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Hosting Providers (My own experiences)

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#1 TheZakum



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Posted 24 October 2008 - 12:56 PM

I figured I'd pop up a post on some of the hosting providers I've liked in the past and present. I'll shed some technical information to help better you on picking a hosting option of your choice, depending on what your wanting to do (and what you can afford to do) with your web presence.


Shared Hosting:

Shared hosting is quite nice for small websites. What I mean by small websites are websites which do NOT get large volumes of frequent visitors. The first thing you'll notice about shared hosting are the following:

  1. The price for shared hosting is massively cheaper than VPS or Dedicated hosting
  2. The amount of bandwidth for shared hosting is (quite often) massive
  3. Disk space is huge (some shared hosting providers even allow up to 2TB (2,000,000 MegaBytes) of storage

A little in-depth knowledge about Shared hosting:

While the resources you pay per-month may seem like extreme deals, remember that your shared hosting account is with thousands of other people's shared hosting accounts on the same server, at the hosting provider. What does this mean? This means many, many things.

If one of the accounts on the server which has your account on it also either gets:

- DDoSed (Denial Of Service Attack)
- Gets "Dugg" by the popular website Digg.com
- Gets massive amounts of traffic out of nowhere...

Your website speed / throughput will smother to a bloody pulp. Some, I may add will have some precautionary measures implemented to save the other accounts when high traffic is discovered to one of the accounts on the machine. Some measures in practice are: Shutting down the account that has been noticed to be sucking the life out of the other accounts on the machine, throttling bandwidth (users per minute and sometimes even second), kicking into a server-side caching system which will send out the users what the server technically "took a picture of" at the time the cache files were written, and will help out with server resources being sacrificed. I should also say, if any of the accounts on the same server as yours get's black listed by an ISP (Internet Service Provider) your website is also susceptible to not being allowed access to many other people with the ISP that blacklisted the account which resides on the same server as yours.

I should also say do not let the Huge Bandwidth allocation fool you. You'll be able to get 500gbs of transfer out of your shared hosting account (depending on how GOOD the datacenter is, and what the provider will actually allow MegaBit wise in and OUT of your account each month, each day...every second). Remember, the servers at the hosting provider 9 times out of 10 usually have one machine with hundreds or thousands of accounts on them, constantly sending and retrieving data. My rule of thumb is...if your shared hosting account is getting at least 200GBs of data out every month, constantly, I'd seriously consider moving to a VPS (Which will be explained below). Through my shared hosting experiences with such giants like GoDaddy.com / HostGator / DreamHost / ValueWeb, they all suffer immensely when traffic hits anything about 300-400GBs of transfer. Screeching your website to a slow, crawling slug.

So, should YOU get shared hosting?

- I have a small website, or personal online portfolio I'd like others to see and it will allow me to have my own personal email.
- I have a SMALL community forum I'd like to host for cheap
- I can't afford a lot of money, and this is all I can afford. I don't foresee my traffic hitting anywhere from 200-300gbs of transfer, or more than 20-30 concurrent website visitors at any given moment for prolonged periods.
- I just want to host huge files so I can grab it over the internet at different locations (I use to nail a couple of shared hosting accounts to do just this. Some providers offering up to 500GBs of space, its really like renting an external hard drive, just I don't put important stuff or illegal content up there.
- I'm in college and need somewhere I can put my classroom files so I can retrieve them later (I dont have a flash-drive!) Hey, this is what I did...and it worked GREAT!

VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting Overview:

VPS hosting was when I personally started to get more technically inclined on the websites I created. Let it be how fast they ran, how I could improve them for speed, efficiency, and how I could lessen the website's server memory footprint.

VPS hosting shares some of the same fundamentals of what shared hosting is. VPS will allow you to (most of the time) have root - level access to what the server can run / cannot run. Many linux based VPS providers use control panels called "Virtuosso", which I've found over the years in my VPS days to grow and love the most. A "VPS" account is a COUPLE of VPS accounts all on one dedicated server. Sometimes this means you're sharing a dedicated server with 20 people, other providers it means your sharing it with 100. You'll immediately see that your allocated bandwidth has dropped significantly. Some providers start at 100GBs of transfer each month, and some allow up to 1 or 2 Terabytes. Your allocated space on the VPS will (in most cases) greatly decrease, some allowing a maximum of 5, while others are more generous by allowing up to 50-60GBs or more (depending on the VPS package (small or large package) and also (obviously) depending on the provider.

