That headline’s not as drastic as it sounds. The reality is merely that if you have a website of your own and you like your host, I hope you’ll let me know.
Both this blog and the upcoming new site are (separately) hosted with a company called JustHost. It’s been fair-to-middlin’ for the blog. Bit slow. Frequent server errors. But tolerable. (I thought it was my connection at first; my apologies if you’ve been seeing the same thing.) We chose a budget plan and you gets what you pays for. Might move later.
Alas, JustHost has turned out to be absolutely unworkable for the new site — to the point where members would have a hard time registering. Their tech support is difficult-to-non-existent. And there’s no reason to believe everything would improve if we paid for their super-duper-premium plan.
For the blog, we’ll keep JustHost for the time being. For the member site, though, we’re still within the 30-day moneyback period. And it’s time to move on to a host that will give users a far better experience.
Here’s what we need in a host company
- Must easily support WordPress, including eMember and store functions.
- Must be easily capable of running a Simple Machines forum
- Must have cpanel or similar admin access for we non-technoids
- Must be decently speedy and have good up time. Few server errors would be a plus.
- Must have online or email tech support with people who know what they’re doing. (Phone and chat support alone won’t do.)
- Must be affordable. I think we could go $15 a month for a really great service, but under $10 would be more comfortable — IF we can get boffo reliable hosting for that.
I hope He Who Fakes It Well will chime in if I’ve forgotten anything. He put a lot of effort into trying to make JustHost work, to no avail. Bill St. Clair also stepped in to solve other issues. (Virtual hugs to both you guys.) But their efforts made it clear that the host has problems that we — and you — should not have to deal with.
So … recommendations, anybody? Especially welcome are recommendations from you who have beyond-a-blog websites of your own.
This site loads slowly (seconds not mili) sometimes and has, at times, failed to load altogether. I didn’t say anything because I thought it was “under construction” related. Best not to get in any deeper here, I agree. Start off fresh. As to where, can’t help there. Sorry, I feel bad for you.
Oh, one more thing. It would be really nice if the new host could not only properly send mail from the Word Press interface (one of the big problems with JH), but if people actually received that mail.
Some hosts (cotse.net and nexcess.net in my personal experience) are otherwise great but are perceived by too many ISPs as being spam sources. And a lot of those ISPs will not work with sites to unblock their mail.
I had the same problems with every budget shared hosting solution I used when I was blogging. Off the top of my head, that includes 1&1, Midphase, and Dreamhost. Of course that was years ago. But I’m betting that overall things are still the same.
If I were to fire up the blog again, I’d be looking at a VPS, or as they call it these days “cloud” hosting. More admin/setup burden up front, but you get billing based on actual use, and scalability if you need it. GUI front-end for site management stuff would be something other than cPanel, but I’m guessing there are packages for that. But, that’s also a big step, though perhaps worth it.
Claire, I think Wizard Bill St. Claire set up all our sites to be hosted at Digital Ocean, and while it is a bit more each month than I wanted to pay, I have been so appreciative of the excellent service there that I think it is worth the extra money. We had gone through several options for web hosting prior to digital Ocean, and it is by far the best of the ones we’ve had through the last ten or 15 years. (Yes, it has been that long, egads!) And if you ask, I think many of us could chip in $9 or $10 a year to help cover the additional costs. Maybe the budget needs to be reviewed?
Machighway.com is pretty good. They’ve been hosting my site for many years, and I’ve been pretty satisfied. One caveat, though: although the Simple Machine forum software is available, I’ve never used it myself.
I recommend Pair.com. I have used them since the mid 90s. My daughter uses them for all her clients and her own sites. I have tried a few other providers but none compare with Pair’s service and support.
They have a lot of packages, I am not sure if one will fit your needs and price range. They are worth a look.
I’ve been using Hostgator for at least 10 years, probably longer. They use cPanel, they do WordPress, and I think they do SimpleMachines (at least they used to — the recently replaced the Fantastico software installation gadget with something else).
I’ve always had good performance and outstanding customer service from them. The only time there’s ever been a problem has been when my CPU usage/database queries were too high as a percentage of server (it’s shared hosting). In most cases (three or four in that decade plus), that meant I hadn’t set up caching correctly. In one, it was because my site was under attack. They have a tendency to cut off a site when usage suddenly spikes to unacceptable levels and only put it back up after you’ve worked out the problem with them.
I use their middle tier of shared hosting — right at $10 a month if you pay monthly, cheaper if you pay in advance. I run Rational Review News Digest (about a thousand visitors a day), the Garrison Center (about the same), and several smaller sites out of the account.
