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Web hosting hell

Posted: February 27, 2007 in Web Design

Good web hosting is getting harder and harder to find. I host a number of websites - my own, a political forum, plus a few odd and end sites. For a while I had these pages scattered across several different hosts - all on plans that expired at different times. A real pain.

In the past year or so, I noticed some hosts offering the option to host multiple domains on one account, so I decided to consolidate. After poking around, I chose a host called BlueHost.com. The first couple of months were fine, but then I started to notice problems, mainly a recurring 500 server error affecting all my sites. Having all of my sites down for hours at a time, a few days a week, wasn't too much fun, so I contacted tech support. Unfortunately, I got a canned answer: "Clean up your php code".

Of course, the code on my site was/is the same code I've been using trouble-free for years, and the forum is off-the-shelf software, so I knew neither of those were the problem. Not to mention the dozens of other people on Bluehost's support forums with the same exact problem. I'm thinking maybe they had a problem with Zend or something - hard to say.

As my hosting plan at Bluehost approached the end of its year, I started looking for alternate hosting. It's a jungle out there, and there's more hosts than you can shake a stick at. After a dubious recommendation from a friend, I reluctantly signed up for a hosting plan with GoDaddy.com. Danica Patrick stared me in the eye as I filled in my info, as if to say, "Haha, sucker...". I completed the purchase process, only to find a nightmarish control panel, rife with flashing ads and check boxes trying to sell me additional features. I tried to ignore them, and struggled to set things up.

After a day of fiddling, I phoned tech support. I have to admit, their tech support is great, but it had better be, because you will need it. I spent most of the second day uploading my sites, and trying to create databases. I say "trying" because even that's no picnic. I'm used to ssh access (not offered by godaddy) so I had to rely on their hellish control panel to set things up. Their database upload utility was useless. I had to hand-edit all the comments out of my exported database files, and they had a max database size of 2mb (the forum db is 45+ mb) so you have to have tech support create anything larger.

After several calls and a few emails to tech support, I was ready to preview what I had uploaded. No can do, unless you purchase a dedicated IP address for six bucks a month (almost as much as the hosting itself). After learning that I could cancel the dedicated IP after a month, I bit.

Then it was time to create email accounts. I created the accounts for my primary domain without incident, but when it came to creating the accounts for my 4 other domains, I got stuck. Another call to tech support revealed that I needed to purchase (of course) additional email packages for my remaining accounts.

Now things were getting expensive. Far more expensive than a typical host. I decided to cut my losses and cancel the account. Of course, godaddy is probably the only host in existence with no money-back guarantee, so I ended up eating the hosting costs. Lesson learned.

But honestly, I've been doing websites for a while, and have been on and off several different hosts. They all include pretty much the same thing, so I was pretty amazed to learn that email for each domain was not included with godaddy. It's like they took the standard webhosting package and cut it into pieces to sell separately. "Your car is ready sir. No, sorry, there's no radio, AC, spare tire, wipers, or headlights. Those are extra".

If you ever need a good web host, check out a site called HostSearch.com. You can plug in exactly the options you're looking for, and it gives you results that match your criteria. They also have actual customer reviews, so you can sort by the highest rated. Discard the results with less than 10 reviews, and you've got some good results. A quick check of the customer forums (assuming they have them) will give you an idea of how the customers like the service.

I ended up choosing Downtownhost.com, and they seem good so far. Really good in fact. Very quick to respond to email inquiries, very quick to reply to my one tech support question, and very personable. The servers seem lighting fact compared to my previous two hosts, and all the standard features were included at no additional cost.

I signed up at 3pm on Monday and by 6am Tuesday morning, all my sites were live. That includes going out for dinner Monday night (while my files uploaded) and going to bed at 11pm. So we're talking a few hours worth of work. Good tech support is nice, but not needing it at all is even nicer.

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cydebar...

I think anybody who doesn't think I'm smart enough to handle the job is underestimating.

- George W. Bush


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