January 18, 2016

When a friend and I started our technology business 11 years ago in 1997, we didn’t choose FreeBSD, it chose us. But we’re sure glad it did, and we came to build our company on FreeBSD.

As a small website design and web application development firm, we didn’t intend to get into the web hosting business. We started hearing from our clients that they would appreciate being able to host their site through the same provider that built it for them, and so we decided to try offering that service as a convenience. The local Internet service provider that we were sharing office space with had a FreeBSD 2.1 box with space on it, so we get our username and password, and we were up and running.

When we got big enough to need our own server for site hosting, we didn’t spend too much time looking around at the options. The consensus at the time (1998 now) was that Linux, FreeBSD and NetBSD were all basically the same, and that it was mostly a matter of preference and what kind of commercial support was available to help you through any rough patches (though the license wars certainly raged on even then). With our friends at the ISP sitting just on the other side of the bookshelves, we knew we had some of the best FreeBSD product support we could hope for.

In 2000, our business model had largely shifted into building database driven website applications, and the expectations for what features came with a web hosting service had expanded significantly. We were no longer just providing web hosting with Apache on FreeBSD – we knew we needed to support an expanding reliance on the PostgreSQL and MySQL database systems, the qmail and vpopmail e-mail systems and other dedicated services. We started building new servers as dedicated single function boxes, and in each case, it was a no-brainer to install FreeBSD. Our use of the ports system to turn it into just the kind of box we needed saved us lots of time along the way. As we’ve transitioned into more “mainstream” hosting platforms like our use of cPanel, FreeBSD is still powering it behind the scenes.

You may not necessarily need to hear that FreeBSD is a reliable platform for running Internet services. But I think it’s important to remember that software like FreeBSD is affecting the way that people live their lives every day, whether it’s supporting businesses like ours, enabling hobbyists just getting into open source software, or any of the thousands of other “real world” roles it plays.

For much of the world, choice of operating system is an arbitrary decision to make. We believe that for us, it’s made all the difference in building a successful business.

– Chris Hardie, co-founder, Summersault Website Development