It is a sad day for me, but one that should have come last year.
I’ve been running my websites (this one and yokohama-theatre.com) on the same web host since about 2000. My old web host (let’s call them oldhost.com came highly recommended by a friend, and so I signed up. They were a titch more expensive than other options, but they were local (I was based in Toronto at that time), and super friendly. Even now, when I send a support email in, 9 times out of 10, I have a response within the hour from the company president.
Here is the problem that started putting the thought of changing into my mind: My sites are slow. Too slow. I initially thought that the problem was the lag—I’m accessing the sites from Japan. Setting up CloudFlare , which can cache the files in Tokyo didn’t help, though. It was suggested to me that perhaps my sites weren’t well-optimized. They weren’t, but there was little I could do about the YTG site without also changing the template, which I was not about to do. (CloudFlare actually does a lot of the optimization as well so that you don’t have to do it piecemeal on the back-end of your website.)
Just out of curiosity, I backed up the site and moved it over to a free domain host, this time in the U.S. It was faster, even without CloudFlare. No more waiting for the admin interface to slowly reload after applying a single change. No more waiting for my banner graphic across the top of the site to load. I quickly realized that I was paying for early 2000s performance at early 2000s prices.
Also, oldhost.com tends to lag behind on server software. They didn’t switch to PHP 5.3 until November 2012, even though 5.2 had been end-of-life since January 2011—I had website components complaining about this. There’s something to be said for caution, but this was a bit over-the-top. They offered no real support for common website software, like WordPress or Joomla, instead implying to me that these platforms were insecure or faulty in some way (not sure which platforms they expected me to use, then). They had many features considered standard by other hosts disabled for security reasons which they claimed was standard practice (and I discovered was not).
In addition, I had no access to any logs, so I always had to go back and forth with support to investigate issues that required me to check logs.
The main thing is the speed. In 2012, I shouldn’t be experiencing this level of speed from a website. And certainly not for the price I was paying. After realizing that it wasn’t only my site setup affecting the speed (I tested using a free host based in the U.S.), as I’d been told, it was pretty much just a matter of time until I researched an alternative and moved.
My current package:
- 10 GB web space
- 50 GB total space (including mail accounts, databases, etc.)
- 2 domains
- unlimited sub domains
- 40 email addresses (don’t use them—I use Google Apps for Domains instead)
- No SSL
- Email-based support (response time 1-4 hours)
For this, I pay $199.99 CAD per year. I mean, seriously—is this hosting package stuck in 2006 or what?
New package (on HostGator)
- Unlimited web space*
- Unlimited domains
- Shared SSL
- SFTP (and unlimited users! no more having to give collaborators my main password!)
- Support for JOOMLA
- A bunch of software installers (fully supported)
- cPanel and whole pile of great tools for database, file, and site management. (I can MOVE files from one directory to another by DRAGGING and DROPPING, FFS!)
- A bunch of checkout software packages (fully supported)
- Email, phone, and chat-based support (response time 1-4 minutes)
TANGENT: *You and I both know that “unlimited” anything in this industry never really unlimited. They have restrictions on what can be on your account and what can’t. For example, only one site backup can reside on the server. Which is honestly a bit impractical when I find myself backing up my site before each major change, and I’m not always in a location where a large download is possible (e.g. when I’m connected over phone tethering). However, for all practical purposes, I am not likely to run into an upper limit any time soon. The really sneaky part is that they limit your CPU usage. I don’t anticipate this being a problem, as I think it’s designed to catch people who abuse the service, but I will have to be careful nonetheless.
For this, I pay $228.96… for three years. 38% of my oldhost.com bill.
TANGENT: I’ve also been gearing up to move my domain registrations away from oldhost.com as well. The cost there is a flat $19.99 per year, with no multi-year discounts. For a dot com. Once I’ve finished testing the host gator platform, I will be redirecting the old domain and moving it to Moniker, which is not only cheaper, but easier to manage (better U.I).
I’m also migrating a bunch of my domains from doteasy. Doteasy was my very first host— a free one—I moved away from them because their free package had no php/mysql support back in the day. That’s how I originally ended up at oldhost.com. My volunteer web developer insisted on making a database-driven site. Which was a great idea—except what I got was a static site with php files instead of html files. I’d left some domains that I wasn’t using except for email on doteasy, but the $20/year renewal was starting to piss me off, so I moved them to Moniker and once the transfer is done, I will point them to hostgator as parked domains (with email).
One of the other annoying problems I will have fixed by moving to HostGator is a recurring file ownership issue I was having.
On oldhost.com, the default file and folder permissions were 644 and 755, respectively. While this is a best practice, security-wise, and one that I agree with, it caused a lot of problems because the FTP user was different than the web account user. If you’re not familiar with ACLs and UNIX file permissions, let me sum up: the FTP user couldn’t delete or modify files created by the website software and vice versa. Like a lot of people, I tend to use a combination of FTP and the built-in tools on my CMS platform (WordPress or Joomla) to get things done. So until I realized what was happening and made a bunch of support calls to change the owner on all my files (something I couldn’t do myself), I was constantly wondering why component upgrades were failing or why I didn’t have permissions over FTP to delete or change certain files.
On HostGator (yeah, going back and forth on the CamelCase, I know, but my editor doesn’t have a find/replace function), the main FTP user and the default web user are the same. RELIEF!
So: a few things to move and test still (as of today, this site has now been rebuilt and moved), but so far things are looking positive. My next hosting bill comes due in July, and I am planning to give my notice to close down the account in June at the latest. It’s going to be a bit sad, but in the end, oldhost.com simply didn’t keep up with changes in the industry over the last ten years and their service isn’t good enough to be paying a 62% premium (plus tax, because they are Canadian—and don’t get me started on having to pay HST when I’m not residing in Canada).
TL;DR Though sad to be leaving my webhost of many years, I felt they were not delivering value for money paid so I am reluctantly leaving them for another hosting company.