Woo-Hoo! I Found A New Web Host!

by Mohit Arora on December 25, 2008

Web Hosting Can Be Confusing

You already know what I’ve been going through with my web hosting issues lately, so I’ll spare you the recap (you can view my previous posts) and get right into it.

I received a lot of great referrals and have spoken to a TON of hosting companies over the past 2 weeks: BlueHost, MediaTemple, Choopa, DreamHost, SurpassHosting, GoDaddy, etc. The list literally goes on and on.

I contacted ALL of them. It took me forever but I did it. One reason was because I wanted to really get my feet wet and find out what was being offered but also because I wanted to understand what I needed.

I’m not the most technical person in the world but I can tell when someone is just trying to sell, so I contacted them all to ask them the same questions over and over again so I can hear multiple replies and learn about this stuff.

They say the only way to learn something is to ask questions; so that’s what I did.

The main thing I learned from all this: the web hosting industry might be very competitive, but it’s not very innovative.

What I mean by that is, they all pretty much operate the exact same way. It’s more or less the same technology, used in the same ways and only priced & marketed differently to drive competition.

They’re not setup to “think differently”.

Here are two small but important things I’ve learned about hosting:

There’s No Such Thing As “Unlimited” Bandwidth

“Unlimited” is just a sales pitch to attract people like me who don’t want to look at a bunch of technical specs but just assume that we’ll be covered.

There’s always a cap, but if you are on a shared account, chances are your website won’t see the type of traffic to ever see overages anyways.

Unlimited Bandwidth Does Not Equal Unlimited Resources

Given the fact that there is no real “unlimited bandwidth”, that still doesn’t make note of system resources.

How Shared Web Hosting Works

Photo Credit: John Morris

On your computer, you might be browsing the net on Firefox, listening to music on iTunes, chatting with friends on AIM and typing a document in Word. Each of these programs uses up resources on your computer.

Same thing applies to web servers, but instead of just one person using these programs, it’s everybody who visits your website that uses these programs.

Not only that, if you’re on a shared account, you’re probably sharing that one server with about 700 other customers. So imagine all of your visitors, plus the visitors of all those other 700 customers.

That’s a massive flood of people.

So that entire audience is accessing your site and therefore using a piece of your server’s resources. On a shared account, you only get a certain percentage of those resources allocated to you. By adding resource hogging plugins or getting a spike in traffic, you can end up going over that percentage and your account will be temporarily suspended so that the other 700 sites on your server remain uninterrupted.

Imagine the amount of traffic you get from the front page of Digg.com. That amount of traffic will definitely create major downtime for you like it did for me.

My account was knocked off for a good 20 hours as I searched for solutions while still doing my best to do my actual work, which at the time was managing 3 short-staffed events (hell on earth).

My old webhost, HostGator, continuously tried to sell me a $300/month dedicated server as a “solution”.

$300 a month?

I barely pay $300 a year right now!

I kept trying to explain to them that this was the first time my site has ever experienced that type of traffic and that I truly do not require a dedicated server.

This is a PERSONAL blog. I don’t update it multiple times a day or even daily.

Hell, sometimes I don’t even post for a week or two.

I don’t sell ads on here and I don’t put any budget into promoting it. Only word-of-mouth & word-of-mouse. That’s it.

Keeping that in mind, while my web traffic is decent for a personal blog, it in no way compares to NecoleBitchie.com or NahRight.com. So a $300/month dedicated server would be a little overkill for my needs; especially since I don’t run any ads on here like I mentioned.

Before I get a bunch of replies from tech folk breaking down all the technical reasons why most web hosting companies are  set up that way; let me say this:

I don’t care.

People shouldn’t have to conform to technical limitations; technical solutions should be made to meet consumer needs.

So before leaving a comment or sending me an email telling me about how servers are built and why there is nothing on the market to cater to my needs; understand that I’m not the type of person to accept those kinds of limitations. That doesn’t make any sense to me.

As long as it takes, I will hunt for a solution.

