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Looking for the best hosting provider

Although I have had no problems with down time, billing, or customer support – in fact they were all great – but 1&1’s lack of support for the newest “LAMP” versions, or any new languages at that, has become a hindrance for me. So I’m looking for a place that offers the newest versions of PHP and MySQL etc; as well as equal or better support, uptime & features.

Here are my requirements, and if they match yours hopefully this will be of some help to you – because this whole searching blindly thing is not QUITE as fun as a sandpaper and gasoline massage, but it’s close.

My Requirements:

PHP5, MySQL5, access to the php.ini file, .htaccess file, cronjobs, unlimited sites & domains, a bandwidth limit suitable for about 75 sites, a reasonable amount of space, room to grow, non-copy & paste support, good uptime, reasonable price & backup options.

I don’t quite need, want to spend the time configuring, or want to pay outrageous amounts for a dedicated server, but having the option to install my own languages (or not ever need to) would be nice.

Holy crap don’t waste your time with these:
FatCow
MediaTemple
DreamHost
and really stay away from GoDaddy – don’t even think about it. I’ve got about 10 horror stories from clients about them screwing people over on billing – and they aren’t exactly known for their features or support either.

Look the best:
Rackspace/Mosso/SliceHost
ThisWebHost

Have heard is good but have not looked into yet:
A Small Orange, AN Hosting,

Still wondering about:
HostGator

Here are the rundowns:

FatCow

I signed up with FatCow, despite the fact that their site design made it very difficult to take them seriously. They did have all of the features I needed, and then some though. Once I set up a few sites, the ultra-cheap price (88/year normally but if you sign up through live chat and say the landing page you came to says $46 they’ll give you that price – don’t remember the link sorry.) became apparent. On any database applications i ran, server response time was on average 5 seconds and at worst 10 seconds – there’s a good 50/50 mix of these horrible delays. And there are a bunch of times when the server just times out. But, if you are running a simple brochure style site the response times are great – on average 0.3 seconds. I went into their live chat tech support and the conversation went something like this:
Me: “I’m having slow response times on this and this” them: “it is fast here” me: “I’m checking on multiple networks, and even running some virtual tests – all of them are 9 seconds.” them: “It is speedy”. Knowing that it was really not I asked: “Is this just normal for FatCow?” this went back and forth for a bit more and then they pasted a VERY generic script into the chat window requesting me to email them, with 9 questions for me to answer that had absolutely nothing to do with my problem. I emailed them (with my issue, not the off-topic questions obviously), and they replied in a few hours saying that it is a shared server, and there is nothing they can do. I appreciated the honesty. So, 46 or 88 dollars (either is ultra cheap) gets you a decent static page website host for the whole year – not bad at all… but it’s not what I need.

ThisWebHost

I have not signed up with ThisWebHost but I emailed them with a few of my requirements and they had this to say:

1. Yes, you will have access to .htaccess, your own php.ini file and cronjobs from within Cpanel.
2. We are running Ver 5.0.67 of MySQL on our shared boxes. Apache, MySQL and PHP are updated immediately when vulnerabilities are discovered and patched.
3. Offsite backups would be restored manually, and it would take time for this process to occur.
4. We run a variety of OS’s on our shared servers.
5. We do not offer the ability to go over your bandwidth allowance. You will, however, receive multiple warnings at at least 75% capacity to inform you that you are nearing your bandwidth limit and need to take measures to increase this accordingly.
6. We support all typical web languages. If there’s a language you require that isn’t installed, we would investigate this on an individual basis.
7. Our MySQL server response is currently in milliseconds (less than 1 second). Given that PHP is usually used in conjunction with MySQL, it really depends on the code as to the response time of the site itself. Currently we have had no complaints of any “slow” sites, and have often been informed we are faster than the likes of MediaTemple, etc.

Numbers 3 and 5, are the things that kept me from signing up with them. I am however tempted to cancel FatCow, and sign up with them as a free option for my clients. If you only have a few sites to host that get moderate traffic (less than 100,000 views a month) – definitely look into them. Oh and, they also help pick up the slack that your web designer left and ACTUALLY help fix code errors for you. That’s pretty impressive for a hosting company to offer.

Mosso / Rackspace

I think my search is already over. I learned that you get what you pay for when it comes to hosting and decided to bite the bullet and sign on with Mosso (Rackspace is the parent company). It was between them and MediaTemple, but after hearing some awful things (similar to the server response times with FatCow + other problems with support), talking with both companies, and some colleagues – the decision was effortless – to the point that I am now a strong supporter & believer in this wonderful company. First off, they actually have INTELLIGENT COHERENT INTERESTED english speaking people on the line when you call or use their live chat. What??? I was pretty much convinced that this didn’t exist anymore. Honestly, that was just a dream list – but I think Mosso has it. Besides the stellar 24/7 support they: have all the new LAMP versions, access to all the files I need, suitable amount of bandwidth & space, room to grow & unlimited domains (they don’t even make an issue out of it – because it shouldn’t be). So all of this starts at $100 a month with their CloudSites package. Sadly, in order to get SSL it is $20 more a month. And if I ever want to install a Ruby on Rails or other type of application that isn’t supported in CloudSites I’ll have to start a “CloudServer” for $0.015 an hour. Since I’ve never expressed interest in learning RoR, this isn’t a huge problem to me – but even if I have, that is not that much to pay for a configurable server. ( here is a comparison of their CloudServer and Amazon’s EC2, couldn’t find one from an outside source, but I doubt they are lying about any of this ) I chose the CloudSites over managed hosting (a rackspace service) because I simply just don’t need it, and like getting some of the attributes of a rack without paying 500 a month.

I’ve been with the service a few days now, and I can still say that the support is beyond anything you would ever expect. The amount of CPU cycles that you get per month worried me, but after I looked into the (approximate) equivalent page views i would need in order exceed the limit, i’m not worried – and if I ever come close I can simply upgrade to the $250 a month plan and be covered for double. (at .01 a cpu cycle it would be much less – about $800 cheaper)

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Update 5/12/2009: Two ones does not equal a right… If you ever try transferring ownership of a domain AWAY from 1&1, you can expect to do such fun things as: logging in to a separate web site, clicking on 3-5 confirmation links on the site and in separate emails, FAXing them your signature, then waiting 5 days for them to start the transfer. You also must tell them a secret that you’ve never told anyone before – mine was that I hate them.

Update 7/9/2009: Still managing to be impressed by rackspace/mosso. They have a blog site that keeps their users updated (and consequently creates an archive) about problems, a user forum, and their support is still leaps and bounds beyond any other host I’ve tried. I did run into a few packages I needed installed – but luckily I can quickly create a new server and set it up how I want. I’ll have to learn command line linux or hire someone to do this – but that’s just how it is.

Update 6/8/2010: Or “Update on my experience with Mosso..which is now just called Rackspace“: I am still absolutely happy with Rackspace. They help with things they don’t need to. This is the best way I can describe their customer service; they go above and beyond.   They help with things that aren’t even their problems. Over a year with them, and I have only had one issue with double billing for 2-3 domains. However they say they are correcting it right now.

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6 Comments

Posted by on April 23, 2009 in Hosting

 

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