I Have Fast Websites Now. Isn't That Great?
HotTips, BaconMeals, and my newly launched business website, providing excellent experience is the only way to improve exposure, and to make people actually enjoy visiting (and in some cases interacting). I’ve been stuck with shared hosts my entire online life thus far, from my start at GoDaddy.com, to my progression and back and forth return to HostGator, 1and1, and recently (for only 2 weeks), MediaTemple. I hear SiteGround has a great setup as well… for a shared host. These services promise 99% uptime, exceptional customer service, and an easy to use control panel that allows you to take full advantage of the limited control they have to offer you. But what they don’t do, is provide the total package for a budget. Don’t get me wrong, they are cool for buying domains names and trying out what having a website is about (and yes, all but one of those links above are affiliate links), but if you are serious about having a website that provides a great experience for your customers, and serves to HELP you in your image as an online company instead of hurt you… you simply cannot grow while staying with a shared host. Understandable, because expecting more would be to expect more in return. You really do get what you pay for, and great service and great results will demand more money. Shared hosts are the economy-version of website publishing. They are meant for the beginners. For the small players. For the people who aren’t all that serious about what they are doing. They’re for people like I used to be: hoping to get serious traffic and exposure for as little as $8/month. These hosts delivered on most of their promises, but never presented the ideal experience for anybody who really wants a reliable website for their visitors. Godaddy had decent support, but if you’re planning on hosting more than one website on your account, the over-saturation and over-selling of their hardware is going to hurt you. Expect to wait as much as 10 seconds for your admin areas to load. On a good day, if you’re getting a decent amount of traffic (for HotTips, ‘decent’ used to be about 100-200 page views in an hour), you can expect to just stay out of your admin area altogether. It just isn’t worth your time. The experience on HostGator was much better for multiple sites… but then you have a support problem. Getting ANY help, even for a simple question, will take a minimum of 30 minutes waiting for their Live chat service, and phone support isn’t much better. Of all of the shared hosts I’ve been with, Hostgator is still the “better” one of the bunch… but they still didn’t give even close to the support I needed, when I needed it most – and when my site made the front page of Reddit for 2 days – The site was essentially a white screen, dying from the bombardment of thousands rushing in to see a single article. No matter what I did to cache the page or speed up loading times (I even tried to put the article as a static HTML element redirect, so that no PHP loaded at all), a shared host just isn’t the place to be if you’re getting 6,000 page requests per hour. 1and1 was terrible for support, and although the performance was “okay,” the additional costs didn’t make up for it. I simply could not afford a VPS or Dedicated server. I piggybacked on a friend’s dedicated server for a little while a few years back, and that provided me with an okay picture of a better experience, but even that price wasn’t worth it compared to the performance. Finally… MediaTemple. I gave them an honest try, and I will say this: for the 2 weeks I could stand being with them, they provided outstanding customer service via their internal live chat feature. I never had to wait longer than 10 minutes to get a representative chatting with me, and most of the time it was an instant connection with an agent. It was a DREAM in terms of support. – That being said, the performance of their “high-powered” GRID service, which they charge 3X more money for than Host Gator does on their hosting platform… is a terrible choice in my experience, and I ended my account with them after just 15 days, pulling all of my sites back to my still-open Hostgator.com account. So what am I doing now? How have I remedied this problem? – I made my own hosting environment. I dug in, and decided that relying on another company to build the infrastructure I needed to be successful online was at it’s final day. Although I still don’t “own” the hardware that my websites are hosted on, I’m in full control now. I don’t have a fancy “control panel” to guide me through making things, and I don’t have a customer support agent I can reach out to. Hell, my server doesn’t even have an FTP client installed on it (but I can use sFTP and of course SSH, a much more secure method of managing files), or a mail server (although my websites can send mail though SMTP redirect with a third-party, which still uses my domain name for the messages). The important thing here though… is that I’ve gotten rid of the bloat. I don’t have anything installed that I don’t need, and I’m finally free of Apache (thank you internet Gods for the invention of Nginx). I have a server that is fit specifically for my site, and what I need my site to do, and it’s all mine at the EXACT same price as MediaTemple was charging me for their terrible Grid service.