Mail requires more attention now than it used to. I never messed with outbound mail from my web hosting.
I’ve noticed the COTSE problem too. 2, that I know of, gmail recipients don’t receive my e-mail. No bounce messages … nothing. I’ve told those people to whitelist my address, but that seems to be outside the level of effort they want to spend time figuring out.
It would royally irritate me if I ended up having to switch from COTSE.
This is great stuff, guys! Thank you.
So far, I’ve got these on my list to check out: Hostgator, Pair.com, MacHighway, and two more found through reviews, A Small Orange and Linode.
Bill St. C definitely does speak highly of Digital Ocean. But I have the impression that (perhaps like Linode), it requires high-geek skills to use.
Still, these are a lot of good leads. And it does seem that it would be wise to look into a VPS rather than standard shared hosting. Here I enter Terra Incognita.
But dear feralfae … no more “kicking in.” You guys have already given me the most amazing re-start after the bad BHM experience. Now I’m absolutely determined that both new sites will be entirely self-supporting — the blog (eventually) through Amazon links, the other site through memberships.
Off to explore the options.
“Mail requires more attention now than it used to. I never messed with outbound mail from my web hosting.”
Indeed. And mail through WordPress (e.g. store purchases and people signing up for memberships and mailing lists) is a whole ‘nother level of difficulty.
As to whitelisting … it may not be your friends’ failure. Some big ISPs apparently block all mail from certain servers, so that the intended recipient doesn’t even have a choice to whitelist. Bellsouth (or whatever they’re calling themselves now), I’ve discovered, is beastly about this — and totally unwilling to work with anybody on the problem.
BTW, and just FYI (though I also think this is very cool) … since moving, the blog is already averaging around 1,100 hits a day, with a couple of days near 2,000. Pretty good for a blog in a new home.
I never paid much attention to my stats at BHM, but they were lower than that, except on occasional days when a link from some big site (WRSA and LewRockwell.com come to mind) would push them way up.
I understand (correct me if I’m wrong) that stats can be distorted by the number of visitors coming in with privacy settings up the wahzoo. So it might even be more.
I wouldn’t expect the new private site to have that much traffic. OTOH, it’s technically much more complex than this one.
Bluehost has been working for me.
Not to hijack, but have you heard from Joel? He’s been offline since Sunday last…
Unclezip — Thanks! I think there’s some connection between Bluehost and JustHost, which makes me nervous. (When I called to verify my JH account, I reached a Bluehost account rep.)
As to Joel, I have heard from him. He’s fine. His Internet is just down and you know how crappy Wildblue customer service is in his area. He texted me a few days ago and I put an update on his last post (http://joelsgulch.com/joel-the-high-tech/#comments). Landlady added an even later update, saying Joel’s service might be restored on Saturday. Meanwhile, all Joel fans are suffering severe withdrawal symptoms while speculating about whether he was eaten by packrats.
I’ve been using Blue for about 5 years. Just a toy, to keep my programming chops tight. They just moved the whole thing to the cloud, which in itself caused a few headaches, but overall I’ve had no problems. Blue does have a tendency to nickle-and-dime you with addons if you’re not paying attention.
Packrats. That’s funny. It’s not as if he’s gone out of his way to piss them off or anything…
So far, of the options I’ve skimmed, Tom Knapp’s recommendation of Hostgator looks most promising (judging by features + price only; must still investigate reputations for service, etc.), with one of their Business-level plans being the clear choice, even though they’re on the high end of the budget range.
But I’m confused by differences (and similarities) between Business Plan with an optional upgrade to Cloud and Business Cloud:
These days I’ve been spending much of every day in a state of confusion, anyhow. So this is nothing new.
Looks like that’s old data. When you click to sign up for Business Plan with upgrade to Cloud, you get the Cloud Business plan and price.
One thing I like here is that you can sign up for as little as one month to check things out.
Well, in a couple cases I can think of, the recipients do know about it. However, there is that Rumsfeld problem of unknown unknowns. Silent blocking doesn’t help here. However, I assume ISPs (and Google) are trying to not generate too much backscatter spam as well. So, sometimes legitimate traffic just gets tossed out with the bathwater. There’s some truth in the claims that e-mail is broken.
In re. WordPress, I think WordPress itself is fine. It’s just making system calls to send mail, same as any other program would. But some configuration issues could be in play, and adding a domain is another thing to deal with. And that, in the end, is probably a JustHost issue.
“And that, in the end, is probably a JustHost issue.”
