Best practices for maintaining shared hosting websites with ASP.NET and SQL Server?

I've been doing PHP/MySQL websites with shared hosting providers for the last couple years. The day-to-day process is basically:

  • develop in Eclipse, one website per folder
  • upload via FileZilla, one website per folder
  • use PHPMyAdmin to create and manage your local and online databases and transfer data from one to another
  • to backup the online database I do dump of the database tables into script and copy them locally

I now want to build websites with ASP.NET with SQL Server 2008 on shared hosting providers, and am trying to get into this new paradigm, hopefully some of you can give me some pointers based on your experience and tell me what I am not doing optimally:

  • I've installed both the Visual Web Developer 2008 Express as well as the full version of Visual Studio 2008, both seem to be full-featured tools for developing ASP.NET sites. In terms of websites at shared hosting providers, what can you do with the full version that you can't do with the express version?
  • I use FileZilla to upload my sites, which seems to work fine. Do you use an external FTP program to upload your sites or do you use the "Publish" or "FTP Website" in the above IDEs?
  • I installed SQL Server 2008 Management Studio and can now issue SQL commands to my online SQL Server database (although I strangely can't see my database in the list on the left, I can still access it, I assume this is some rights issue with my provider,, but this provider told me to use their online manager instead, which is called "ASP.NET Enterprise Manager" which is extremely simple but at least has a "Query Box" which allows me to send queries to my database.) Is this "ASP.NET Enterprise Manager" standard with ASP.NET hosters or is there something else that is better, e.g. where you could edit your data in the grid, etc.? And I assume that with most providers you are able to manage your online SQL Server database with SQL Server Management Studio, is that correct? (I remember back in 2001 managing online SQL Server 2000 database at a shared hosting provider with Enterprise Manager and it would take literally 10 minutes for me to see my database on the left because it listed out the other 800 customer databases as well -- hopefully this has been solved by now).
  • How do you backup your data in your online database to local storage? (currently I would have to write code that output my data to some other format, e.g. XML or SQL Script)
  • And after you make a number of structural and data changes to your local database, how do you transfer those changes and the new data to your online database? (I had to install SSMS Tools [] to be able to dump my data into a script so that I could get it back into my online database).

So, although I've gotten most things to work, I feel like there must be better ways to go about this, better providers, better tools, etc. Would like to hear some "best practices" advice from anyone who works with ASP.NET, SQL Server and shared hosting.


For the most part, what you're doing now will work with an website.

For your development environment, I don't think you will be limited by using Visual Web Developer 2008 express for what you want to do. Here is a microsoft page that compares every version of visual studio 2008, including Visual Web Developer 2008 Express: Visual Studio 2008 Product Comparison

For deploying your website over the net, I would generall stick to deploying manually. You can use some of the automated stuff in visual studio, but your deployment will tend to be a little slower. After compiling your application, it will then delete every file in your destination website, and upload everying from scratch (uncompressed I think). Your whole site will be down while this happens. When you deploy manually you can upload just the changed files, or everything in a compressed format.

Regarding the SQL server, many shared hosting services will let you connect with some sort of local SQL management tool. However, connecting this way generally uses a lot of bandwidth so they throttle the allowed bandwidth for this way down. This is probably the performance issues you previously saw. If you can get by with it, I would use their hosted SQL tools for most of your work, but then use the management studio for anything it can't handle.

For backing up your SQL server, if your host doesn't have a way for you to perform an automatic backup then you will have to do something yourself. I would first check to see if they will allow you to at least run a SQL backup command. This will generate a .bak file of your database, but on the local database server. Most places will work with you on this, since many customers need this.

For applying changes to your database, your best bet is to script all of the changes into one sql script and run it using the remote SQL management tool. These aren't hard to write, and there are a few tools out there that will help you with it. I personally like to use Visio. It lets me compare two databases (local and remote) then generate a script to apply to the remote one with all the changes.

Good luck

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