What Hosts Have I Tried?
My Hosting History
Over the years, I've been through quite a few different hosts for my educational projects. In most cases, I've ended up moving because my needs changed over time. Although, I must admit one trend has been disturbing. Service tends to go downhill when a smaller host is purchased by a larger one.
Some of my hosting experiences were better than others. Here's an idea of where I've been and who I'd recommend: But remember, past good performance by a host does not guarantee you a stable future with them. I used to check alt.www.webmaster for host reviews. Now I also check Web Hosting Talk and Host Hide-Out to help me decide.
'Free' Hosting Reviews
Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Whether you are using free hosting that is advertisement supported or supplied by your ISP as part of its overall service. It may be a way to start, but, it is not, in my opinion, a suitable long term strategy. Terms of service change, businesses are sold on to other organisations.
- Geocities - In 1996-7, when I first got round to posting some educational resources up on the web, it seemed a reasonably sensible decision to use Geocities. I had a 'proper' SMTP email account with them and could ftp my files. Things have changed since then, and considering the low cost of registering a domain and hosting. I would not recommend going the 'free' (or more accurately - advertiser supported) route for someone starting out today.
- PurpleNet - I anticipated having a long-term relationship with this ISP for Internet access and hosting and uploaded my first generation of STEM and GLD resources here. However, the original company was bought out by a 'free' ISP who no longer offered the services I required.
Shared Hosting Reviews
Under a shared hosting plan, you may be one of several hundred customers renting space on a server. But, with your own domain, you don't have to worry about what happens when you move to a different host. You just back up your entire site, and upload it to a new server. Or so the theory goes...
- Half Price Hosting - Again, a decision I made which, with hindsight, I would not do so nowadays due to the risks involved. I went for a plan, paying a year in advance, which included a 'free' domain registration and 'unlimited' bandwidth. Nowadays, if I saw any of those features offered, I'd definitely look elsewhere - too many horror stories from other people. This particular company treated me fairly though. The main reason I moved on was due to the fact that I needed to use php and MySQL instead of asp and Access. HPH did not offer that at the time. I experienced some downtime due to a server crash one year, but, apart from that, they were reliable.
- Below 10 Host - An extremely reliable host when I used them. Apart from a useful manual online, I can't comment on their support because I never needed it during the years I was hosted with them. I hosted the Interactivities Forum with them until I needed to move on to hosing with more flexible mailing list management software. If they had the sort of packages I needed, I'd have been glad to stay longer...
- Digitalspace - Around this time, I tried these folks out for one or two low bandwidth educational projects. I chose them due to personal recommendation from another web-design mailing list. However, for projects of this nature, I found that there were cheaper alternatives.
- 34sp - A UK-based web host. Again, chosen by personal recommendation from another web-design group. These are the people I would recommend for hosting small, low-bandwidth educational projects cheaply. I was impressed by the fact that they had an active support forum, even in those days. Support by email was excellent and fast. The only thing I didn't like was that by then, I was becoming a big fan of cPanel and the control panel I had on my domains there was an early version of Plesk.
- Aletia/Jaguar PC - I used two accounts here for my main educational projects - my first experience of multi-domain hosting. Which was another reason to move there. Along with having Mailman for mailing list management. In my opinion, Aletia was largely a victim of its own success. They offered a good service which became popular and proved difficult to scale. Under Jaguar, there was probably an improvement in reliability, but it was sometimes difficult to communicate exactly what wanted from support. However, again, my needs were changing and I knew I was going to have to find another solution
Reseller Hosting Reviews
With a reseller account, I can rent a large chunk of server space and bandwidth from a host. It is up to me to decide what resources each site should have allocated to it. If necessary, you can even re-sell surplus space to other colleagues who need hosting for their work. This also means, that to the outside world I might appear to be hosted by Hosted Focus with DNS provided by My Managed VPS - but that's just me. The same is true for Not For Sale and Resold Hosting.
- Spenix - My first foray into using cPanel and WHM. Although initially happy with the service provided, the loss of all my data on a server made me reconsider whether I would do better looking for a different host. Whether I made the right decision in hindsight is anther question...
- Symplexity - Looking for a new host. I thought that this host was offering a special deal that I couldn't refuse. A quick check on WHT came up with positive reviews. I did wonder whether the company was overselling in order to offer such good deals, but the box I was on didn't show any of the tell-tale signs I'd look for if that was the case. However, the Planet (the datacenter where the server was) pulled the plug on them. So, I needed another host after just a few months.
- Unit Hosting - I had six months of being very happy with the service provided. Unfortunately, they changed their 3rd party credit card processor to one that couldn't cope with expatriates who live in one country and bank in another. So, time to move again
Tomsyer Network - Was reliable while they were Tomsyer. Less reliable when they became Assertivehost.com and a waste of my time when they were bought out by yet another company. It was at this point that I decided that my needs had shifted to the point where I needed a VPS instead.
- Hometown Hosting - Provided a very cheap and reliable backup service for my projects. Unfortunately, they were bought out by AffordableHost.com who in turn were purchased by the dotCanada network or was it Light Speed Technologies, or both? (When looking at WHT, it would appear that they're also called dotAmerica and Grand Rapids hosting - something like that). I reckon I still owe them a few dollars for a service they may have provided that I couldn't use back in 2005. Unfortunately, their site was down when I went to check again today to see if their payment gateway problem has been resolved. I'll try again in another year's time when I update this page again.
- Idleserv.net - Their service has been boringly reliable for the three years I've used them as a backup host. So much so, that I host educator.pro there and have my VPS downtime messages forwarded to it. If you're looking for an independent host who maintain their servers and keep a very keen eye out for problems, these people are worth a serious look at.
- Polurnet.com - The owner is active at the NamePros forum, very helpful. Again, shockingly little downtime, and reasonably pro-active in keeping server load down with shared/reseller accounts. So, if you're looking for a host, then they're definitely worth a look at right now.
I cannot yet justify the expense of moving to a fully managed server for my hosting. That would be my eventual aim. A virtual private server fills that gap. In theory, I am guaranteed a percentage of a processor's power at all times, as well as more bandwidth and webspace than a standard reseller account. It also means that if I need to restart my VPS, I can do so myself, rather than put in a support ticket to a tech at a datacenter.
Another advantage is being in full control of DNS - so that subdomains on a domain can be wildcarded.
- Jaguar - Yes, I'm back with Jaguar. It is interesting to see that their services have moved with the changes in user demand. To be honest, the server uptime wasn't brilliant at first. But the technical support staff have been superb when I have had to contact them.
Which Projects are Where?
Not For Sale - hosts two hub sites Global Communities and Educator.pro.
My Managed VPS - as well as the educational material I host, I'm starting to promote some of my sites that focus on my Christian faith - like Inspirational Bible Verses as part of the Exousia Press project.
Resold Hosting - at present, the most active project of my own at this host is Apologetic.Net and the odd small weblog.