Ayup. And alas, what we discovered is that while JustHost used to be a terrific service, recently they decided tech support doesn’t matter. They’ve now got a bunch of howlingly mad customers. They entirely dropped their email/online trouble-ticket support. Their chat line, if it’s functioning at all, is populated by people who don’t know what they’re doing. And email — the main problem we’re having with them — has become a notorious weak point, with one reviewer saying they haven’t helped him even after “six months of begging.”
More on Hostgator (and no affiliate links involved, btw — the one thing I don’t like is their affiliate program, which seems unduly complicated, so I stopped messing with it):
Here’s a post on that DDOS that I mentioned and how they handled it.
When I ran Steve Kubby’s presidential campaign in 2008, I opened a separate Hostgator account for the campaign web site. When the campaign ended, I shut down the site, closed the account … but forgot to stop my automatic monthly payments. ENTIRELY my fault. And I didn’t notice it for years.
When I DID notice it, I had paid, IIRC, about $350 for an account that was closed. When I contacted customer support, they INSTANTLY offered me the option of a full refund, or using the amount to pay in advance for my still-existing account at a steep discount (20% or 25%, I forget which), or a mix. I took the mix.
A few months later, I got a call from their auditor, saying “we just noticed we owe you $350. Would you like that by PayPal or check?” It took me about half an hour to convince the lady that they had already paid me and to talk her out of sending me more money.
I think of myself as a reasonably tough customer to please, and of course I get upset when anything brings my sites down, including their automated “that account is using too much CPU.” But I’m pretty sure I started with them in 2003 or 2004. I’m still with them because they’ve never done me wrong, and because they’ve always done their best to treat me right, and because the hosting itself is, as a general rule, reliable (every so often, maybe once every 1-2 months that I actually notice, the mysql server will go down for a few minutes; I don’t know if this happens with other hosts because it’s been so long since I’ve used other hosts).
That’s their basic mid-level shared hosting account. I’ve never used their cloud hosting or VPS options, but I assume they have the same high level of reliability and customer service.
Another recommendation: In WordPress, use the W3 Total Cache plugin to reduce mysql server loads — and hook that up to CloudFlare. I only use CloudFlare on one site (the Garrison Center) because it makes me nervous to cache in the cloud on RRND where there are 50+ posts per day with custom fields, etc. But on the site I do use it on, the free version is sufficient to massively reduce server load.
Unlike shared hosting, yes, a VPS will require more geek skills. I quickly looked at Linode, and they look to have lots of tools and tutorials, but still, you’re managing, in essence, your own Linux server. You get to choose, e.g., which web server you want. So then you ask yourself, do I really want to deal with Apache, or should I use lighthttpd or nginx? And, you can run whatever you want, so installing something like SimpleMachines is completely possible, but there won’t be a Fantastico script to do it for you. (Maybe some VPS providers have such tools?) Many more things are possible, but many more things are now your responsibility.
It’s been a long while since I looked at VPS providers. One had “drops”, and another had “slices” – which is how they described their mechanism for adding more capability. Need more oomph? Add another slice!
Have you considered AWS from Amazon? I can’t speak to that – just a thought.
jed — Noticed that about Linode shortly after mentioning it. Much too geeky for me.
However, it looks as if Hostgator and a lot of other hosting services now have cloud hosting that’s still easy on the less-than-techies. Or so it seems. No experience to back that thought. Yet.
Tom — Good stories and so far looks like an excellent recommendation. We’re definitely exploring Hostgator as thoroughly as we can from the outside.
I know nothing about CloudFlare. I certainly see it referenced a lot but my actual info on it is nil.
One more thing to bother my brain with. But they do say that bothering the brain with new Learning Experiences is a healthy thing.
We’ve been happy with HawkHost (www.hawkhost.com) for our e107 web sites. They’re Linux based for reliability, and they use LiteSpeed web server which is much faster than Apache (we’ve needed that on occasion). CPanel yes, and they claim to host WordPress (I have no personal experience there). We do run SMF there with no problems. As I recall, their email tech support has been pretty good. We’ve had few problems, their uptime is good, and their email server doesn’t seem to be on any blacklists.
CloudFlare looks scary and complicated, but it’s not, really.
What CloudFlare does is cache your site content, at a period set by you, on various servers (“in the cloud”) so that visitors are getting their content from CloudFlare, not hitting YOUR server every time they visit. So if your site is down for a few minutes, no biggie, CloudFlare has your back. And if there’s a DDOS attack, it hits CloudFlare, not you (and CloudFlare is apparently very good at stopping that stuff).
Setup is pretty much a matter of telling CloudFlare “this is my url,” pointing your DNS at nameservers they give you, and telling the W3 Cache plugin in WordPress that you’re using CloudFlare.
