What I've learned about hosting this month

At the beginning of this month, I sent out a notice to all my clients who host with me that my nameservers would be changing by April 1.

Two weeks ago I did not know who I was going to switch to, only that the admin area of my ecommerce site VintageReveries was down for at least 3 days due to inept technical configurations and slow-arse customer support thru HostGator. This was the final straw of many. I learned from forums and blog posts that I am not alone.

I’ve been with HostGator since 2006, longer than any relationship. This is not only like breaking up with a boyfriend, but like finding a new home and moving out on a significant other!

Quite honestly, if my recent experiences with their customer service hadn’t been so awful, I would just upgrade my plan (nameservers would still change).

All sites hosted with me on my reseller account combined barely use 25 gigs of disk space (out of my allotted 50 gigs), and last month didn’t even hit 50 gigs of bandwidth space. Especially during the past few months, I was repeatedly experiencing downtime and slow load times.

Did you know the only way to guarantee that you’re getting the fast server speed is to get a shared VPS or your own server?

(FYI, to define a shared VPS or “shared dedicated” vs. Shared Hosting: Shared hosting is like having an apartment – all residents must share resources like the parking lot with everyone… VPS hosting is like having a condo – far fewer residents per building and assigned parking)… Paraphrased from the newbie friendly article that can be found here.

Hostgator’s reseller accounts are on “shared” servers, which means that bigger sites are probably sucking the server’s processor and bandwidth resources. From what I’ve read on too many forums to quote, to maximize profit, it’s pretty standard for Hostgator and other web hosts over-sell shared hosting accounts, and put 100s of accounts on one server machine. So you’re still getting the “unlimited” bandwidth and “unlimited” space, but at what cost?

If I changed hosts to a similar plan, I would probably still run into the same problems, or risk it. I had naively assumed that the reseller account, with allotted bandwidth and disk space usage, was treated differently than lower priced “unlimited hosting” plans; when it’s really pretty much the same thing with some different software (mainly the ability for each client to have their own cpanel/hosting back-end).

The most important thing that I’ve learned in the past two weeks of reading up on hosting is that:“shared hosting” is guaranteed resources, not guaranteed performance. 

Having decided to go with a shared VPS plan, I next had to research various hosting providers. This was the hardest part. I’ve recommended Hostgator to friends and colleagues and referred them business over the past 6 years. I’m busy with other things, like growing my business, and spending hours agonizing over which host to move to is really the last thing I wanted to do this month.

I almost went with Site5, as recommended by iThemes. However, the lines in their their acceptable use policy made me think twice, especially this vaguely worded phrase that seems to broadly prohibit any form of sexy content or even linking to such: “…This includes sites that may infer sexual content, or Link to adult content elsewhere.”

NOT that I intend on hosting porn sites, but the way that it’s worded with prohibiting all adult content, without specifying and defining exactly what is considered adult content, could potentially put me in a bind if I ever design a website for another photographer or artist (which is a pretty sure thing that I will). Is artistic nudity or even boudoir photography considered “adult content”? I sure wouldn’t want a 7 year old looking at it, so in my definition of the term, artistic nudity and lingerie photos are definitely “adult content”. I can’t take risks like that. For all I know, my pinup photography could be considered “adult content”. Further, I think the prohibition against linking to adult content is a bunch of B.S., but whatever, it’s not my company and not the only choice!

After researching RackSpace (top of the line and expensive but worth it, but each email account is an additional $2 each per month), various smaller companies (I can’t bring myself to trust a company that’s been around less than 3 years, or one with no solid reviews, or one that’s based on a small Asian island)… I chose…

… drum roll…

CertifiedHosting.com

Here is why:

  • Their profile on WhoIsHostingThis states that: “Certified Hosting is an American web hosting company. It was originally founded in 1999 to serve Fortune 500 companies. Kacy Carlsen is currently the CEO and co-founded the company with her husband Stan….”
  • VPS/Shared Dedicated hosting is clearly explained on their site: http://certifiedhosting.com/shared-dedicated-servers/ (the base plan is considerably more expensive than HostGator’s base VPS plan, but gives far more resources)
  • Numerous good reviews on many different sites, though the occasional, usual bad ones about shared hosting… you will find a mix of bad and good about almost any hosting company.
  • Similar setup/cpanel and configuration that I’m used to with HostGator
  • Friendly sales staff who responded to my questions promptly and who didn’t try too hard to sell (I hate pushy sales staff)
  • That they’ve been around since 1999
  • They’ll move all my sites for free, so that I don’t have to spend the time to move every single of the 20 or so client sites that I host. This will save me about a day or two of work!
  • Their VPS plan, guaranteeing that my account will be only one of 6 on a machine (instead of 1 of 100s).
  • Their FaceBook cover image made me laugh, and their promo video was personable… because any female CEO who will get in front of a camera and make a goofy intro clip like this, is refreshing and should probably be supported. It’s a nice contrast to Hostgator’s increased corporate-ness and corresponding decline in customer service and quality.

So yay! CertifiedHosting looks like a reputable American based company, with actively involved founders and upper management, that has been around as long as I’ve been using the Internet, is gimmick-free, and has great customer support!

It is really amazing the difference that customer service can make. If my experiences with Hostgator had been better, if someone there had told me that I would experience better performance by changing plans, I would have upgraded and stuck with them for $70 a month, eventhough their plan doesn’t offer as much as CertfiedHosting.com’s $70 a month plan (and Hostgator has a cheaper VPS plan for $40 a month, which CertfiedHosting doesn’t offer). Since either way, the domain name servers will change, I’m giving up on this old relationship and changing hosting providers next week.

It is exciting and a bit scary to not only change from almost the only host I’ve ever had experience with, but to commit to going from paying $25 a month in hosting to $70! (This does make my client hosting and maintenance plans a deal.)

I’m excited to be able to offer better quality of service with this change. I only host about 20 sites, and the biggest one is my own, VintageReveries.com, which isn’t even (comparably) that big. Instead of being shared with 100s of other big and small sites, my clients will now have the luxury of being only one of about 20 relatively small sites. I read somewhere that VPS hosting is up to 600% faster than shared hosting. Can’t wait to try it!