Web host comparison

I host all my sites at 1and1.com using its Linux “Beginner” hosting. Even though it’s called “beginner,” I am barely using my package’s limits. My disk utilization is about 15% of max, and my monthly bandwidth utilization is at 0.5%. At $4 per month, this package is a steal.

It still has several downsides:

  • No announce or discussion lists. Only 1and1’s $10/month and $20/month packages support these but are arbitrarily limited to 5 lists.
  • Arbitrary limits on some resources such as subdomains (25) or MySql databases (10).
  • Slooooooooooooooow. Sometimes pages on my blog or other sites take several seconds to load. It’s probably because of overwhelmed MySql servers.
  • Incompetent support. Level 1 is outsourced to foreigners who barely know what they are doing.
  • Intransigent support. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to convince level 1 support that, yes, I really do know what I am talking about. I’ve lost email thanks to this.
  • Missing features. For example, no SSH shell access or Image Magick.

Can I improve by going with another shared hosting service?

Probably not. All inexpensive shared hosts operate on the overselling model, meaning they intentionally overbook resources, sometimes badly. All the major overseller-model hosts, including Dreamhost, AN Host, Hostgator, GoDaddy, Bluehost, etc., all have plenty of “x sucks” Google results. E.g., dreamhost sucks.

If you are going with a shared host, just go with the cheapest one that doesn’t suck too badly. 1and1.com foots that bill for now.

The next step from shared hosting are virtual private servers (VPS). This is where a powerful machine emulates many complete computers, and you rent one of those virtualized computers. We use this at SMU for a growing percentage of our servers.

Several of the shared hosts offer VPS. However, how can I trust these hosts not to oversell VPS, too? Plus, the resource allocation is pitiful. You can’t get 512MB RAM on 1on1’s VPS until you pony up almost $60 per month.

The next step up is dedicated hosting. This is even less price efficient, understandable since you are renting actual physical machines. And since these are physical machines, you get the added complexity of discrete machine management, a real pain during hardware problems.

CoreNetworks.net has apparently inexpensive dedicated hosting by a long shot, but you know what they say about the lowest bidder…

Suppose I was to get a dedicated or VPS hosting plan? I know enough to hack together a Ubuntu server, but I would have trouble being a true server administrator. I need a trusted individual who can administer it for me.

Amazon.com’s Elastic Cloud Computing could be a solution. It goes back to the VPS model, but Amazon’s reputation for reliability and (relative) inexpensiveness is enticing. They just a feature called elastic IP, which mimics a static IP.

My mind is spinning on alternatives. I know a guy who has CoreNetworks.net’s $50/month midrange MR28 package. I’m willing to pay him much higher than $4/month if he can host my sites. The biggest limitation is only a 120 GB hard drive. However, since I am only using 1.5 GB right now, would that ever really be a problem? But Amazon.com’s Elastic Cloud Computing sure is tempting…

Likely outcome? Analysis paralysis, meaning I’ll do nothing!

2 thoughts on “Web host comparison”

  1. Regarding Amazon’s EC2; that isn’t the solution you’re looking for. The idea there is to fully use a machines resources for a short duration. Which is the inverse of what you need for a webserver. You rent the machine on a per-hour basis, and they round up partial hours to a full hour. IIRC, the low-end is $0.15/hr, so if you wanted to rent a machine 24×7, you would be looking at $100/month.

    I’m using a linode.com VPS for retracile.net, on the Linode360 package. The Linode540 has the RAM you’re looking for, and is $30/mo. I haven’t been using the service long enough to speak authoritatively on performance issues.

    Say, where’s the comment preview??

  2. I found that my EC2 usage would cost less than $80/month. Given the promised disk space, RAM, and CPU, it was a better deal than most virtual hosting I found. However, your linode.com VPS is very reasonably priced. I may investigate that.

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