All I wanted is a hosting account where I could be equipped with enough specs (bandwidth, storage, etc) to keep me running smoothly on a daily basis and also be equipped to handle occasional spikes in traffic like the one I experienced.

Is that too much to ask for?

Apparently, it is.

For the technical reasons I’ve specified above, no web hosts were able to attend to my needs and all started pitching me $300/month accounts or told me to take my chances with a shared account but will experience another suspension if I get any more Digg-like spikes.

So basically, pay a ton or hinder your site’s potential.

Luckily, I was able to find one company that works differently; MediaTemple.

Apparently, they created their own system to handle situations like this. Instead of being setup on a server with limited resources, I’m setup on a “cluster grid” with access to resources on other systems throughout that grid. So my site can access the resources it needs whenever it needs it.

Think of it like this: rather than only having access to the clothes in your closet (most hosting companies), you can have access to all the clothes in the mall (mt).

Interestingly enough, when I spoke with a few of the web hosts mentioned above, some of them even recommended that I go with MediaTemple. I didn’t understand why until a few of them began to defining me as a “prosumer with custom needs”, which they (and apparently 99% of the hosting companies) are not equipped to service.

Not because they’re not good; but because they’re not setup to serve this niche (even though I believe this isn’t as niche as they may assume).

Most hosting companies don’t create their own technology; they just buy, maintain and sell it in packages.

Luckily, MediaTemple is setup differently.

This isn’t an ad for them; rather this is my expression of relief that I was able to find what I was looking for.

Many people have been messaging me about this whole ordeal and asking which host I ended up choosing and why; mostly because they face similar issues and need answers.

Well, MediaTemple was my choice. So far, they’ve been great at helping me get all setup and I hope to see it continue down this lane.

Plus – their logo looks kinda cool on my blog :)

(mt) MediaTemple

{ 11 comments }

Frank December 25, 2008 at 10:45 AM

I didn’t know ANY of that. Thanks for the quick rundown. I think I might have to switch also!

Clyde Smith December 25, 2008 at 12:20 PM

I find it useful to use the keywords “problems” and the “name of the host” in a search engine to see what problems people have had:
http://www.google.com/search?q=problems+hostgator&btnG=Search&hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&hs=ZQZ&sa=2

Upscale Swagger December 25, 2008 at 5:08 PM

It looks like someone did their homework. You pretty much nagged everything down when it comes to web hosting. I think you made a great choice going with MediaTemple.

John Morris December 26, 2008 at 12:59 AM

Great post, great to see you learned a lot since reading your other one. Was iffy about seeing my photo (pizza) on there without any credit though ;)

Moe Arora December 26, 2008 at 2:10 AM

@Frank – No problem. I know it’s not the most technical rundown, but my intention was to just simplify 2-3 points to non-technical users like you and me. Thanks for your comment and good luck on your switch.

@Clyde Smith – That’s a great idea Clyde. I checked a few webhost review boards to check what others’ experiences were. I noticed a ton of complaints about HostGator, so at least I knew I wasn’t alone on that one. MediaTemple seemed to have gotten great reviews across the board and they were they only company I found that offered the solution I was looking for. I’m happy I went with them.

@Upscale Swagger – Thanks man. Yeah, I wanted to make sure that I understood what it was that I needed and what my best options were. It seems like most hosting companies are just not setup to accommodate users like me and end up selling dedicated accounts to people who just don’t need it. I’ve already spoken to a quite a few people who were convinced to go with dedicated and after showing them the MediaTemple options, they’re making the switch and will be paying FAR LESS than they are now. It’s just too bad most general users don’t know the facts & options.

@John Morris – Hey John. If you check, you’ll actually notice that I linked the image straight to your blog post. I tried placing a caption however the caption border doesn’t display around it (I have to look into my stylesheet to see why), so I didn’t include text as it clashes with the body of the actual post. The image still links back to your post though. If you prefer that I not use it/link to your post, just let me know and I’ll remove it asap. Thanks.

