Over the past couple weeks,

Over the past couple weeks, I've worked on a variety of freelance web gigs, on a variety of website hosts. The biggest surprise has been the lack of standards in terms of basic server software deployment. I have a windows/apache/php dev environment at home, I have a remotely hosted FreeBSD/apache/php environment with my web/email host, and I have a windows/IIS/ColdFusion environment on my metafilter server. When I develop scripts for clients, it's usually something I can finish in an hour or two, test locally, then deploy on the server. And then the fun begins...

The integration and deployment has often doubled and tripled the development time. Given the array of apache configurations, php & perl configurations, and various levels of user security on each host, it made realistic budgeting of time and money nearly impossible. I guess I've been spoiled, running a couple servers myself with any features or rights I wanted. Apache and PHP restrictions seem the most surprising to me. They're open source applications, but for one reason or another the configuration of the services aren't shared in the same open source spirit.

I suppose if one host figures out how to give everyone full script access in any directory without compromising the security of others, that's an advantage in the crowded marketplace. When you shop for a host, they are rarely upfront with the technical details of their hosting setups. It makes me wish for a serious, development-oriented list of what website hosts really offer, with reviews of technical snags other developers have faced.