As I’ve mentioned multiple times, I have not used Hostgator’s VPS offering, but I have friends who have, and I am pretty sure that once it’s set up, you just mostly treat it like a regular hosting account — it has cPanel, a software installation gadget sort of like Fantastico, etc. The real difference between it and shared hosting is that you get 100% of whatever CPU level you buy instead of it being a server with one CPU and four users or whatever, and if your usage of that CPU goes above x%, you’re liable to get shut down.
Brad R — Thanks for the good and thorough recap of how HawkHost relates to everything I’m looking for. They look good.
Right now, it’s between them and HostGator, though I know more info might still come in.
Hawk Host has few, but terrific reviews: http://www.whoishostingthis.com/hosting-reviews/hawk-host/
HostGator has a lot of reviews, which seem either to be raves or ravages: http://www.whoishostingthis.com/hosting-reviews/hostgator/ But many of the bad ones seem to come from India and might not be relevant to U.S. service.
Both have a great selection of features at good prices. (Oh, the decisions!)
HostGator also offers standard, cloud hosting, and VPS hosting, while Hawk is just standard hosting or VPS. Earlier today I wouldn’t even have known the difference (https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-cloud-hosting-and-VPS-hosting). And I’m still foggy on it. But tonight I’m leaning toward cloud.
The brain. It hurts. But in a good way.
Thanks, Tom. Good to know about CloudFlare. At the moment I’m leaning toward two hosts (as described in my reply to Brad R). Either way, I’d take your recommendation for using CF.
CloudFlare doesn’t get along very well with Tor. Not surprising, since their business involves being able to spy on the internet activity of anyone visiting a site they monitor.
Unfortunately this is a bit worrisome. Reviews of JustHost often say, “It was great until recently when they started killing off customer service.” I’m now finding exactly the same type of reviews on HostGator. It turns out there’s a reason for that:
Same company owns them and a couple of others and has been consolidating customer support.
Is anyone familiar with HostWinds?
Of all sites I’ve found, they have (on pixels, at least) the best combo of excellent customer reviews and wide variety of plans at reasonable prices. They also have four different ways to reach customer service + a reputation for knowledgeable support staff. And various choices of Linux-based hosting.
My brain is tired, my eyeballs foggy, and I’m not going to do anything drastic tonight. But if somebody pointed a gun at my head and said, “Choose NOW,” I’d probably click with these guys.
Or I’d try to wrestle the gun out of the somebody’s hand and say, “Make me choose? Nevah!” Then I’d go back to looking at HawkHost and HostGator.
I’m on Machighway too, had essentially zero problems, and the couple minor ones they fixed quick and easy. Mail has always worked smoothly, both the site email and the wordpress email.
I’ve used 1&1 ever since I replaced my old Geocities page due to complaints. It has been good for me, but what do I know? I’m a stone knives and bearskins kinda guy.
Also, I’ve never wanted to mess with a forum, so I have no clue how that would go with them. I know they have a lot of features I’ve never used.
One comment, but I doubt it’s anything you can control. When I subscribe to comments, I wish WP would stop making me confirm the subscription. Yes, I clicked “notify me”, and that means I want it. Just send it and let me unsubscribe later if it was a mistake. LOL.
Kent — You’re right; that’s something I can’t control.
1&1 was among the services I looked at yesterday. They looked good and had a great variety of plans/prices, but they had a ton of negative reviews that included some horrendous customer service problems, like people trying for six months to close their accounts.
Thanks, Ruth. That’s two v*tes for Machighway. It looked as if it had good features at prices that were maybe only a tad high. But it says “by and for Mac users” and I’m a Linux person.
Hard to get a fix on its quality. It has very few customer reviews online, and based on those has a poor reputation for customer service — though I was impressed that the company was monitoring and responding to the reviews it got. https://hostadvice.com/hosting-company/machighway-reviews/
Claire, it didn’t even occur to me to mention that CloudFlare isn’t insanely Tor-friendly. But its reputation for being Tor-negative is unwarranted. Basically, they treat Tor as its own “country” for screening purposes and allow the user to set security levels. The default level, “medium,” means that if someone hits your site using Tor from an exit node with a reputation for spam/DDOS stuff, they’ll get a CAPTCHA challenge to make sure they’re a human and not a bot. Here’s more on that:
I hate to make your search any more complicated, but it occurred to me that you MIGHT want to look outside the US. Specifically at Iceland. Not that I expect the US gestapo to suppress Living Freedom in the foreseeable future, but they’re less likely to be ABLE to if your server is in Iceland. But it’s a little more expensive, or at least it was when I went looking maybe a year ago. I’m still considering it, just not looking forward to moving all my stuff.
