Joe Maller.com

Looking for Web Hosting

I’ve been asked to move IOP’s web and email hosting off Hosting Matters after an excess of problems. One of the biggest issues is that we always have emails flying around with large attachments, these tend to fill up the smallish space HM provides. To be fair, HM has been very good about fixing stuff when it breaks, but there’s been a lot of stuff to fix. Also, they don’t offer phone support, don’t take American Express and their billing system is a pain to use.

I host my own sites and several others on LiquidWeb, which has been excellent for the past several years. I really have nothing to complain about, except maybe that they don’t have a more recent version of MySQL installed, apparently due to a CPanel dependency.

I would move IOP over to LiquidWeb too, but I don’t want to have all the sites I’m responsible for hosted by one company. With multiple locations, I have many more options should one host suffer a catastrophic failure.

Researching web hosting is miserable. Google’s results are heavily spammed, and while sites like WebHostingTalk are helpful, they tend to be full of casual users looking for a zillion TB/month for $2.95. I was considering DreamHost after some time on those boards, but there are a lot disgruntled former-customers out there and I was troubled by DH’s CPU time metering. I’m still thinking about them simply for a cheap off-site Subversion repository and Jabber server. However their whole referral thing is actually a huge turn off for me, I’d rather their customers were genuinely fans of the service. That program makes me question the credibility of anyone advocating for DH.

I was also close to signing up with MediaTemple, but their shared hosting plans don’t include rsync. Rsync is a critical tool for local mirroring and development and a deal-breaker.

Jim Boykin ‘s page asking for web hosting advice is a nice resource. There are some good links in there and I’m looking into several of the places from his roundup.

My current shortlist is pair Networks, Swift Communications and TextDrive, wanting to lean towards TextDrive because their users seem really happy and I’ve been reading John Gruber for years, but he doesn’t host his site there (yet?).

Suggestions are welcomed, my requirements are basically:

  • good email support
  • PHP/MySQL
  • SSH access
  • rsync
  • lots of storage space (>1gb)
  • $20-40/month

Update

I ended up going with Swift Communications, based largely on two factors. First, they were very fast in answering my pre-sales questions. Second, they offered the best cost per gigabyte of my three finalists.

The domain is already switched over and everything seems good so far. Server response is fast and SSH/rsync worked right away. Their support continued to be excellent after opening my account. They had initially set up our account login based on my name, which wasn’t ideal since this is a company site, but this was changed within 5 minutes of me requesting it. The move seems to have gone exceptionally smoothly and I’m very happy so far.


  • http://www.dustinperkins.com Dustin Perkins

    Oooh. I just ran into the rsync issue with a Media Temple hosted site I was setting up. Their Shared Server accounts don’t seem very command line friendly — you have to email support to enable SSH access and there aren’t a lot of common utilities installed (rsync, emacs, vim, wget come immediately to mind).

    After a few minutes of cursing the existence of a server without rsync, I remembered that there was a solution. I SSHed into the server, grabbed a copy of the latest rsync source, did a configure and make, and copied the resulting rsync binary into a bin directory in the account’s home directory.

    By default, /home/[username]/bin/ is included in your PATH, but you have to create the bin directory. Even with that, rsync commands from remote hosts still need to include the option –rsync-path=/home/[username]/bin/rsync so rsync knows where to look on the remote host. But it worked! And saved a lot of time.

    This was my first experience with Media Temple, and while I’m a little disappointed with the command line amenities, I am very happy with the server performance so far. The site felt zippy throughout a day of traffic that generated a 180 MB access_log.

    Other points regarding Media Temple:
    – The Media Temple web control panel and account center seems a little convoluted at first blush, but it’s not a thing used often and it probably does everything it needs.
    + Their virtualization setup makes it look like I’m the only user on this machine. I don’t see other users. I don’t see their files, and they don’t see mine. That’s nice.

    For the last few years I’ve used Pair for myself and for clients because I love their feature set — they’ve always had SSH and IMAP support when it was harder to find in other providers. And they’ve always had competitive rates and transfer/storage allocations. Their email support is very responsive and knowledgeable — 24 hour same-day response. And they recently negotiated away some huge overage charges for a client in exchange for a retroactive account upgrade — that was standup.

