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Things To Look For In a Web Hosting Company?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the secret-underground-layer dept.

The Internet 456

v1x writes "I have had an account with my current web hosting company for a few years, with 3 domains being hosted there (using Linux/PHP/MySQL). Recently, all three of these websites stopped functioning, and upon checking the site, all my directory structures were intact, whereas all of the files were gone. Upon contacting their technical support, I was given the run-around, and later informed by one of their administrators that none of the files could be restored. Needless to say that I am looking for a different web hosting company at this point, but I would like to make a more informed choice than I did with the current company. I have read a similar Slashdot article (from 2005) on the topic, but the questions posed there were slightly different." Reader mrstrano has a similar question: "I am developing a web application and, after registering the domain, I am now looking for a suitable web hosting provider. It should be cheap enough so I can start small, but should allow me to scale up if the web site is successful (as I hope). The idea is simple enough so I do not need other investors to implement it. This also means that I don't have a lot of money to put on it at the moment. Users of the website will post their pictures (no, it's not going to be a porn website), so scalability might be an issue even with a moderately high number of users. I would like to find a good web hosting provider from day one, so I don't have to go through the pain of a data migration. Which web host would you choose?"

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Things I look for (5, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#31224900)

Do they use Linux only? I only want Linux hosting, and mixed providers are always trying to push you over into Windows hosting because they're being incentivized to do so. I've been around and don't need to hear that pitch again.

Effectively unlimited domains, bandwidth, storage and MySql databases, email accounts, FTP accounts - multiple user accounts I can lock down to one domain or folder for these because I might want to job out management for a domain or subdomain. Because I never know today what I'm going to be using it for, and this is a long term relationship that's challenging to get out of.

Cheap domains - under $15 a year. As many as you want on one hosting account, because I collect them as a hobby.

PHP, Perl and Python of course.

Ease of migration away. I figure if there's a button on their interface to release my domains to another registrar they'll try and keep me with good service rather than difficult migration.

Reasonable policies about certificates and dedicated IP addresses. Because I might want to open a store.

Reasonably easy and flexible setup of web apps, because I might want to run a package. Self-help configuration because I'm always fiddling with things after business hours.

I like BlueHost. No, I don't work for them but they've been making me happy for quite a while.

Re:Things I look for (5, Informative)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#31224946)

Effectively unlimited domains, bandwidth, storage and MySql databases

Be somewhat realistic. Not even Google provides unlimited storage space for their services. You get what you pay for.

Re:Things I look for (3, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225066)

It's not actually unlimited, but it's effectively unlimited storage for hosting purposes. You can't use it for backup. But there's no cap - if you're using it for your website it's permitted. I guess enough people pay the full ride for their mini websites to make up for the piglets. Anyway, it says unlimited right on their home page and nobody's ever bothered me about storage. If one day their word is no good I guess I'll take my business somewhere else. But for now, no worries.

Likewise you don't get unlimited FTP accounts and MySQL databases - but 1000 and 100 is close enough to unlimited for my purposes. Hell, this is starting to read like an ad. If you don't believe me, check it out for yourself.

Re:Things I look for (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225158)

I'm just saying, don't be pissed when "unlimited" suddenly turns into not-so-unlimited. It's not like they're going to let you eat up hundreds of GB of space for $10/year.

Re:Things I look for (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225090)

Lunarpages essentially has unlimited everything, for $5 a month. However, they don't have good support for a non-PHP apps (i.e. Python/Django, which is why I switched).

Re:Things I look for (4, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225146)

Yep. All hosting resources are finite, so anybody offering anything "unlimited" is clearly overselling what they have. I'd look for somebody who quotes a higher-than-I'll-ever-need number as proof that they're limiting potential hogs.

Re:Things I look for (3, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225282)

1TB of storage costs $150 including the server. If even 10% of the userbase was such a hog it would still work out fine for them. Apparently they don't have that sort of problem that I know about - it's been advertised unlimited for years now and if they were capping people we'd have heard about it. There would be posts to that effect right here in this thread.

Re:Things I look for (1)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225368)

1TB of storage at $150 is not including any redundancy.

If quoted less than 20 cents a GB (using 2010 prices) then it's almost certain there is no redundancy, let alone a dedicated storage infrastructure to provide failover if the server dies.

Re:Things I look for (1, Redundant)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225428)

Amazon S3 charged $153.60/month to store 1TB of data. That doesn't count the cost to get the data into S3 or to get it back out. Storage (disk) is cheap. Power, network, and cooling for that storage costs something, as does redundancy (1TB is really 2TB of storage if you want it redundant).

Re:Things I look for (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225056)

I like BlueHost. No, I don't work for them but they've been making me happy for quite a while.

I also like BlueHost. No, I don't work for them either, but they've been making me happy for quite a while too.

There was one month when my site got a lot of traffic. Over 100 GB of bandwidth. It was handled smoothly.

I also like that they offer ssh access to your VM.

Re:Things I look for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225058)

Uh, Bluehost does mixed hosting. I guess that shoots the shit out of your first point.

Re:Things I look for (1)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225184)

I've used arvixe http://www.arvixe.com for our clients hosting packages. They offer free domain name for life, and charge $4/mo for the basic linux hosting plan. Which includes backups and lots of other goodies, Most of the sites aren't traffic or resource heavy, but they offer higher tiered plans for those who need it. When I needed tier II support, I've gotten to the owner of the company!

Re:Things I look for (1)

uglybugger (1188791) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225228)

I had a couple of disastrous experiences with Bluehost, including having accounts suspended for generic ToS violation without notification and SSH access suspended because they'd changed their policies. They now require a copy of some photo identification, which is fine, but they didn't notify me and simply disabled access. Not good when sites are being published and backed up via rsync.

I've since discovered that even after I'd closed my account with them, they kept my personal and domain details despite being expressly instructed to remove them.

It depends on how much privacy and reliability mean to you, I guess.

Re:Things I look for (1)

c0y (169660) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225240)

Do they use Linux only? I only want Linux hosting, and mixed providers are always trying to push you over into Windows hosting because they're being incentivized to do so. I've been around and don't need to hear that pitch again.

Eh, that may be true in some cases. My employer provides hosting on linux and windows because some of our customers (who are also buying our bandwidth at their offices and want a single point of billing/support for all their Internet services) are developing .NET apps and want the native platform.

So, quite often the Windows is there simply to appease the customers who want it. We just as often go the other way. When customers ask us to install PHP on their windows host, we point them to the linux servers instead (as I have a rule about keeping technologies on their native platforms whenever possible).

Re:Things I look for (5, Interesting)

samkass (174571) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225316)

For $15 a year you're not going to get a world-class hosting service. If you look at the hosting providers that mon.itor.us show above 99% uptime, you tend to see similar names every year. Pair.com is my favorite-- they always have great performance and near-perfect uptime. I've been using them for 12 years or so and I've never seen my site down for one minute. They're not the cheapest, but the poster didn't sound like he was looking for the cheapest-- he wants the ones that's reliable and that he won't have to worry about, ever.

(I don't work for them, just a happy customer.)

Re:Things I look for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225330)

Effectively unlimited domains, bandwidth, storage and MySql databases, email accounts, FTP accounts

If you're looking for a more professional hosting company stay far away from anyone who offers "unlimited storage and bandwidth". That's called overselling and what it means is that they assume your site gets hardly any traffic and you don't care about uptime/customer service. You do get what you pay for and, in my experience, anyone who offers you "unlimited bandwidth and storage" is offering a sub-par product.