Some, even, with 10 (which are some times called HYBRID VPS's). They are more expensive than shared hosting. Sometimes by 5 or 6 times more a month...but why pay that much more to get LESS resources?

  1. VPSs like stated above will allow you to have root access on what the server can run. Let it be Shoutcast for online radio stations, your own custom server applications, etc.
  2. A VPS will allow you to get BEHIND your usual "Shared Hosting" account's web-based control panel. Most of the time this means you'll have the ability to change how cpanel functions, manage name servers for your own custom website hosting (let it be for friends or business), or even just mess around with SSH through Putty or WinSCP. SSH can be found on Wikipedia, but in short, it's a Telnet client for linux VPS accounts which looks like, and functions quite like Window's "DOS" or for the new kids out there Windows's "Command Prompt"
  3. Some providers will allow Windows VPS hosting. This will allow you to use Window's "Remote" and virtually "connect" to the VPS's desktop. There you're remotely connecting and controlling a windows desktop screen, (much like the one your seeing how). However you can run a bunch of server-side applications (TeamSpeak for VoIP, Ventrillo for VoIP, Shoutcast, etc). Most programs that have server-side applications have the server application flavor for BOTH Linux and Windows
  4. The VPS is on a GIGANTICALLY low resourced server compared to Shared Hosting. This means your throughput will generally be MUCH better (ping, transferring, connecting to FTP etc). It's a mini-power house.
  5. The low bandwidth (generally, compared to shared hosting) may have you wondering why they jacked the prices so high. See, generally the hosting provider will disable your account if your website sucks up too much bandwidth. Lets be honest here, NO Shared Hosting account each has a dedicated 100Mbit LAN card allocated for EACH, for only (lets say) $9.99 a month. The allocation of 5TB on the shared hosting account may sound like "Such a deal!" but in reality, you'd barely be able to get 1TB out of it. The VPS server however will allow MANY more concurrent users to be connected with little connectivity problems to be noticed. If you're running a high-dynamic website it's absolutely ADVISED that you get either a VPS or (depending on the users connected) a full dedicated server. Both, are much more than Shared Hosting, however if you're serious about letting your users enjoy their FULL internet connection speed, pay the piper or you'll be sunk to the bottom of the barrel with everyone else who thought "$9.99 for 5TeraBytes of bandwidth each month is great!"
  6. I should rephrase what I have above before this list. "Why pay that much more to get LESS resources?". The less resources I'm talking about when I said that were more specifically geared towards Bandwidth and Hard Disk space. Not to memory. VPS's generally have BOATLOADS more allocated memory to your specific account than a typical Shared Hosting account. So, more memory, (generally) the more faster your website will be (judging on what exactly you RUN on your VPS)

The "Big-Momma" - A full dedicated server:

Going the distance? Good for you!

I'll preface my dedicated section by simply saying : No matter how "technically inclined" you may THINK you are with Linux or Windows on your home-machine, you WILL walk alway from the dedicated hosting market with your dedicated server learning MANY, NEW, THINGS. mush1n.gif

Ahh, Dedicated servers. Yes, they are expensive, yes they require MUCH more technical knowledge than Shared Hosting and VPSs (if the VPS provider doesn't "fully manage" their accounts, however most do), however Dedicated servers are leaps and BOUNDS WAY more powerful than ANY other "hosting accounts" available on the web (unless you spend thousands of dollars on co-location, which I'm not going to get into, in this post mush1n.gif ). "Once you go dedicated, your competition is obliterated".

Dedicated servers are exactly what they sound like. You are leasing a full computer housed in a data center from the provider. I've seen some dedicated hosting accounts start as low as $69 a month, and I've seen dedicated server configurations go as high as $4999, personally.

For an idea ... The server I have my website on (www.thezakum.com) is a FULLY dedicated machine.

When you buy a dedicated server you resume full responsibility on how that server will host websites (let it be a windows dedicated server or linux). Some hosting providers will offer a "fully managed" option when purchasing your dedicated server to lessen the load on things you'll have to routinely do. Most, will price it as a nice hefty penny.

This section of Dedicated servers can go on for PAGES on the amount of things your allowed to do system wise to everything to game hosting, and beyond. I'll just cut to the chase, if you have questions PM me.