    Other thoughts about Pair:
    – The shared server I’m on occasionaly feels a little sluggish, both from the web and the command line — more so than when I opened the account — but it’s not enough to be a problem.
    + They don’t charge you an extra monthly fee for Spam Assassin spam filtering, where Media Temple does.
    + Their service has been extremely reliable for as long as I’ve been with them. I haven’t seen any problems with the web server I’m on, and there have only been a two short hiccups with mail delivery.

    The huge storage allocations of DreamHost are tempting. And TextDrive looks pretty solid feature-wise. So any of these places could be fine choices.

    Some other intriguing options that I have very little experience with:
    + Hurricane Electric — good rates and allocations for shared hosting
    + ServerPronto.com — where $30/mo. can get you a server all to yourself. With your choice of OS. The downside is you’ve got to be your own admin…and they charge for reboots.

  • http://www.joemaller.com Joe Maller

    Great point about compiling rsync, but I’d be worried about violating their AUP. The letter I got back from their sales guy said, “sorry RSYNC is not supported on our (ss) Shared Servers.” While that doesn’t say “forbidden”, it does seem frowned upon.

    I ended up going with SwiftCo, and updated the post with my reasons. Seems good so far and has everything I needed.

  • http://garyploski.com Gary Ploski

    Excellent post Joe. I’m researching hosts because I can’t handle the slow response times from Dreamhost’s servers.

    I’ve found the following:
    liquidweb.com
    lunarpages.com
    site5.com
    swiftco.com

    I would like to have all my sites (3 or more) in one place for the exact opposite reason you stated above. If something goes wrong I want to make one phone call, send one email, etc. to resolve any problems with the sites I’m running or helping to run.

    — liquidweb.com – referred from a friend that swears by them. their prices are a on the higher side. support has responded to inquiry email within 2-5 hours.
    — lunarpages.com – overall… wow. sadly they don’t fill my needs because additional sites hosted on the plan cost 2.50 each. Also, no ssh on the shared plans. = o
    — site5.com – this looks like a great option, 11gb storage, 5 additional domains can be hosted on the plan at 7.77/month and it includes ssh.
    — swiftco.com – this looks like a great option, 5gb storage, 10 additional domains can be hosted on the plan at 11.25/month (paying annually) and it includes ssh.

    I’m down to a short list of 3 after many hours of reading and researching. In no order…

    site5.com
    swiftco.com
    liquidweb.com

    Did you do any research on site backbones? That’s my next and likely last step in this process.

    Presently I’m swaying between swiftco and site5…

  • http://www.joemaller.com Joe Maller

    IOP’s been with SwiftCo for almost a month now and we’re very happy with the service. The machines are fast and we seem to have had 100% uptime with no glitches in email or anything else.

    The only drawback I’ve found is the limited number of FTP accounts. Not sure of their reasoning behind that, but I liked the ability to set up client-specific FTP accounts and to give freelancers directory-limited access to a staging site. I wrote to SwiftCo about purchasing additional accounts and will post a followup when I hear back.

  • http://www.web-solutions.com William Harding Web Solutions

    Hello I have a hosting plan for you that I know you will like. You have unlimited everything. Up to 3 domains with setup but can add unlimited ($60 per 3 extra). Only $77.70 a year with $10 one time setup fee. Please let me know if interested.

    William Harding

  • http://www.joemaller.com Joe Maller

    Thanks for the link I guess, even though it doesn’t work.

    Also, constructively. I loathe salesy BS phrases like “[thing] that I know you will like.” We’ve never met, you might be able to infer what I like from reading here, but I find your approach totally off-putting.

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    Hello, I have a few plans that may interest you.

    check them out at http://uwhosting.biz/services.htm

  • http://treemeat.com Pete Baker

    Whoever said Site5, stay away. I’m currently in the middle of a debacle that has left a dozen sites deleted and with no recovery in site. And they have absolutely PISS POOR customer service. I routinely wait anywhere between 8 to 24 hours for any response to a support ticket.

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  • Stan J

    My provider is offering rSync and all modules you could possibly imagine for very fair prices and great support. It’s Yellowpipe Web Hosting at http://www.yellowpipe.com
    They also offer PDF extensions and full control of hte php.ini file.
    My 2 cents.

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  • http://www.akschaefer.com Tonyscha

    I found this website that I am currently hosting with, they offer ssh access but I don’t know if they have rsync, You can email them there service has been very helpful so far. They offer 50Gb of webspace, 500Gb of Transfer, for 2.99 a month. Here is my referal link – http://www.umbrahosting.com/billing/aff.php?aff=005

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    I went with http://hosthalf.com

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