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Hosting Horror Stories Part 2

So Yesterday, we talked a lot about the nightmares that come from not keeping control of your domain name. Today, I want to talk about how you must be careful about picking where to actually host your site, as well as the different types of hosts.

The first thing I look for is a host that has been around for awhile. It used to be that hosts came and went with the wind (especially during the .com boom). It’s settled down a bit, but it still pays to know that the place your putting your website is going to stay around. There’s nothing like finding out a month after you go live, that you have to move to a new server.

The second thing I look for of course is price. Now this is a funny thing because most hosts out there are always offering more than you could ever possibly use. This bothers me, partially because I don’t know if they are telling the truth. For example, a terabyte of bandwidth is a LOT of bandwidth. Doing the math on that, you would have to be transmitting roughly 3.3Mbps for an entire month to get that kind of traffic.
So these groups that are giving out 5-10 Terabytes of bandwidth of a single hosting account… We’re talking over 10Mbps per second for an entire month… Now the question in my mind is: are they actually providing a network connection that could support that much traffic… If so, when you download a file from your OWN server, you should be able to max out at 6mbps (which is where most people’s cable line maxes out).

But even if they give you the pipe to support that much bandwidth, realize now how much of a load on a processor that is going to be. Assuming those are hits to dynamically generated php webpages… your going to be basically saturating the computers processor(s) so fast it’s not even funny. So what are they doing then? My bet: overselling.

And you can see this with hosts who do colocation as well. Why is it that a T1 (1.5mbps) costs $200/month in most places you colocate? Simple: bandwidth that actually makes use of that, is not cheap. If bandwidth really was that cheap, do you think Comcast would be finding so hard against net neutrality? They want to find a way to foot as much of the cost to people like me and Google.

So yeah, I slightly wandered off onto a tangent there that I didn’t mean to go down. Let’s talk about the types of hosting briefly and what the pros and cons are of each:

  • Virtual Hosting/Sharing Hosting – This is the situation where multiple websites are hosted on the same box. It’s not a bad thing to do because most servers can handle the traffic of multiple sites. It’s a great solution for people who are getting started in the business. It’s biggest downsides are that it tends to limit what you can do on the server (installing things is next to impossible in most cases). It also tends to mean more downtime (caused by your neighbors). Lastly, depending on the host, I’ve found that it means you tend to not get upgrades. Why? Because if they upgrade they risk breaking other people’s websites. It’s rare that you will find a shared host that will keep up with the latest versions of PHP for example. At the moment, I’m fairly happy with west-hosts shared hosting plans for clients who don’t host with me. Their rates also seem to make sense to me: $6.95 VPS Web Hosting
  • Virtual Dedicated Hosting – This is very similiar to virtual hosting, except they put your website in a “sandbox” to isolate your site from others a little more than usual. I’ve never actually made use of this service, but it’s actually very similiar to how westhost does their normal hosting anyway.
  • Dedicate Hosting – This is where you basically get your own box at the host. They normally configure it for easy management, but you should be the ONLY one on the box. This tends to give the flexibility need to install and update your own applications. The downside is that it costs more than shared hosting. In some cases it also makes you resonsible for your own backups and upgrades. If you plan on hosting multiple sites, this often is the best way to go.
  • Colocated – This is the ultimate in customizability. Basically you buy your own box, and put it in a safe location connected to a high speed line. This is what JR does. It’s great for situations where you are hosting a lot of websites, or need access to multiple servers in the same location. The best part is, it’s your equipment… So if your down, it’s most likely your own fault. The biggest downside is cost, as you have to buy your own equipment, and it often costs 3-4 times more than dedicated hosting.
  • Internal – Ok, so this is actually the ultimate, but I ruled it out because it’s a big bigger than most people would ever need. Basically, you would have to get your own lines run to your own location… We’re talking 10,000’s per month to get the speeds that most people want, with the redundacy most people can’t live without.

One word of caution: If your buying a Virtual Hosting plan… watch out for resellers. Most virtual host places offer reseller accounts that allow other people to resell their services. There are two big problems with this:

  • You don’t have direct access to customer support in most cases, meaning longer downtime in the event that something is wrong.
  • It tends to cost more because Resellers are trying to make a buck off of you.

Just to give you the horror story of me on Virtual Hosting… There was a period of roughly 2 days where my websites were down. 4 phone calls to tech support and all they could tell me was they had a server failure and were trying to restore from backup. I can understand server failures, but restoring from backup should be DANG quick in my mind. In any case, it’s part of the reason we are on our own boxes now… So that I can make sure that the site gets back up and running as fast as humanly possible should something go wrong.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Justin GEhring April 2, 2007, 10:23 am

    Sometimes I wonder why I test these things.