Re:Things I look for (2, Informative)

fm6 (162816) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225504)

I gotta tell you dude, you have some very strange priorities.

Do they use Linux only? I only want Linux hosting, and mixed providers are always trying to push you over into Windows hosting because they're being incentivized to do so. I've been around and don't need to hear that pitch again.

That's not my experience. And in any case, choosing a host with such a minor issue as your prime criteria... jeez.

I just bailed on JustHost, which is a Linux only company. They pulled all kinds of sales gimmicks on me. I would have tolerated them if they provided better service.

Cheap domains - under $15 a year. As many as you want on one hosting account, because I collect them as a hobby.

Are you under the impression you have to get domain registration and hosting from the same company? Because you don't.

PHP, Perl and Python of course.

They have these things. Installing them is not rocket science. It's more important to know what version they have. It's a royal pain to have your scripts break on you because your provider hasn't gotten around to upgrading.

Ease of migration away. I figure if there's a button on their interface to release my domains to another registrar they'll try and keep me with good service rather than difficult migration.

As I mentioned before, you don't have to keep hosting and registration at the same company. All you have to do is tell your registrar to use the DNS servers belonging to whatever host you use.. I'm pretty sure they all make that pretty easy — if you don't you shouldn't use them.

I abandoned Dreamhost a long time ago because of their regular outages [google.com] . (What sucks is that Dreamhost is the best by every other measure. But if the system is down when you need it to be up, nothing else matters.) I still keep my domain there because it's only $10 a year, and their web GUI for managing it is first rate. One reason I switched to justhost was their promise of free domain registration. Then I discovered that justhost charges $10/year just to anonymize my WHOSIS record! Fortunately, they also botched my domain transfer....

Reasonable policies about certificates and dedicated IP addresses. Because I might want to open a store.

Once again, you don't have get certificates from your provider, though it is handy to get them that way. But what's really important is that the provider understand certificates. Typically, they'll mess up the certificate you need to access your email server over SSL, which can be a pain to deal with.

Reasonably easy and flexible setup of web apps, because I might want to run a package. Self-help configuration because I'm always fiddling with things after business hours.

It's also helpful if the web apps you need are supported....

Cut to the chase picture "website" (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31224918)

You're going to run a *chan site..

Better than shared hosting... (3, Informative)

eld101 (1566533) | more than 3 years ago | (#31224930)

100X better than simply web hosting... Linode [linode.com]

Re:Better than shared hosting... (2, Interesting)

gadny (1097657) | more than 3 years ago | (#31224980)

I just got a Linode account and I like the service a lot. I also use Slicehost [slicehost.com] for several small sites, which is almost identical in terms of service offernings (although a little more expensive bang-for-the-buck-wise), but reliable, and you get snapshot backups for $5 extra/month.

Re:Better than shared hosting... (2, Interesting)

wdsci (1204512) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225062)

I was going to say the same, that Linode looks good but there are other VPS companies worth considering. I've been with Slicehost for a year or so and I'm quite happy with it, except for the fact that their cost per unit {RAM,disk space,bandwidth} is a little higher than Linode and Slicehost seems unwilling or unable to completely close that gap. There's also the possibility of using a cloud server, which typically lets you be more flexible in paying for only the resources you really need. Regardless, a VPS is only the kind of thing to consider if you know how to (or want to learn how to) administer a Linux server from the kernel up. Some people don't want to get involved at that level and for them, shared hosting is a perfectly viable option.

Re:Better than shared hosting... (2)

gadny (1097657) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225178)

Yeah I second this caveat –you DO have to install everything from the ground up, but frankly it's worth the time to learn to install a LAMP or Rails stack, and doubly worth the time to optimize away all the stuff you don't need. Besides, Apache administration is fun!

Re:Better than shared hosting... (4, Informative)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225060)

Second the linode recommendation. The staff are responsive and even proactive if there is a potential issue with their servers, and the management system is simple without being restrictive. We recently started using our own kernel, because you can.

They score highly in performance benchmarks as well, which I can verify from over a year of managing 6 linodes, they're really fast.

http://journal.uggedal.com/vps-performance-comparison [uggedal.com]

Re:Better than shared hosting... (2, Informative)

duguk (589689) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225190)

100X better than simply web hosting... Linode [linode.com]

Agreed. Though running services can be bad for beginners, its a lot more adaptable than getting someone else to do it. The amount you can do with any VPS is far and beyond what any shared hosting will do, but keeping it secure is important.

I've now got two Linodes [linode.com] , one in the UK and one in Atlanta, and they're both excellent. Great value for money and speed. Only had one 2 hour period of downtime and they were keeping everyone very well informed. Their support staff are excellent and I can't recommend them enough. Upgrading a linode [linode.com] and their pricing for it is just too easy. Bandwidth and latency, even for running small gaming servers is awesome!

Re:Better than shared hosting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225200)

One thing I've always wondered about that kind of host... If you use a virtual-server, presumably you're responsible for OS & webserver security patches? Whereas with traditional shared hosting, it's Someone Else's Problem.

(Obviously, virtual servers give you much more power, but you get the responsibility to go with it).

Re:Better than shared hosting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225420)

I've only held one for about a month now, but shopping around for the best priced Xen VPS out there lead me to Cybercon - vservercenter.com

Service is decent. Sometimes a little slow. But the bandwidth rated on mbps rather than GB per month is what really appeals to me.

Also, its in the US. Which is where my own customers will be.

Re:Better than shared hosting... (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225496)

100X better than simply web hosting... Linode [linode.com]

Far better, yes. But you have to know a little about the command line and some sysadmin kind of stuff, or at least have time to learn as you go.

NearlyFreeSpeech.net (5, Informative)

Stile 65 (722451) | more than 3 years ago | (#31224936)

I've had great luck with http://nearlyfreespeech.net/ [nearlyfreespeech.net] - they're security-conscious, anti-spam, pay-only-for-what-you-use, and I like their political pro-privacy and pro-free speech stance. I have a feeling most of the people here at Slashdot would be very comfortable with them. They run FBSD, not Linux, but it's really not that huge a difference for web development.

Make sure you read the caveats about what will and won't work with their service. Things like Django and RoR won't really work because of the need for a persistent process, and they don't yet have support for cron jobs (but they're working on it - it's difficult because of the way they're set up). OTOH, MVC frameworks for PHP like CodeIgniter will work just fine, and they've got Catalyst installed for Perl coders. They do make it very clear about what they do and don't support, though.

Re:NearlyFreeSpeech.net (2, Informative)

Stile 65 (722451) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225014)

And while I'm at it, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES go with aventurehost.com. Seriously shitty service, and they renege on what they promise their customers. A few years ago I paid them $200 for a "lifetime" hosting account that I barely used, mainly for DNS and mail and some dev work. As of the beginning of this year, everyone who had such an account was essentially SoL and they were charging $40/year (IIRC) to continue the subscription on the accounts. I told them in no uncertain terms I wouldn't be renewing, and they still kept sending me invoices trying to get me to stay with them. They're idiots when it comes to system maintenance, too, because after every "upgrade" or "migration" they do, they expect you to put in a ticket to get your account restored. Only reason I stayed with them as long as I did was that it was essentially free after I paid for the initial "lifetime" account.

