Hosting with Pantheon

January 22, 2013

You may have heard of Pantheon the fairly new Drupal-oriented, hosting provider in San Francisco. I had used GoDaddy, GreenGeeks and Bluehost before; All of them offer automated installation of Drupal and automated core updates. I had developed a workflow around these hosting providers, ftp for file system, phpMyAdmin to upload a database dump, etc., and thought that was as good as it gets for low-cost hosting.

When I heard about Pantheon I signed up for a free account, expecting the usual and was blown away by what I found. I could get a site up-and-running within a couple of minutes. It was a matter of clicking just a couple of buttons and I had a site running. The code of this site was located in a Git repository and in my dashboard there was a command to be copied into my terminal that allowed me to download the code base instantly. I needed to get an SSH key and upload it to my account. Not a big deal, they guide you through all steps.

Pantheon is built around a very clean workflow that separates a Drupal site into three parts: the code base, the file folder and the database. Synching and migrating is as easy as clicking a button.

I develop all my Drupal sites on my local dev setup: Mac, MAMP, PHPStorm, Expresso, and had used Git/GitHub for version control. Pantheon fits right into this flow. The site Git repository replaces GitHub. By pushing to the Pantheon Git repository I upload the codebase for my site. Two easy file uploads, one for the file folder, and one for the database and the Pantheon site is up-to-date.

But that is only the development site of the Pantheon setup. Actually, each site has three site instances, a dev, a test, and a live site. After I push my latest code to Pantheon I can test it online at Once I have a stable release and want to expose it to a larger test audience I synch the dev site with the test site - click one button, wait a minute, and voila, I have a site running in an instant at Once the site has passed the testing phase I do the same to promote it to and I am live. I can update the data on my test or dev instance at any time with the live site, again just one click is necessary. "It is just that easy", to quote Steve Jobs. It is very simple to add a custom domain name and becomes I can go on but I’d encourage anybody who builds Drupal sites for a living to check out their documentation at

But... there is always a but, isn’t there? Pantheon is reasonably priced, however, I do work with non-profits at times and unfortunately, the price is sometimes an issue. Especially, if you need to run SSL, you must sign up for the PRO service level and $100 per month is a little steep for some small organizations.

Nevertheless, Pantheon is a great addition to the Drupal ecosystem and I’ll recommend it to all my clients who are looking for hosting services.