John December 26, 2008 at 12:35 PM

“Instead of being setup on a server with limited resources, I’m setup on a “cluster grid” with access to resources on other systems throughout that grid. So my site can access the resources it needs whenever it needs it.”: I’m sorry but you are just too naive. This is their marketing pitch but it isn’t true… Your website will not use the power from many servers and will not handle more traffic than on any other shared hosting.
Tom Dorr from ASmallOrange explained it brilliantly:

“I hate marketing terms with the burning passion of a thousand suns.
Let me make this very clear: MT’s “Grid Server” is not a grid. It’s never been a grid. It never will be. It’s a cluster. It’s very simple to differentiate between the two types. In a grid, your processing task is parallelized between all the nodes in the grid. In a cluster, the processing task is done on one machine at a time, with the ability to failover to another machine, if needed. It’s horizontal versus vertical, basically. Grid computing is used all the time in scientific tasks and things like 3d rendering. Clusters are used when you cannot take a task and split it up into chunks to be processed on multiple nodes. When you request a page on MT’s “grid”, it’s just pulling from storage, through the webserver, out to the load balancer, and then is on it’s way to your computer. You cannot make this a parallel task, so it’s not a grid. There’s no way, nor any reason, to split out the serving of a single webserver request among multiple machines.”

Casey December 26, 2008 at 1:49 PM

^John^ I don’t think you read the post properly. He even wrote “Before I get a bunch of replies from tech folk breaking down all the technical reasons why most web hosting companies are set up that way; let me say this:

I don’t care.”

^Moe^ Thanks for the post. I learned a lot and will keep this in mind when I do my website.

brent oxley December 30, 2008 at 12:58 PM

Hello,

I’m the owner of hostgator and I’m truly sorry for your experience. It is very strange indeed that we tried pushing you to a $300 a month server. No one on my staff is paid based off commissions, nor is anyone required to hit any type of sales numbers.

Whomever told you that you needed a dedicated server must have truly believed that. You most likely crashed the shared box you were on.

Do you have a ticket number I can review on this? If not could you email me your email address to brent@hostgator.com and I’ll be able to look it up?

I’d love to review this situation. Thanks so much!!

Phil January 3, 2009 at 2:57 PM

I was thinking about this situation for my blog because I used hosts like GoDaddy and such. I know TechCrunch uses MediaTemple so its the main reason why i would use it. You get a link form Digg or Yahoo front page and your blog is toast.

I do think though another solution wold be to blog on wordpress.com. its free and you don’t have to worry about your blog being down.

Moe Arora January 5, 2009 at 5:25 PM

@John – Thanks for your comment but as I mentioned in my blog post; I don’t really care too much about the detailed technical specs of this. The most important thing to me is results and from everyone whom I have spoken to who is hosted with MediaTemple on the (gs) account, they have all echoed the same sentiment of contentment.

Amongst the several MediaTemple customers I have spoken to, about 7 of them have been featured on Digg.com, and not a single one of them had their service interrupted even momentarily. The only person whose blog did not remain up did so herself because after she received notice from MediaTemple of possibly going over her allocated GPUs and end up paying some overages, she chose to switch it off for a day in fear of excessive overage fees. I was concerned about how excessive these overage fees may be, but from all the customers I’ve spoken to who’ve undergone a similar experience, it’s not significant enough of a fee for me to switch my site off and now at least I have the option of keeping my site up even if I have to just pay a little bit more when experiencing a major traffic spike.

@Casey – Thanks and good luck launching your website. Definitely send me the link once you decide to start it so I can check it out!

@Brent – Thanks for your comment Brent. Email sent.

@Phil – You’re right and my blog was toast for about 20 hours unfortunately.

I looked into WordPress.com and Blogger before launching my blog but personally, I prefer the flexibility of having it self-hosted. If you do switch, definitely look into MediaTemple.

John January 15, 2009 at 1:22 AM

Most customers don’t care about the technical reason a website is down, they just want it up and up now! After it is up, they’ll want to know the techy stuff if they are techs.

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