So, why would I need to get a dedicated machine?:

  1. Your website is PACKED with visitors. Ranging from 0 - 1000 on at any given moment (depending on how much resources you purchased with your server, what CPU / How much ram / etc) For comparison the server I have TheZakum on currently has the capacity to allow 15,000 connected users all visiting TheZakum's homepage at ONCE. (like that story about how an entire hotel flushed their toilets at the same time and the water line blew up), however my "hotel" in this analogy left all of the people staying there significantly displeased when nothing happened mush1n.gif. Remember, a server can even have the capacity to support even 4000 or 6000...even 90,000. It's all about how deep your wallet is, and how you configure your server to run the fastest to what you're doing with it.
  2. You want to house some sort of streaming application, Radio, Games, etc. Usually dedicated servers will have their OWN 100mbit card (sometimes you have to pay extra for that, or even pay extra to have a 10Mbit card). Generally you'll be fine with only a 10mbit card, myself (on thezakum.com) has it's own 100Mbit dedicated NIC. So, think of it this way : your server has an internet connection to shell out data to all of your visitors at 100 megabits a second (12.5 (roughly) megaBYTES a second). Pretty cool eh?
  3. You want the fastest solution for people to connect to your website, even while it may be high traffic you want FULL control on what your server launches, runs consistently and what you can disable.
  4. You want FULL control over your email on your server.

So, what are some Providers that you've liked?

In a classic "Top 3" order, 1st being the best IMO.

Shared Hosting:

1. ValueWeb. All around a pretty decent company. I have contact their tech support on a couple of issues regarding slow database access times, other than that they did just fine. My father running his business's portfolio website is completely infatuated with them.

2. HostGator. They were pretty decent when I had my account with them. There prices have dropped over the years, and there's many different reviews about them, but my overall experience with them was pretty decent. I calculated that the maximum people I could have on their basic Shared Hosting account was 24 before I saw the beginnings of slower response times on the website.

3. Godaddy. (Personally) $3.99 a month is extremely cheap, and it was perfect for dumping large files up to retrieve at different locations. I ran my personal online portfolio on a Godaddy Shared hosting account for a while, telling my future Job prospects to check out my work. A couple of people online at the website it worked perfectly for $3.99.

VPS Hosting:

1. Knownhost. Absolutely the best provider and support you will EVER get by ANY VPS provider. I stand my my old Knownhost VPS accounts with absolute pride. The support system will answer your tickets usually less than 10 minutes, sometimes even within 2. They're freakishly fast and will install anything for you (that's legal) with simply a ticket indicating what it is, with a link to the website about the program. A+!

2. SliceHost. Overall a decent host, the prices were competetive, OK support...I walked away from them with saying "touche', that was a decent company!"

3. Vpsland. They're cheap, that's why I went for them at first. I did have a bunch of troubles with them in the beginning, and at the end before terminating my account with them, but to fiddle with a VPS server and to learn what they're all about I'd just go to them because they're "cheap", both price and what you get mush1o.gif (my personal experience, obviously).

Dedicated Hosting:

1. ThePlanet. If you have the money to spend...go for it! They're one of the top best dedicated hosting providers in the USA.

2. SingleHop. They're paramount servers are absolutely un-TOUCHED with the amount of support they give. They're custom "LEAP" panel kicks love. Definitely worth the money.

3. LimeStoneNetworks. They're cheap, I'll put it that way. The prices for each account will have you saying "wow, that's really cheap!". Let me tell you my horror story with them. I have a Quadcore X9300, 8gbs of ram with I think 750GBS of hard drive space...whatever it was. I had the box turned on, started my account with them and all was going good for three days. The fourth day, ( I didn't even get on the machine to start configuring PHP, etc (it was a windows dedicated) when it got hacked. The server spiked it's 100Mbit card and drilled my bandwidth almost to 1.7TeraBytes within a 2 day period. After all of that happened, I got the bandwidth to be reset (as it wasn't my initial fault), another week...hacked again, this time the entire data center went down, taking hundreds of other customers. If you don't care about your server but need a quick fix on hosting a site...go to Limestonenetworks, they'll do just that. Also, they monitor what you run on your server actively. So, if your thinking about running some illegal server applications (like a private server) don't worry about canceling your server leasing with them when you get a notice from nexon, they'll can your butt months before nexon even sends you a letter of cease and desist. (which is good, honestly that a provider monitors that kind of stuff). Reliability - 5%

If you thought this post was helpful to you in anyway, please ad a positive rep to me as it took 45 minutes to jot all of this stuff down mush1a.gif

Edited by TheZakum, 24 October 2008 - 12:59 PM.

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