Re:NearlyFreeSpeech.net (1)

ThinkingInBinary (899485) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225250)

I'd like to second this. I'm only using them for my personal sites, but their service runs fairly well, and their pay-for-usage model is neat. Their web interface for members is also elegant -- simple, not bogged down with graphics, works great in text browsers or from a phone.

Re:NearlyFreeSpeech.net (1)

jadin (65295) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225426)

I third this.

While reading their FAQ explaining how and why they run their business, I was very quickly convinced that this was who I wanted to host my domain(s). I've never regretted that decision.

I guess a thank you is in order to the "slashdot collective". I never would have found their site without a suggestion from here.

Hosts I use (3, Informative)

turtleAJ (910000) | more than 3 years ago | (#31224942)

I currently use 2 hosting companies for various things:
1st - BlueHost.com
I have the best things to say about BlueHost.com
No affiliation, other than very happy with the service and support.

2nd - Tech.coop
Unlimited!

The last one I want to mention is:
PriorityColo.com
http://prioritycolo.com/ [prioritycolo.com]

Why? Because they have the balls to tell "big shot lawyer companies" to STFU when they send shaky take-down notices.

Hope that helps! =)

Re:Hosts I use (2)

Stile 65 (722451) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225068)

Man, Tech.coop looks awesome. Thanks for the suggestion, I might join it shortly!

Re:Hosts I use (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225278)

I second BlueHost. I've been a customer for several years, and i've been pretty happy. They keep rehashing their advertised bandwidth and storage (they both now say unlimited, vs 300gb and 2tb when i first signed up iirc). The important things, though:

-Linux only
-50 MySQL databases puts a realistic limit on the account
-Servers are very beefy but slightly oversold
-SSL costs $45 a year
-SSH is available but requires some hoop jumping with faxing ID and whatnot

I've been a bit unhappy lately with page load times, but their CPanel setup and integration with Simple Scripts makes up for it. I figure for ~$100 a year I'm getting my money's worth.

Free trials. (3, Informative)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#31224950)

It probably doesn't apply to either of your projects, but if you're starting from scratch, Google App Engine [google.com] might be a good candidate. Advantages: Starts out free, and it's by Google, so yes, it scales. When you have to start paying, it's pay-as-you-go like Amazon, but only for the cycles you actually use, since it's an entirely managed solution.

Like I said -- probably doesn't apply. It won't run PHP (that I know of), and mrstrano didn't specify what his shiny new app is being developed in. But if it's early enough, and if you're willing to trust Google...

Re:Free trials. (2, Informative)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225086)

You can insulate yourself from App Engine lock-in by developing your app for Django, which is then portable to a standard server if App Engine turns out to be a problem.

I did recently drop AE for one of my projects because their urlfetch service was returning odd results, and database operations were failing multiple times per day.

Re:Free trials. (2, Interesting)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225332)

You can insulate yourself from App Engine lock-in by developing your app for Django, which is then portable to a standard server if App Engine turns out to be a problem.

That works, to a point. Similarly, you can develop your app in Ruby, for Datamapper, with the dm-appengine plugin -- and yes, it'll even run Rails.

But ultimately, you're going to want to use some Appengine-specific features. But even then, people have made Appengine-compatible APIs for Hadoop.

their urlfetch service was returning odd results,

That would be interesting to know about.

database operations were failing multiple times per day.

That's actually normal, and by design, which is part of why it'd be hard to develop something truly portable.

See, appengine uses optimistic locking. That means if two instances try to simultaneously update the same entity (or entity-group), the first one to finish will succeed, and the other one will fail. The normal approach is to try again, something like 3-5 times, and your transactions should be small and idempotent.

All of those are desirable qualities for the kind of webapps I want to build, but they aren't a good fit for everything.

Try and try again (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#31224954)

I've moved around Web hosts a few times for similar reasons, most of which amount to general incompetence on the part of the hosts. Often the host would start out fine, seem great, and then after a while the outages, increased latency, and other problems would mount. By the time I found myself getting in touch with the host's tech support regularly, I would realize how bad it really was. Eventually I felt I had no choice but to go elsewhere, and I was back in the same boat as before. I've come to believe that's just life when you're not willing to pay a lot for Web hosting.

Hosting Matters (1)

Emnar (116467) | more than 3 years ago | (#31224962)

...so I use Hosting Matters [hostmatters.com] . Been using them for years, they're cheap, provide MySQL and cpanel access, sftp, and ssh (if you ask). Their rates are reasonable, and -- bonus -- every time I've filed a help ticket, I've gotten a response in hours*, and it's always been knowledgeable.

*Once it took 12 hours (essentially overnight) and the support rep apologized for taking so long.

Transparency (2, Interesting)

Xeoz (1648225) | more than 3 years ago | (#31224970)

Personally, I have to look for a hosting company with active public forums and public conversations between users and the staff. This makes all of the difference in the world. You don't want a company that is trying to hide from you. The more public communication and discussion the better. IRC is always a plus. Other key points: Good contact information, good references on the web... and a good web site. After all a hosting company should be web savvy enough to not be using tables and HTML 4 frames.

Amazon S3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31224986)

That's it.

webhostingpad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225002)

I've hosted PHP/MySQL based sites on godaddy.com, but found their admin interface (full of annoying flashy ads) too cumbersome. I shifted over to webhostingpad.com and love their hosting controls.

Brad Beckett Reviews UberHost.net (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225004)

I have a very large blog, it's #2 on Google search for my niche. I used to use a small company that "was just starting" so their prices were great. That comapny, HostingZoom & ResellerZoom changed their ToS and stabbed me in the back. I ran to a hosting company that was run by a guy in the next city over who offered me a great price too and since he didn't mind what I was blogging about, and it was a man band, I knew it would never changed.

Whats more is whenever I had a question he was available on the phone, online, or via e-mail and never seemed to take a break. Like me he was up overnight and knew hosting distro's of Linux better then I did. I highly suggest UberHost.net

You'll never call somebody in Tech Support then them have to ask their "supervisor" and then never to call you back again. Your problem will be resolved then, and unlike other hosting companies, the Tech your talking to has Root access to all his own servers. He has a great Managed Dedicated Server program too!

I have since had to move on to a wholesale bandwidth provider becuase 2000 GB of bandwidth was just not enough for me anymore, but I'll always remember how helpful Uberhost.net was.

Try Webfaction. Here's why: (2, Interesting)

Mantic (115217) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225010)

I have been VERY pleased with Webfaction. They are basically a bunch of geeks that make web hosting a pleasure for other geeks. Their servers have all the latest tools, dev packages, and they have an automated application install for over 20 different applications (PHP, Ruby, Python, etc etc). Their support system is fast and competent, and I've learned a ton on their community forums.

If they don't have a particular app that you want, it's not that difficult to download and install it yourself.

http://www.webfaction.com/ [webfaction.com]

If you DO decide to join, don't be afraid to use me as your referrer: http://www.webfaction.com?affiliate=mantic [webfaction.com]

Slicehost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225020)

I've been using virtual private servers with Slicehost for a couple years now and absolutely love them.

Avoid Westhost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225040)

Because they have just gone down for the last 24 hours without any real notice as to why and are going to be down for the next 12.

LowEndBox (3, Interesting)

Secret300 (637258) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225054)

LowEndBox [lowendbox.com] is a great website that compares low-end virtual private server providers.

The basics (1)

bigbird (40392) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225072)

Your hosting company must offer 24x 7 telephone support. If they do not, go elsewhere.