Well, for what its worth, I’m running Windows!
I can point you towards at least one other who’s had a great time with them too if that helps. But yah, never had a serious issue, and they’ve always been very responsive to me. Via both phone and email.
I’ve never had any problem. I also used them to make a website for my dad. When he decided to end that project I cancelled and they immediately cancelled and refunded the remaining time on his package- something I didn’t expect.
Just a reminder that all the work done to set up the new site isn’t lost. The www directory can be copied verbatim, and the databases can be dumped at the old place and restored at the new. All that needs to change is a handful of file system paths, in settings files and database fields. And the URL of the database server.
WP makes you confirm subscriptions so that if somebody subscribes for you, you can just ignore the email, instead of having to click a cancel button there. Slightly more work when subscribing. Much less pain when a spammer is subscribing you to something you don’t want to see.
Bill — I was so worried about that at first. I’ve become more relaxed as I’ve learned more. But I’m still dreading the move.
A couple of the hosts I’ve looked at offer free migration from an existing site (with HostWinds being the most explicit and reassuring about what they can do to smooth the process), but I still have visions of scripts and settings (and work done by you and HWFIW) being lost.
Free migration shouldn’t be necessary, since an acceptable host will have ssh and rsync to make that easy. Emacs in the ssh environment is also a big plus. JustHost rocked in the ssh department.
I use namecheap.com for a basic site, cheapest option. Loads slowly but maybe the higher tiers are better. Support is great.
Try tigertech.net. Talk with them before signing up and let them know the expected traffic. You might have more traffic than a discount host can handle. It might be time to start looking at more robust options like amazon web services.
Though it may already be too late to add another prospect to your web-hosting search list, I kind of feel like I owe it to “my guys” to mention them to you. I met one of photon.net (‘s) owners around fifteen years ago in Mt. Shasta while there for other things and started with them shortly afterwards.
I should say that I can’t give you very much of a technical recommendation. About as much as I’ve ever done with my account is put up and take down various little pages back years ago when I was experimenting with Dreamweaver, so I’m not really qualified to address the issues you’d be facing these days.
But what I have always had from photon.net is quick replies to my questions. And though it’s been years since I’ve spoken to anyone there, it was always possible to reach them without hassle either by phone or email.
But I write this recommendation really just to mention the quality of photon.net replies to my questions. Even more recently I will occasionally have a question for them about something I should probably know (or that they have already explained to me) and I just remain impressed with the detail and effort they put into their timely, personal, emailed replies.
I’m moving to http://www.thoughtcrimes.org/harelink/
So far so good.
The new site is not up yet, but soon…….
Thanks for the additional recommendations, guys. I checked them all out (and found HareLink … um, interestingly unique).
But I went with Hawk Host, per Brad R’s recommendation.
The “runners up” were Tom’s HostGator and my own find, Hostwinds.
But HostGator, for all its virtues and all Tom’s persuasiveness, is owned by the same outfit that owns JustHost (the host I’m bailing out of) and unfortunately the common theme among their acquisitions is, over time, diminishing quality of service.
And although I was darned near in love with Hostwinds, when I got to talking on their (excellent) chat line, I discovered a lot of surprises re costs and services. The surprises may have been due in part because of my own ignorance about the requirements of VPS and cloud hosting, but they were enough to send me into Hawk Host’s arms.
At Hawk Host I ended up with a plain business-level plan (no cloud, no VPS), but it came with a dedicated IP address and a super-low-cost SSL certificate and otherwise good specs and good reputation from the company. So there we are.
This may delay the beta testing by a week or so, but we’re on the move again.
I’m glad you found a host that meets your needs.
I see from Wikipedia that the sale of Hostgator to the conglomerate that apparently owns 90% of web hosts in America took place in 2012 — most of my interactions with them, other than paying the bill, took place then or before then. Matter of fact, I bet the time they called me up thinking they owed me money after an audit was them getting their books straight for the sale. I haven’t noticed any degradation in customer service, but then I haven’t had any reason to spend a lot of time talking with them.
I may start looking around for new hosting myself at some point. It would force me to clean up my cluttered account, and to do a re-design of RRND. I think the last time I did that was 2010.
I hope HawkHost works well for you, Claire. I decided to dig into my email archives, and I find that since we switched to them in 2010, I’ve filed eight support requests. And the first two were configuration and billing questions, immediately after we signed up with them. So that’s about one technical issue per year.