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An Unconventional Way to Choose Hosting

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Stephan Miller
Stephan Miller
An Unconventional Way to Choose Hosting

Choosing a hosting provider can be a big hassle. The first time I started paying for hosting was close to ten years ago and since then I have gone through a lot of hosts. And to tell you the truth, up until this year, I just picked the cheapest I could find with the features I needed. I had already gone through learning SEO to make money online and then PHP to make the SEO more effective. I did not want to have to learn one more thing that was better left to someone else.

But this year, Google came one step closer to providing the type of search engine results people want. And they don’t want your slow as molasses website. I know I don’t. You get about a two count and then I am back at Google looking for the next result. I still have the habit beat into me during phone modem times of opening two or three results in new tabs and letting the quickest one win. So the people at Google decided why not make that part of their ranking algorithm. And I decided, time to look at hosting again.

Hosting can be your weakest link when it comes to the load time of your website. I have seen a lot of emphasis placed on shrinking images, tidying CSS and javascript and compressing web files when the fact of the matter is that you are only shaving milliseconds doing this and every little bit does help, but when the load time of a web page is in the multiple seconds, you are just wasting your time. You need to look at optimizing Apache, PHP and MySql. It is the only place you are going to shave whole seconds off. I have seen 3-5 seconds shaved off the load time of a WordPress page with just a few MySql tweaks and PHP caching. Once you can load a web page in one or two seconds, then is the time you starting compressing files and images.

I now can say I have developed sites on shared hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting and I even played around a bit with cloud servers, but I don’t categorize hosting providers that way. I have a different method. If you are a hosting company and your company does not fall under one of these categories, I am sorry I did not list your type. I just have run into another category personally.

The Unlimited Domains and Email Addresses Host

This host is selling to people who know nothing about hosting. Any physical server can theoretically provide unlimited domain hosting and emails. I can host unlimited sites on my laptop. It says there are 20 there now and when I want to, I can start Apache and run them. But it would be ridiculous to use my laptop as a server connected to the Internet. Some of these hosts even provide price points where for a certain price you can host 3 domains or for a few dollars more, unlimited. With them, the keyword is “unlimited” and it seems like you are getting a deal, the buffet of the hosting deals. It’s like saying a pickup truck can hold unlimited payload. It can. It just might not move.

In my experience, free shared hosting is shared hosting. You can never tell what you are going to get until you are actually running a site on the host. You are at the mercy of all the other people who host on the same server. And if one of your neighbors is being targeted by hackers, your site goes down with the ship. It may sound paranoid to think this way until it has happened to you. With the price of hosting and storage going down as technology advances, you can get a barebones VPS for the same price as most shared hosting.

So shared hosting has no guarantees because you have a lot of neighbors who share your resources.

The We Will Watch Your Sites, Give You Attitude, and No Control Over the Server Host

These hosting companies usually have the picture of a big building they don’t own as a graphic somewhere on their site although some have the random people intently staring at one computer graphic instead. The color schemes of these hosts conjure up words like austere, business-like, solid and possibly, Borg. The sales points here are uptime, 24/7 dedicated support, monitoring, firewalls and scans. They may have pop-up chats that won’t leave you alone

But expect to get an attitude when they get the idea that you think you know what you are talking about and you are refused root access to finally just go in and do it yourself. And the monitoring. I have never had one hosting provider in my life tell me my site was having issues before I did. But all of these buzzwords and specialized names for open-source software you can run yourself give corporate types a warm, fuzzy feeling and the price tag probably does to, if they show a price. Some don’t. You have to call. I never have. Gave me the car lot vibe.

If you are running specific software that you know how to optimize with specific Apache, PHP and MySql settings to make it run at peak performance, most hosting providers in this category won’t know this unless you tell them. I am being general here, but their job is security and server performance more than PHP/MySql performance which varies wildly with your traffic and the software you are using. So you still have to have the knowledge to tell them the settings you need and that is only one step away from doing it yourself.

The Here’s Your Box Host

Which I eventually got around to. And it was hard finding one. Free Hosting is a constantly booming industry, the picks and shovels of the Internet. You have to dig deep into the search engines and know exactly what you are looking for in VPS or dedicated host. And eventually you will run into the true sales points when it comes to performance:

  • RAM
  • CPU
  • Hard Drive
  • Data Transfer Rate

After all, many web hosts use open source software, the same software you can install on your own host. And that is what they monitor. The only real difference is in the hardware and if your hosting provider is not gloating over their hardware, then maybe that is the weak link.

So I was given the bare bones, an SSH connection and the rest I had to install myself, including installing PHP, MySql and the rest. But after I had jumped from host type 1 to host type 2 and never found any host that was great, I had learned a few things. I learned that VirtualMin is sweet open source hosting control panel and that Linux has this magical thing called yum that can install just about anything you need in an instant. It is not for everybody, but I now have a few sites hosted on various barebones VPS and dedicated hosting configurations that load faster than any host I have had before. That combined with host monitoring software that runs on a computer that never shuts down keeps everything under control.

And again, this post was part humor, part fact and just where I am at now when it comes to hosting. My blog itself is still on shared hosting with one of the biggest hosting providers in the United States. At one time, I just thought it was simpler to do it that way. I am just telling you this because it goes down all the time but it too will soon be moving to it’s own VPS.

Stephan Miller blogs at StephanMiller.com.

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Stephan Miller

Stephan Miller

Stephan Miller blogs at StephanMiller.com.

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