They must offer full access via SSH. Obviously PHP, MySQL, unlimited email accounts and as much bandwith as possible is also required.

I'd also recommend you register your domain names with a registrar unrelated to your hosting provider, so you can quickly and easily swap hosts.

I use godaddy for domain names, and liquidweb for hosting. Both are large enough not to disappear overnight, and are very responsive to queries.

Isn't it a (2, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225092)

Good thing you had back ups. Right?

DreamHost (4, Informative)

agrif (960591) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225094)

I have had a good experience with DreamHost [dreamhost.com] . Their support is snappy and helpful, and the people who work there seem generally kind. They have a fine set of dreamhost-specific howtos maintained on their wiki, and a powerful but easy to use panel for administration.

They run linux boxes with the full complement of command line tools (with compilers and everything!), and the only restriction is no persistent processes. If you want to do that, you can buy their pricier private server option which gives you your own private server instance.

They have some great terms of use (as far as storage and bandwidth are concerned), and their prices are reasonable. I got a great deal a while back on two years of hosting, and now I'm hooked on the service.

Re:DreamHost (1)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225218)

I have used Dreamhost for a few years now and have also been very pleased with their service. Not only are their prices reasonable but they provide plenty of tools to either help you set stuff up or to let you do it yourself completely. And not only are their prices reasonable, but their overage prices are still reasonable. My wife recently discovered that some big PDFs and images she had were being hotlinked to a forum and was getting perilously close to going over our bandwidth, and she found that it's a dime per GB per month. Given their already generous plans, if you suddenly get slashdotted and get hit with an extra 50GB of transfer, you'd be out all of $5.

Re:DreamHost (1)

Nightshade (37114) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225268)

i definitely second dreamhost. They had a bit of a screwup with billing a while back (search the web), but was quickly reversed. And as the other person said, i haven't had any problems and what they give you for the money is great.

another good choice if you want a dedicated server and have a bit more to spend is m5hosting [m5hosting.com] . they let you pretty much pick your OS of choice (*BSD or the main Linux distros) and give you root access. their customer service is also fantastic.

Re:DreamHost (1)

cppmonkey (615733) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225272)

Ditto on Dreamhost. They've been good to me. But whatever you do not use Powweb their service sucks and their billing is always messed up.

Re:DreamHost (1)

HazE_nMe (793041) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225326)

Another Dreamhost user here. Right now you can get a $97 discount with a promo code (ccc97).
Your 1st year works out to a little over $20 and $120 per year thereafter.
Unlimited bandwidth, storage, and domains.
Shell access is a plus, although I only use it for pulling files from other sites with wget or lynx.
So far I am very pleased with them.

Re:DreamHost (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225340)

Seconding Dreamhost.

I also use Lunarpages. They've never given me any trouble. Great host. However, you get way more from Dreamhost, including Ruby on Rails and (IIRC) Subversion.

No, *avoid* DreamHost... (2, Interesting)

weston (16146) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225344)

... unless you know you're going to be using them to operate a website that isn't ever going to see real traffic and will never have critical uptime needs.

Here's why: DreamHost accounts have two sets of rules: the ones they sell you on, and the other ones they're counting on you adhering to. That's right, they oversell. On purpose. They know it, and they admit it, and they have their little rationale as to why it isn't a problem, but it is.

Here's an example: their "unlimited" storage offer. They make this kind of offer betting that most people can't even come up with a use for half that (or, more accurate, courting the segment of the market that won't). They're right in that the vast majority of websites will never have more than tens of gigabytes of contents, and they *say* they're willing to put up with the hassle of the few that do.

But the problem is, if you offer a service, eventually, some significant number of people will find a way to use it. I noticed, for example, that their storage offer (a mere 200GB three years ago) essentially made them the cheapest game in town for backing up a lot of data to a remote location, as well as being a pretty good web hosting deal, so I decided to move some of my hosting over, and take advantage of the space for backup. Gradually other people noticed this to, and so over time, people were actually starting to use what DreamHost sold them. When you oversell, this obviously becomes a problem.

So, what did they do? They imposed new rules: you had to pay extra (3-4 times extra) to use that amount of space if the files stored weren't part of a website. That's right: different prices for different bits on the same disk.

Since I found the distinction pretty arbitrary and annoying, I decided to see what would happen if I did a bit of coding and essentially produced a simple web interface for what became a personal backup website. I'd pretty clearly met the letter of the law. DreamHost didn't agree, and said it didn't matter whether or not I had because my intent was clearly just to get around their restriction. They didn't back down; I paid their additional fees, but after a few months, found it irksome enough that I left.

I'm fairly lucky, because I had plenty of time to take my ball and go home. There are some people out there who have found their accounts suspended and even deactivated because of spiking demand -- not even demand that actually saturates a pipe or otherwise exceeds any of the limits they tell you about when they're selling, mostly just enough demand on shared boxes that causes Apache to crash or lock up. These people have essentially had to suddenly migrate under conditions where their access had been cut off.

And this is all before you get to general uptime and systems health. I don't know what it is, but they had a lot of hiccups in the time that I was with them. Some of the explanations really did sound like things beyond their control, and if I hadn't experienced better, I would assume that this just happens sometimes. Their connectivity got cut off, their email servers fail, they change their subdomain host naming system without telling you... no, uptime and predictability were not their strong points.

But the bottom line for me comes back to the first thing I said. Because they oversell, DreamHost accounts have two sets of rules: the ones they sell you on, and the other ones they're counting on you adhering to. If you cross the later line -- even well before you get to the former -- it's pretty clear they will not only accept your departure but in some cases they will actively throw you over the side of the boat. This is an annoying but possibly acceptable state of affairs for a limited hobby website, but if you count on someone like this for a business or client website, I think it's likely that you or the client will eventually regret it rather strongly.

If you want someone rock solid reliable, I've had an account with Hurricane Electric [he.net] for 12 years. They easily have 99.999% uptime. They offer less than some hosting providers, but my experience with them has been the opposite of my Dreamhost experience: they not only stand behind every last measure of what they offer, they sometimes go beyond it. I'd recommend them unequivocally if they offered multiple domains.

Re:No, *avoid* DreamHost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225472)

tl;dr

Re:No, *avoid* DreamHost... (1)

griffjon (14945) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225484)

I am a dreamhost customer. Their shared hosting service is as described above. They also have this habit of killing your php scripts if they go over certain memory/cpu limits, which can make debugging a real pain.

Pros: Cheap service, responsive and geeky tech support, good documentation on where their systems are wonky. Free hosting for non profits, and they don't nickle and dime you for crap like per-site fees, subdomains, etc - if it's free to them, it's free to you. When you outgrow their shared hosting abilities, and you will, you can move up relatively painlessly to a VPS offering which I've found to be pretty decent on some site with decent demands.

Cons: They've had a few really painful problems in the past few years. 06 and 08 were, as vintners would say, not good years. Email coming out of DH is often considered spam (last I checked it was straight up impossible to deliver to any AOL users; luckily I stopped needing to send to anyone with aol accounts)

Re:DreamHost (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225356)

Not just that, they created their own file system.

I've had minimal problems, you do get what you pay for. Don't go in expecting 6 nines. But I've had relatively minimal problems plus they have quite a few 'goodies'.

MySQL, Subversion, Cron, Media streaming, one click installs of a ton of apps, htaccess/webdav.

I've never had a problem compiling what I needed. (gcc is available). I've updated php, perl and pear. Ruby on Rails....

