just some sales BS. –  Jeff K. Jan 29 '12 at 0:06
    
Yup, Support confirms that there is no SSH access. So avoid iWeb.com if you want SSH and Shared Hosting :\ –  Jeff K. Jan 30 '12 at 18:49

Over ftp it loses it's point. My suggestion, keep your projects git'ed and when you have to upload it to shared hosting, don't upload git files.

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