Choosing the right hosting is a must for your project to succeed. Choosing the wrong hosting might save you a few bucks, but might cost you time, money and energy in the long run. Would you rather spend your nights worrying whether your site will go offline because BudgetCrap goes down at least four times a month, or would you rather pay a little more so you can sleep tight, knowing that your site is being served super fast?
Since so many people make the wrong choice, we thought we’d share our experience with different types of hosting. Because I’ve seen them all, during my job as a web designer.
You should know that this paper won’t be a “review guide” which will tell you who to get your hosting from. Instead this paper tries to outline what sort of hosting is just plain wrong for you if you want your project to succeed. No name and blame, for obvious reasons: we don’t want to be sued.
I hope this guide helps you - or, even better, helps you help others so they don’t make the wrong choice!
Shared hosting, what’s that all about? It’s all in a name, baby! When you buy shared hosting you rent some resources on a server, which you share with other websites. You could compare it to renting an appartment in a large building. There’s plenty of other people sharing the building with you. This means you can’t just do what you want. There are rules to follow and you are limited in what you can or can’t do. The upside is that shared hosting is cheap, which is why it’s very popular for personal sites and for sites of small businesses. If your site doesn’t demand anything ‘special’ shared hosting might be right for you.
Cheap = Good, right?
I can hear you think “Cheap is good, right?” and the answer is “It depends.” It’s a well known rule that you get what you pay for and this is especially true when it comes to shared hosting. There are some - albeit few - companies out there that do offer Quality shared hosting, and you usually pay a fair price for what you’re getting. On the other side there’s the tons of cheap shared hosting packages that are absolutely rubbish - and even expensive shared hosting packages that are absolutely rubbish.
As a general rule, I’d suggest you go for the “Quality Hosting with a price tag,”. One example I can think of is RochenHost and iRedhost whom both offer quality shared hosting. Both companies are involved in the Joomla! community which makes them a great choice when you want to host a Joomla! site at a fair price.
Like we said, we’d share our experiences, so let’s start with Shared Hosting. Oh boy, did we test shared hosting in all it’s forms and shapes!
Rochenhost - affordable & stable (Recommended)
Rochenhost is a British company which is said to be “expensive” - but definitely not by my standards. They offer good quality and plenty of resources for what you are paying, and they used to be “hot” in the Joomla! community. Unfortunately, that has changed a bit since a few people had their problems especially with their support (which isn’t the greatest).
Personally, I never had any real problems with their hosting; although the site I am hosting there might not be a reference as they’re not super busy (or important, for that matter). All in all, they’re generally a good choice.
Alternative: If you are looking for shared hosting from another company involved in the Joomla! Community, iRedhost might be something for you. They come highly recommended by some community members, and their offer seems to be similar to that of Rochenhost.Alternative: Combell is one of the “big” Belgian hosting companies, and I’ve got to say that their shared hosting is top notch. You get what you pay for - they aren’t the cheapest - but your site will run smoothly. We had to go there for a website which integrated Moodle and Joomla - Moodle sets a high bar demanding PHP 5.3.5 and a 64mb memory limit - and we haven’t been dissapointed by them yet.
A company which we’ll call Crocodile Hoster, is one of the “big ones” in the hosting world. They offer shared hosting packages which seem to be attractive, because they offer Unlimited Bandwidth and Unlimited Disk Space. Did I mention they’re cheap? They’re pretty cheap.
No, this isn’t that one company sponsoring Nascar races and hunting wildlife in Africa. But it isn’t great hosting either. This company offers you a lot of tools - I literally get lost in their Cpanel - but the performance isn’t too great. My site there is usually slow so I decided not to use it to host any of my websites. It makes for a great testing area, though, considering the price.
This is the typical problem with these “huge” companies with ridiculous prices: performance wise they just suck. I do, however, get to say that the support team of this company is rather pleasant to deal with. When they say “24/7 support” they seem to mean it. They also helped me solve some problems I had.
Conclusion: Not the worse out there, but not fast enough for me. Kept it as a testing area since it wasn’t super expensive (plus I forgot to cancel.
Lesson to learn: Don’t be fooled by buzz words or low prices. Also keep the following in mind: UNLIMITED DOES NOT EXIST.
While I bought a packager from Crocodile Hoster, a friend of mine also bought a surprisingly similar package from another company. The conditions were the same. I had never heard of the company before, but my friend asked me to help and so I did.
These guys were basically the same as Crocodile Hoster. You can pretty much do anything you want (tons of tools!) with one little difference. Their support BLOWS. The Wordpress site of my friend got hacked three times. Three times I made him contact the hosting company because they managed to upload malicious scripts while the site was out of date - but they refused to even look into the problem because he was using Wordpress. Uh, wait, what?