Re:DreamHost (1)

schwep (173358) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225364)

I have been using them for nearly a year & also like their service.

Things I need in a webhost:
1. ssh access & my machine is linux - my business is a linux only shop (except for the occasional VM with WinXP as a work-around) for a number of reasons
2. Allowing me to install whatever I want/need. Some parts of my site are PHP, others are Ruby on Rails
3. 'unlimited' space/bandwidth - I realize it's not, but I don't have to worry about my normal usage.
4. ssl certificates/hosting for a reasonable amount
5. Subversion or Git hosting is great for distributed teams in an easy to maintain place.
6. Allowing me to write & run custom crontabs for automatic processes - like backing up!

Re:DreamHost (caveat emptor) (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225438)

Dreamhost was pretty good for most of the time I used them (~5 years) and I liked some of the extras they provided, like XMPP hosting for your domains. I wasn't as happy with the excessive Google integration toward the end of my use, but it was optional, so it was not a deal breaker. Unscheduled downtimes happened occasionally but were dealt with promptly. SSH access was nice, and they didn't mind http-related cron jobs (if I remember correctly).

However, be wary of their referral program. I got a few referral kickbacks and the support quality seemed to degrade, ending with mistaken termination of service and a tech support brick wall when I tried to resolve it. Either they frown upon you actually using the referral kickbacks they offer, or I had horrible luck; I'd guess the former. They do everything via email and support tickets, so there's no telephone contact; if you do have a problem with support, you're going to have trouble getting around it.

In summary: pretty good hosting and value, but think twice about using the referrals and make sure you keep frequent backups in case things go sour.
---

Sorry I'm posting this AC; I haven't logged in to Slashdot in many years and I can't remember my password. I should probably make a new account (don't have the same email address, so password recovery is not an option), but I'm not ready to give up on my 90k ID just yet.

Plan for failure. Keep a backup of your own files. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225100)

Because I can't help it.
1. Keep a backup of your own files, never trust that your provider has backups. I hear about this happening every day, and it annoys me that you leave such an important responsibility to your host.

Now to the real topic,
1. Look for a host that is willing to work with you. Flexibility is useful later on.
2. Ignore SLA (Service Level Agreements) in general they give you a months fees back, which honestly is nothing compared to the damage you proboly incurred if you're willing to jump through the hoops to get it.
3. Support Support Support. Give your host a try, if they don't respond quickly, then they don't need your business.
4. Look into their history. I once put a server in a datacenter who said "We havn't had a power outage since 1995 unplanned or otherwise" who was so confident in their contractors that they let them flip the transfer switch during business hours instead of waiting for the outage period, which failed and powered the entire datacenter down. They immedaitely threw back to the switch, and quickly blew every breaker in the datacenter. Bad experience.
5. Plan for Failure, Always.

Re:Plan for failure. Keep a backup of your own fil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225348)

Also ignore promises of "100% uptime". Absolutely unrealistic. Something will happen that will cause some kind of outage. There's probably a list of exclusions on what doesn't count against the "100% uptime", like DoS attacks or scheduled maintenance. Guess what? That's still downtime that impacts the customer, so don't promise it. How it's handled is what's important.

Support (1)

penguinstorm (575341) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225104)

Good support. It seems obvious to me, but anyway....

I had two Movable Type sites hosted at two different companies At the first one suddenly my PHP includes broke. I went back and forth with them for a week with them denying any knowledge or problems, and ended up having to rewrite the includes. No matter how many times I explained to them that I'd made no changes, the answer was the same...

A couple of months later the same thing happened at the second one. Five minutes after emailing support they told me the default on allow_url_include had changed, and they reactivated it for my install.

The difference was astonishing. A one week argument versus a five minute fix.

(Yes, I generally try to avoid URL Includes these days, though I still like them because they make code portable..)

Make sure you go over the contract very carefully (5, Informative)

efalk (935211) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225112)

Hoo boy, the stories I could tell. Actually, I can't, because the hosting provider threatened to sue us if we named them publicly.

OK, first, if there's more than a couple of servers involved, and your business depends on it, use two or more different providers. If you only have one provider, it puts them in a position to screw you. When we terminated our relationship with our provider, they held our data hostage until we paid them an additional $15,000 to put our servers on line again long enough for us to copy our data.

Which brings us to: DO YOUR OWN BACKUPS. Service providers either don't do them, or they don't do them right. The world is full of horror stories of customers paying the data center extra for backups, and then finding the backups were never actually done. And even if they do do backups, they maintain control of them, which puts them in a good position to extort you.

Remember, the practice of holding your data hostage goes back a long way. Happened to my father's company back in the 70's mainframe days. It still happens.

Most important of all: have a professional go over your data center contract with a fine-tooth comb. The default contract they'll give you (or at least the one they gave us) is highly abusive.

For instance: if you don't explicitly terminate a contract at the end of its period, it's automatically renewed for another 18 months. You need to give 2 months notice before the end of the term before canceling. There is no early termination. If you so much as upgrade a single disk drive, the contract is automatically renewed for another 18 months.

Here's a doozy: our contract specified that if a server went down, they would either fix or replace it within two hours of determining the problem. The catch: they merely have to say that they haven't determined the problem yet, and then they don't have to replace anything. Our main server was kept off-line for a month this way.

Re:Make sure you go over the contract very careful (1)

mlawrence (1094477) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225196)

How can they sue you if you name them publicly? Sounds like a scare tactic to me.

Several suggestions (1)

Merc248 (1026032) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225114)

1. If you're looking for a shared web host solution (maybe under 50-100k unique hits a month), you can't go wrong with http://www.asmallorange.com/ [asmallorange.com] . I used their "small" shared hosting package for several years and never had a problem.

2. If you're looking for a VPS with quite a bit more available resources than a web host solution and you like to setup your own *nix box, you'd be good with http://www.linode.com/ [linode.com] http://www.slicehost.com/ [slicehost.com] (those two primarily support Linux, but you can setup a NetBSD Xen slice by hand if you are so inclined), or if you really don't want any brakes when it comes to setting up your Xen VPS, http://www.prgmr.com/ [prgmr.com] (they also primarily support Linux, but they have a HOWTO on their wiki on how to setup NetBSD.)

3. I haven't found a good unmanaged dedicated host yet, though I hear http://www.softlayer.com/ [softlayer.com] is great. If you want a managed dedicated host, you can't go wrong with http://www.rackspace.com/ [rackspace.com] .

Don't lose your files... (5, Informative)

maiden_taiwan (516943) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225118)

No matter which provider you choose, never depend on them for backups. Keep your originals locally and copy them to the webserver. Rsync is a great, effortless tool for this kind of synchronization. If you're maintaining SQL databases on the webserver, back them up at least daily with cron and download the backups. A few simple scripts will work wonders for your protection and your sanity.

slicehost (3, Interesting)

ya really (1257084) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225142)

I like slicehost for a number of reasons, but you have to be willing to use a command line because there is no GUI unless you install one (because you're getting a virtual server with full root access).

Though they do not offer cpanel or anything like that, they do have a minimal admin panel that you can use to configure DNS, MX and set up your server (as well as automate backups, which start at like 5 a month or so).

For 20 a month, you get a 256mb ram virtual slice and around a dozen linux distros you can select from with their admin panel for the slice. If you dont like any of the ones they provide (very unlikely) you can opt to install your own with a set of directions they provide on their wiki (the wiki is also very helpful when setting up your server for whatever you might want to do).

