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Chris’s Adventures in finding a Web Host

Early this week I received notification that I was bumping my head on the disk space ceiling of my current web host. It wasn’t a very high ceiling, but it’s a friend that leases a server and provides small accounts to friends for very reasonable prices, so I wasn’t in a mood to complain. However, anticipating that my disk space needs would only increase, I decided to look around and see what other web hosting services were available.

My only real experience with a web hosting services to date has been with Lunarpages. I’ve administered the and sites for a couple of years now, and Lunarpages has worked just fine. Their price is reasonable ($7/month), but to get that price they require a year’s payment up front… which is just more than I can afford right now. So, I looked around a bit more.

My Needs

My needs in a web host are fairly simple. Mostly I use my site for hosting blogs, so I need good MySql support. I need to be able to FTP my file changes up to the site. I want to be able to run a handful of email accounts. SSH access would be a nice bonus (some things are just much easier done via the command line!) but isn’t essential. Thus was my criteria in place for picking a new web host.

Attempt #1

My first exploration was with 1and1. They offer fantastically inexpensive rates for large amounts of disk space and bandwidth. They also advertised acceptable amounts of databases and email addresses. The best deal was their pricing: $2.50/month for the first six months, then up to $5/month after that, for 100 GB of storage and 1000 GB of bandwidth. They only required six months’ payment up front, so I went ahead and signed up. I was not impressed.

My first big complaint with 1and1 is their naming scheme for everything. Rather than get FTP accounts with reasonable names, they auto-assign you some terrible autogenerated alphanumeric codes. Ditto for the SQL databases. You’re not allowed to name your own; they create some awful names for you. And to top it off, they have no file manager at all. You have to just do everything via FTP. Unacceptable. 1and1 advertises a “90-day money back guarantee”. I’m going to take them up on it. Yesterday I tried calling to cancel, and after 15 minutes of hideous hold music I couldn’t take any more. I’ll try again today and see if I can get through.

Attempt #2

My second stop on the web-hosting quest was with Dot 5 Hosting. Their prices were similar to 1and1’s, but in comparison to 1and1’s horrible interface, they advertise a nicer control panel called “vDeck”. They offered packages that only required 3 months’ pay-ahead, and a similar 90-day guarantee, so I went ahead and signed up.

Strike 1 against Dot 5 hosting is that their control panel is on a non-standard IP port, which means it gets blocked by the firewall at my workplace. Given that I do most of my administration over the lunch hour, that was a big black mark. However, they sent me a nice email with my FTP login information (in plain english!), so I patiently waited until I got home, then started to try to administer things. Yes, they had a file manager. But one slight problem: they don’t give you an ability to unzip compressed files! This totally baffles me. Why on earth would you require your users to unzip and then FTP individual files up? What a waste. That was the show-stopper right there for me. Time to cancel again. Dot 5 offers live chat help, which actually worked pretty well. They told me I needed to send an email to cancel my service, so I sent the email, and I’m awaiting the cancellation confirmation. We’ll see how it goes.

In the end…

Finally I came to the conclusion that I need to just stay with my current provider for now. I’d been keeping Geof apprised of my search, and we worked something out to up my available disk space a bit. (Thanks, Geof!) So far, so good. Oh, and Geof allows me SSH access, which is something neither Dot 5 nor 1and1 would provide. I guess sometimes you just don’t know how good you’ve got it.

Be First to Comment

  1. Ron Davis Ron Davis

    I’ve got a pretty sweet hosting deal with some friends. They have a rack in a data center down in Atlanta.

    1. I pay nothing
    2. No cares about disk space.
    3. No cares about bandwidth.
    4. Full access to the boxes.
    5. I’m on the list of people allowed to get into the rack.

    It pretty much doesn’t get any better than that.

    Thanks for the mention of 1and1. I was actually going to be checking them out soon because of a project I’ve got “on the side” that would require a decent amount of bandwidth (more than I’d try to leech off of a friend).

  2. Yeah, Ron, I’d say that’s a pretty sweet deal. 🙂 Geof’s deal is pretty darn good, too, though.

    I still just don’t get how any hosting company thinks you can get along without a file manager and the ability to unzip files. As long as you can absorb the “pay up front for a year” cost, LunarPages will be very usable and oh-so-much more powerful.

  3. Chris: i fully expect that 1and1 does those horrible things because they’re replicating your data across a server farm. It’s the only way that I can explain their pricing.

    I didn’t mention it when you were looking [because I was mainly worried about other things and also not really wanting to lose your business ;)], but Joyent/TextDrive is a good provider.

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