Conclusion: If you’ve got to choose cheap, mediocre hosting, at least choose the one with the better support team...Lesson learned: If someone replies your ticket with a generic answer (It must be bcause you’re using Wordpress) find another hosting company.
THAT ONE BELGIAN COMPANY
If you’ve ever heard me moan about Belgian hosting, it’s because of “That Belgian Company”. Apparently, being the second biggest company means you can charge ridiculous prices for hosting packages that come from the stone ages.
Does paying €120 / $160 for the following sound good?
- 200mb of storage (seriously.)
- A single database (!) of 20mb
- Outdated version of PHP and MySQL
- Support will reply “within 48h”. Note: reply doesn’t mean they’ll have the answer.
Did you just answer “Yes?” The correct answer was “No.” And this is their “cheap” package! Really. Not kidding. Of course the performance was “good” speed wise, and we never had any “real” problems with their hosting, because we were foolish enough to accept the limitations. Because oh yes, there are limitations...
- Only 1 (one) FTP account
- Can’t edit the php.ini file
- Archaic ordering system
- etc. etc.
Conclusion: A hosting company can be both ridiculously expensive and provide mediocre warning. You’ve been warned!
Lesson to learn: Don’t be afraid to shop around. The biggest name isn’t the best!
THE GARAGE HOSTER
The internet seems to be filled with “hosting companies” lying to you about how awesome they are and how many resources they have. But just because someone sells hosting, doesn’t mean that he or she knows what he’s doing.
We stumbled upon the “Garage Hoster” by accident, because we were looking for someone who allowed for ioncube on shared hosting for a small shop. “No problem!” they said. They didn’t lie. The ioncube part did work. It’s the rest that doesn’t work well.
Not only is their hosting slow beyond comprehension, their servers are also located in a data center with a poor reputation. We learned that after they mailed us that the three outages we saw weren’t their fault, “there was a problem in data center X.” That might be true, but it wasn’t really encouraging to hear.
Now, why did I say that they don’t know what they’re doing? Because their servers are far from up to date and very insecure. To make Joomla work properly I had to set the permissions of almost every folder to 777. When we contacted them about it, they replied “That’s standard behaviour.” Only it isn’t.
Conclusion: Supporting the “local litte guy” might be cool, until your site is down. At least you can go down the street and punch them, amiright?
Lessons learned: There are many truly crappy hosting companies out there, pretending to be awesome. Ask around. Ask from advice, and don’t go there because “this one guy” told you he buys his domain names there.
You might know Zero.com from their countless internet ads (mostly Google Ads). They offer hosting packages for as low as 1,25 a month, for 5GB of storage. Wicked awesome super cheap!
Well, not really. When you buy their hosting, you’re paying double of that, because they forgot to mention buying a domain name is required. And there’s also the “setup costs.” But then you’re set!
Zero.com is one of those guys that promise a lot. And yes, you get a lot of options, but again... the performance is rather poor. What do you expect from people that are obviously overselling their servers? You can’t expect to pay less than two euro’s a month and have a lightning fast site! Unfortunately I couldn’t convince the site owner to move. Their site is slow, but they don’t care; price over performance they say
Conclusion: There are many super cheap hosting companies out there. You’re 99% guaranteed that your site will also be super slow - although you could probably use this type of hosting for some small experiments?
THE NASCAR GUYS
I haven’t worked with the hosting of “The Nascar Guys” myself. Nor do I have any plans in that direction. They’re supposed to be the biggest hosting company out there. Cheap, too. But they have become the equivalent of the boogie man in the Joomla! Community. When your site burst into flames when you do as little as uploading that cutekitten.jpg file, the first reaction of most people is probably “You’re not hosting with the Nascar Guys, right? Because if you do, you clearly deserve it.”
So yeah, don’t got there. Also, they hunt kittens and stuff, for fun. Evil!
So, now what?
As you can see, there’s both good and bad shared hosting options out there. For your convenience I’ve used fake names for companies I’d rather not send you to. And also because one of them called my boss once because I tweeted about how they suck. Seriously UNCOOL.
As a general rule, keep in mind that most cheap hosting companies are probably offering you a crappy package which will slow down your site. If your site is important to you, and still want to make the economical choice go for one of the “Premium” shared hosting solutions. €100 - €150 is a good price for Quality shared hosting.
Also, try to stay clear of the guys offering “Unlimited” whatevers. Not only are they lying, they usually oversell their servers and are a crappy choice to make in general.
Coming in Part II
This is just the first part of our - we hope somewhat interesting - report. In part two, we'll tackle the reseller hosting, VPS and Dedicated Server(s) we've had experiences with. And we'll throw in some "DIY hosting" as well. Stay tuned!