Whenever I need help with a server issue, they email fairly quick (same day) or they have a chat room with people who actually speak English as their first language (or know it well enough you would assume they do). Generally, the people helping you are the same ones who maintain their website or their servers as well, not outsourced help.

Some dont like that they dont have any sort of guaranteed uptime, but eh, I've never really had any servers I have go down for more than an hour or so and it's generally sometime at night if they do. The downtime is generally planned or even if its an emergency, they notify with enough time you can migrate files to another server.

For 20 a month and the freedom of having full server access to install what you want, I'd gladly pay. I still loath when I have some clients who only want to pay 3-5 or whatever a month at some lame shared hosting site and have to deal with cpanel or whatever else, because once you've used the command line and had full control on a remote server it's hard to go back to the panel interface, lol.

Re:slicehost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225270)

I used to love slicehost too, but they haven't lowered their prices or upgraded services in...what...2 or 3 years? They were acquired by Rackspace and the owner had visa/immigration problems, which meant virtually nothing has been improved in the past year. While their pricing used to be great, it's now crap compared to the others. The articles were always great, but even those have trickled off, though many are somewhat timeless.

Re:slicehost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225460)

Slicehost is really just Rackspace Cloud Servers, so save some money and go straight to the source. (Technically they merged, but really they both run the same Xen platform.)

slicehost works for me (1)

Pe_Ell (855470) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225154)

I've got a HostGator, dedicated server in Germany and a 1and1 developer account (for a few years now). I'm in the process of moving them all into VPS at slicehost.com. You can start the slices out cheap and work your way up to multiple slices with backnet and public interfaces. So if you need to grow you can do a load balancer on your primary IP and then have other slices doing the work. Their admin tools are pretty easy to deal with too. This option is best if you aren't afraid to administrate your own box though. They have Chat support, forums, articles etc to help people out who are fairly new to system administration with optional backup for your slices.

what to avoid (2, Informative)

ckdake (577698) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225156)

Things to avoid tend to be better indicators than things to go for. I'd avoid:

* Companies that aren't open about issues. If there isn't a public forum, status RSS feed, status twitter account, etc. BAD NEWS
* Companies that offer unlimited anything. By definition, unlimited means that they are overselling and while things may be great now, they'll suffer in the long run
* Linux hosts that don't give you SSH access. CPanel/Fantastico/Whatever do plenty of things, but there is no substitute for having shell access
* Anything at all that makes you feel funny. There are _plenty_ of options out there and if something doesn't feel right, you're better off going somewhere else.
* Companies that won't respond to you personally for pre-sales questions. When I was looking for colo space, this turned out to be the most important factor. The better they communicate with you before they have any of your money, the better off things will be in the long run.
* Anything that seems to be too good to be true. i.e. If you have a need for a lot of disk/bandwidth/cpu, and "unlimited" is $5/month, BAD NEWS

I run ithought dot org and host a reasonable number of sites, and try to adhere to all of the above. One thing you won't be able to find out easily with hosts is something I do: I won't accept customers that seem like they aren't a fit for the hardware I have. Shared hosting is what it is and if a customer is going to drive up the load on servers such that it affects other customers, but doesn't want to pay for dedicated hardware or a VM, their actions shouldn't hurt other shared hosting customers that are only using a very small amount of resources.

Most of the cloud stuff is plenty nice if you want to manage it (S3, SliceHost, etc) but don't underestimate what is involved with keeping server OSs up to date, tuned, and monitored. If you're core competency isn't tweaking server software you should let someone else worry about that for you until it makes sense for you to hire an Operations person/team.

Some thoughts base on experience... (1)

flycast (1368619) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225160)

Domain names...make sure you can edit TTL's on the domain records. This way when you point the domain records to other resources you can undo mistakes quickly. Don't host the domain name at the host. Generally a bad practice. Host...I definitely recommend using a Linux server solution. Windows has problems with both security and file upload permissions depending on how good or bad the admin is. I have used quite a few LAMP hosts. LiquidWeb.com has been best so far. They say that they offer "legendary support" and I have found that to be true. Don't worry about moving the site later...it's not as big a deal as it seems. You will never find a host that offers everything. Find a package that fits for where you are now and move when you need to. Use strong passwords and change them every few months...one year tops. There have been exploits lately that take advantage of stupid passwords and passwords that have not been changed. Change the password when you start the account. Usually the pw is transmitted in a plain text email. Make sure you can install a SSL cert. You will likely want to have a backend that is password protected and secure. You may also want to have secure front end pages. Make sure you have control over backups of your site. You will likely NOT want to download the backups through your ISP connection...too slow. If you can do a backup from one computer to another at your host it will move quickly. I would personally stay away from the cloud. This is based on a bad experience with Media Temple. There may be some good cloud servers out there but I get a sense that they are generally a tad slow. I have more to say but that's all I should put here.

Consider Amazon (1)

mlawrence (1094477) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225164)

Amazon has some great cloud services. http://aws.amazon.com/products/ [amazon.com] They are incredibly cheap (no minimum costs), and scale instantly.

Finding a web host (2, Informative)

Scott Swezey (678347) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225166)

I usually check out webhostingtalk.com to find reviews of web hosts, offers, and more. I would definitely suggest you check them out. I personally chose mddhosting.com for my website.

Some other things to keep in mind: you get what you pay for... So unlimited of something means they are skimping elseware. Also remember to always keep your own backups. Even if your host does keep them, which they probably don't, it is a pain to get files restored for you. It also is nice to be able to leave without begging for your files.

As for custom infrastructure and scaling... Chances are that most hosts put you on a typical shared cpanel box and anything special is going to require you to get a VPS or dedi server and set it up and manage everything yourself. It just isn't realistic to add features or special software for a single user. And that doesn't even get into having to support this new stuff, or deal with the security implications.

Avoid Globat (1)

MazzThePianoman (996530) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225170)

From experience I have learned even a great webhost can go downhill quickly. I was orignally with Globat for a number of years without issues then they started doing things like signing you up for addons that charged you more money if you did not opt out. Their customer support was worthless and barely could speak english. The worst was when I tried to cancel my subscription. They had a dedicated cancellation phone line only open for certain hours and when I called on three occations it was not staffed! After calling and letting it ring for half an hour someone finally picked up but by then my auto-renew charged me for another month. After two months of them saying I would get a refund I called my credit card and had them issue a charge back. For a few years now I have been with Hostgator but I have also heard good things about Bluehost as well.

Try a Cloud Service like Heroku (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225182)

Yes, it's buzzworthy, but once you get the hang of Heroku [heroku.com] for Ruby code, you'll never want to futz with root access on a server again.

On Heroku, you can get a Sinatra or Rails app *running in minutes* to test it out, and your code will work just fine on any VPS if you decide you don't like Heroku. You push code to the platform with Git, they store it in the cloud, and run it behind a fully managed webserver with a HTTP cache, a Postgres database, Memcache, and more goodies. The idea is to let the experts manage the iron and the cutting-edge and best practice services, so you can focus on your product and code. Also, it's free to use for simple apps, and offers really good granularity in pricing so you only pay for what you use.

Similarly, there's Google App Engine for Python. It's a great product but not as compelling to play around with since you need to learn new tricks since it's not a conventional POSIX stack, only uses BigTable for a database, etc. Basically the more of GAE you use, the less ability to run your code elsewhere in the future.

Is self-hosting viable? (1)

emurphy42 (631808) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225186)

I've had a Linux server here at the house for upwards of 6 years, using DynDNS for a free name and a couple paid ones. Obvious potential issues off the top of my head:

  • ISP TOS violation. I'm not using it to run a business so we're in the clear here.
  • Availability. If our ISP connection hiccups, the server gets cut off from the outside world. Usually only a couple minutes at a time.
  • Security. I have telnet turned off, SSH/FTP blocked except for some work clients whitelisted in /etc/hosts.allow, and run tripwire.
  • Bandwidth. The web server sends out about 2 to 10 GB/month due to a single 50 MB file with no apparent ill effects, but e.g. a sufficiently popular image board could dwarf that.

Re:Is self-hosting viable? (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225440)

Sometimes the availability due to connection isn't controllable by the hosting company. We had half our blocks taken down for about 2 hours a few months ago when Mzima started offering more specific routes for no good reason and fucked it all up. it got fixed, but its not like there was anything we could do about it. Glad I don't work in hosting anymore (and no, I'm not unemployed)

Bluehost.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225208)

Bluehost is pretty awesome.

http://www.bluehost.com/track/testedbygeeks (Yes - that's my affiliate link)

Unlimited storage, transfer, and hosting of domains on one account. 100 mysql databases, etc. Great customer service that is competent and based in the US.

Pretty hard to beat at 6.95 per month.

A warning about 1 and 1 (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225216)

Rarely do I go negative on the Internet. Things said on the internet stick with you forever, but maybe just a warning.

The company 1 and 1 seems to be using a collection agency to leverage money out of previous customers. While they may not be breaking any laws, but they are definitely taking advantage of their customers.

Google: "1 and 1" nco

There are pages of people who have fallen victim to this company.

A good narrative that describes almost exactly what happened to me...
http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/1-amp-1-internet-inc-c161434.html [complaintsboard.com]

Sorry to post anonymously, I'm not really a coward, but with a company like this, you just cannot be too careful.

Re:A warning about 1 and 1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225370)

Second this. My 1 and 1 experience is not a fond memory.

Web app hosting (1)

Big_Mamma (663104) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225252)

@Second question - if you expect to have to scale up, I'd start with at least a VPS and move up to a (managed) dedicated server when the time comes. Providers using shared hosting setup like apache + setuid fit up to thousands of accounts on to one machine, they won't like it when you're running anything more than a small blog. And on any app of decent complexity, having a ssh shell is a must have for debugging and management. Most shared hosts are quite restrictive on what you can run as well. Quite a few run outdated version of Python and Ruby, and installing extra packages is impossible, so for a web app, a VPS is almost always the minimum you need.

One vendor we considered was Media Temple, their VPS (not the grid service) aren't the cheapest, but their offering looks more polished than the others. The $50 for hosting is probably the cheapest part of the project and if you ever reach the limits of the VPS, there's still plenty of time to switch to a bigger package or another host. By then, you'll have a good idea what the computational requirements are of your site.

We didn't go with them tho - after benchmarking and testing, what we needed was a bit too expensive to rent. We went with 10u rackspace and enough hardware to fill most of it instead. Pro: can't beat the price and total freedom in choice of OS and software. Con: you have to manage everything yourself and pay upfront for all the hardware.

This (1)

orsty3001 (1377575) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225254)

Cheap, no limits and not in America.

Low cost provider issues. (1)

millisa (151093) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225280)

Low cost hosting providers rarely guarantee backup and restoration services as part of the low cost package. It is often a separate item entirely that must be paid for in addition to the standard account. Not only this, many of the shared/virtual private server type providers do not offer any guaranteed recovery period if the server you happen to be on goes down. If you are experiencing an outage due to another user sharing your hardware being compromised and they take the server offline, often times the provider will do nothing to get your site back up and running quickly even if you have the data prepared to slam back onto a new system; You just end up having to wait. (First hand recent experience with a one-and-one vps: The hardware had a drive controller failure. We have full backups of the VPS via bacula and if they were willing to give us a second vps on a new server at the same IP, we could have slammed the data back onto the server and been back up within the hour. They instead made my customer wait 48 hours while they worked on trying to make that original server work.)

Regardless of who you pay for hosting, your data is your responsibility. Their backups are worthless if you never actually prove they are usable yourself. Plan for disaster ahead of time and you'll be better off. Plan it at several different levels: what happens when the data is corrupt? What do you do if the server catches on fire? What do you do if the city/region experiences a catastrophe? What do you do when Joe Constructionworker is installing sprinklers next door and puts their backhoe through the datalines feeding the center? If your provider is offering to cover any one of these with a solution (like paying them to backup the data for your restoration) find out how you get the databack and what kind of SLA's they have. If they back it up, but it's a 24 hour process just to get to the point where you can restore things, that may not work for you. Understanding your recovery process before you need to put it in place is one of the biggest failings of many users/companies offering web based service delivery.

Now, one of the more interesting lower cost providers I've run into lately is Linode [linode.com] . You have a bit more flexibility in dealing with scaling and failover and you can move your virtual private server to bigger and beefier hardware as your site grows. They are working on an inhouse backup solution, but realistically if you care enough about your data, you'll regularly backup offsite with scripts or your favorite backup program (bacula anyone?). Linode is targetted more towards those who can admin their systems themselves rather than needing pre-setup solutions with GUI's (not that you couldn't use something like Plesk yourself on it). You can slowly scale your system hardwarewise to machines that have less and less shared users and you can even use multiple virtual servers with virtual load balancers in front of it (they have some interesting support for having a private lan between your virtuals that keeps the traffic 'local' and won't count against your bandwidth usage. You could use multiple virtual nic's to do load balancing with LVS type setups if you wanted).

My choices (2, Informative)

phpsocialclub (575460) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225292)

For small LAMP sites (less than 10K visits per month)
Bluehost, ($7 per month)

For Medium LAMP sites (20K-50K visits per month
Media Temple Cloud ($20 or more per month)

For Bigger LAMP Sites (50k+ visits per month)
Rackspace Cloud ($150 per month)

The last two have their issues at times, but they are way better than managing your own server. If you like sysadmin work (and I don't) get a Rackspace cloud server or Media temple DV server, but I like the cloud and grid options. They scale automatically.

T & A (1)

Huntr (951770) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225310)

According to the Go Daddy commercials, that is.

as a (now former) web host system admin... (4, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225312)

I was a system admin for a while at a web hosting company, though I left in December for another company in a different sector. Quite frankly, the experience of the OP isn't that unusual. Hell, some of people on my team would accidentally nuke fully-dedicated servers and then tell the customer that it was "russian hackers" or a "raid failure" instead of just owning up to it. More often than not, I was the one getting stuck taking the call and trying to make things right, which is one of the reasons I got out of there.

We all know shit happens, and accidents can occur. That doesn't excuse not owning up to it when they do. In the case of the russian hacker excuse, the admin who came up with that gem tried to tell the senior admin that's what happened, too. When he found out that he was lied to, he pretty much went ballistic.

That said, check the following stuff:

1) if they are advertising "unlimited bandwidth," what's the actual throughput that they're allowing -- especially if they phrase the actual offer as "unlimited data transfer." Bandwidth usage is tied to memory usage, especially in the monitoring tools that come on cPanel-enabled servers, and so if you're pushing a lot of data it can spike your memory usage and

2) if they'd advertising "unlimited disk space," what are the limits at which their backups stop, if any? whats the amount of disk space? if you're doing shared hosting, which hopefully you're not, then that affects whether or not your account ends up getting moved, at least where I worked, a lot of the job on overnight rotations was moving accounts for disk space management.

3) what are their resource policies? On shared servers, we'd kick people for using more than 1% of CPU, generally. On a VPS, it could get a little higher.

4) if you're looking for a VPS, check what platform they're using for hosting, whether its Xen, VZ, etc. VZ doesn't track memory internal to the container, or really allow for swap space, etc. So, if you were buying a 256M plan from us, you'd really get 1024M memory segmentation which was the "burstable," but memcached would leak out and suck up RAM from the whole server if it weren't installed right (and a lot of people in my department didn't know this or didn't care). If you plan on using something like memcached, you'll want a hardware dedicated server, or a sufficiently large Xen container.

5) super-double check backup policy. We wouldn't back up dedicated servers, for instance. Backups could be configured to push to our array for a fee, or we could turn on local cpanel backups on the server, but if the disks really did go bad then you'd still be fucked if you weren't snapping copies back to yourself via FTP and keeping them local. If you're looking for a VPS or shared hosting, then make sure you know the backup rules -- how much data, and how it gets backed up. For instance, our setup used rsync over an NFS mount, which meant that we'd have a copy of the latest of everything that was there when the backup ran, but if something was corrupted before the backup, we'd have a backup of a broken file.

Some recommendations of companies other than the one I worked for, which I've used for various things and liked well enough are Slicehost and RootBSD. They're both Xen-based, allow a really high level of autonomy, etc. Slicehost pretty much lets you do everything yourself. You can go from no server to vps with root in about 5 minutes with no human interaction. RootBSD takes a bit longer to get set up, but their support people were always really helpful to me, and the added benefit of not being Linux-based, but using FreeBSD though OpenBSD is also a custom option as well.

Research your choices (2, Informative)

RancidPickle (160946) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225350)

When you're going to get a new host, and it's not a name company (hostgator, dreamhost, etc.) do your research. There are a ton of resellers selling stuff from other resellers. It's like the Amway of the Internet. Look at the whois for your new host. If it's hidden behind one of those obfuscation services, it's a red flag. Look at the name servers. If it's the same as the host (ns1.host.com) it's a plus. If it's something else, go look at the website of the name service...you'll probably find it's where they're re-reselling hostspace. Try to get upline as much as possible, since if one of those people forgets to pay the bill, you're screwed with no (worthwhile) recourse.

I would suggest not going with IXWebhosting. They've been hit with injection attacks for over two years on an almost daily basis. I was with them for years until they were compromised. They will also blame you, saying your website was insecure...except I had fifteen domains that were parked with a single HTML page that just said "go away" hacked.

Make sure they're available 24/7, and that they answer the phones. My current VPS host (InMotionHosting) answered the phone at 1am and placed my order.

Watch out for all the "review" sites. Do a whois and you'll find many are owned by the hosts that get top billing. At the very least, every host review should have some negative hits from a disgruntled webmaster. Look for the ones that lay it all out, warts and all.

Never ever expect your host to back up your website. If it's not in your possession, it doesn't exist, unless you're lucky. Cron jobs are nice for dumping databases to a backup.

I personally like dedicated IPs. Since it seems you're multi-hosting, see if shared or individual IPs are available. Also, check to see if wildcard or sub-domains (space.host.com) are available.

Best of luck to you.

Don't over plan (1)

MacFury (659201) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225362)

Start small. Shared hosting is probably fine unless you need the features of a dedicated Virtual Private Server. Some things that used to require dedicated VPS can now be outsourced to services like Amazon S3 and MySQL hosting. Shared Hosting: I like Dreamhost.com for all my PHP/MySQL related sites. They offer SSH accounts, unlimited number of domains for a shared hosting account, IMAP and preconfigured webmail, cron and a bunch of other goodies. Support is decent but not great. Using the promo code "JMK" will get you $50 off if you sign up. They are already very cost effective for what you get, with or without the promo code. VPS: Don't go with dedicated hardware, choose a VPS. I really like the service provided by MediaTemple.net. Their knowledgebase and support staff are top notch and their prices are reasonable. If and when you grow to need multiple servers they can set you up with your own private network. They do not charge for traffic between these machines which can save you alot of money. Do not go this route unless you are comfortable with linux administration. You will be responsible for maintaince of the machine. General Tips: Use a different registrar than your hosting company. This ensures that they don't give you the run around if you ever need to switch hosts. I foolishly used Network Solutions several years ago and when I went to change hosts that continually hung up on me on the phone, didn't answer my emails, and eventually let me domain name expire, at which point they said they could get it back for around $200 instead of the already inflated normal price of $25 to renew. Use a version control system for you code and keep your own regular backup of your site. You can setup a cron job to run daily / weekly backups of important data and have them sent to another hosting provider or online storage. Check them occasionally and make sure they contain all the right data.

linode.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225376)

I've used many hosting companies and in test enviroments I'll use whoever is cheapest but for small stuff, with rock solid performance linode.com is the only contender.

Web hosting backups (or lack of) (1)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225384)

Most web hosting companies don't backup uploaded content. Too resource and time consuming. We have always backed up customer data as well as config. We also host on real servers using real hardware raid. Backups are stored offsite and offline (tape). Not as cheap as some but then you get what you pay for. Your three domains would cost around $20 per month.

http://www.cyberstreet.com/ [cyberstreet.com]

Hostgator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225392)

We have been using Hostgator for the past year plus and have been extremely satisfied. Tech support is always on the ball, they answer questions almost immediately. Very inexpensive!

don't use bluehost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225416)

Don't use BlueHost.

They're a terrible company that requires you to send them a photo government ID in order to get shell access. When I first asked why they required this they tried playing me for a fool and telling me that some ICAAN regulation required them to do this.

His own fault (1)

Skal Tura (595728) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225444)

For not having backups. Mostly shared hosting does not include backups, and if they do it's very clearly stated and emphasized. Doing backups on that scale is very expensive.

"Unlimited" is a lie. (1)

ChaosDiscord (4913) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225452)

1. Back up your own damn site. Unless you're explicitly paying for backup and restoration services, be prepared to recover your own site if necessary. 2. Anyone offering "unlimited" bandwidth or disk is lying to you. If you dig around in the fine print they'll usually clarify that "unlimited" means something like "as appropriate for a small business growing at a reasonable rate" or similar bullshit. You'll never get a concrete number out of them. The real number is, "If you cease to be profitable, they'll kick you off." Pay a bit more and go with a web host who will tell you what the limits are.

OCS Solutions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31225462)

OCS Solutions, Inc.: http://www.ocssolutions.com/

I am a customer, and have been for several years. I have no financial interest in this company. I am not an expert. I am happy.

OCS is a small company, dead reliable, no tricks, reasonably priced, and superbly responsive in the rare case when I do have a problem.

Get a VPS, host yourself (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225488)

Get a vps and host yourself. I've been a very happy customer of linode.com for years... had one issue when their central routers were caught in the crossfire of a DDOS attempt... Great support, quick on help if needed, and the "machine" specs keep going up with no increase in fees...

Google App Engine (1)

daBass (56811) | more than 3 years ago | (#31225548)

mrstrano: use Google App Engine. Either Java or Python, doesn't matter. FREE to start, great value when the website takes off and scales beyond what you'll likely need.

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