A Forum Admin's Guide to Web Hosting

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A Forum Admin's Guide to Web Hosting

As anyone who's searched for a new web hosting company probably knows, guides to the hosting world are an extremely common sight online. Just look at all those results!

View attachment 12540
Above: Although isn't Siteground's article a bit unethical? They're a web hosting company, they're gonna recommend themselves!

So why am I writing this one? Why do we need yet another guide to the world of web hosting when so many exist out there online?

Because there's one major problem with almost all those other articles.

They're garbage. And this is because the hosting world is dominated by affiliate schemes. No one wants to write a critical, interesting web hosting review, cause it doesn't pay. It pays to send people to low quality, crappy, EIG brands and rake in the dollars made off referrals. Hence just about every hosting article you'll read elsewhere was thought up by a snake oil merchant in some sad attempt to conning people into picking terrible hosts and giving the writer an easy paycheck.

View attachment 12541
Above: Even WordPress.org lists crappy hosts as 'recommendations' in order to rake in the affiliate dollars.

But this article is different. I'm independent, I don't make any money at all from affiliate referrals and I'm only listing hosts I've had some experience of in the past. So if you want the first genuine, unbiased guide to web hosting, read on!

So what type of host should I use?

Shared Hosting

The obvious advantage of shared hosting, is the price. Because you're only paying for a small percentage of a server, the monthly costs are extremely low, being between 2 and 15 dollars a month. This means its affordable for everyone, ranging from young kids to college students to retirees to people on the bottom of the career ladder.

It's also pretty user friendly too. You just get a control panel (like CPanel) and can edit things like databases, FTP accounts, email, etc in just a few clicks. This is pretty good if you're new to hosting websites and just want to get your brand new site or forum up and running, since you only need the bare amount of knowledge to do so via a shared hosting.

The drawback with shared hosting however, is a lack of control. Because with hundreds of customers all relying on the same server, the host really can't afford to let clients go messing around with server software and resource intensive scripts. Otherwise everyone's services will be equally affected,...

Read more about this article here...
 
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TigerXtrm

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Very good article! I can absolutely agree that MDD Hosting is an excellent shared hosting provider in the US. Been with them a couple of years now, never had a problem.

I'd like to add some knowledge to your article though, concerning dedicated servers:

Most webhosts will offer a small selection of dedicated servers they have in stock (physical servers sitting in a rack or on a shelf somewhere). You don't get a choice over the exact hardware and you don't actually own the hardware. The physical server still belongs to the hosting company and when you pay for it you're effectively leasing it. Any decently powerful server hardware will set you back roughly 80 to 150 dollars a month, which comes down to at least 960 dollars a year. That's 960 dollars down the drain for hardware you don't actually own.

Meanwhile, you could also buy your own server directly from a manufacturer like Dell or HP. Their basic models only cost about 600 to 700 dollars and will do a perfectly fine job at hosting a single busy website. With your own hardware you get the freedom of choosing the data center you'd like to place your hardware in (called co-location), instead of depending on the data center the hosting provider has his servers at. You deal directly with the data center of your choosing, get to install your hardware yourself into the data center and overall just cut out the middleman as it were. Honestly, when webhost is selling you an unmanaged dedicated server all they literally do is install the server into a rack, configure it and give you the login information. This is about 30 minutes of work and unless some serious hardware malfunction occurs, they will never deal with your dedicated server again until you cancel the contract.

The fee you pay to a webhost isn't specified (usually), but generally includes the following things:
  • Electricity cost as determined by the data center.
  • Bandwidth cost as determined by the data center.
  • Placement and other data center related costs.
  • The payback period over the cost of the server unit (the host wants a return on investment on the hardware).
  • A profit margin.
By buying your own hardware you can cut down on all of these. The data center you choose may have lower power and bandwidth prices (as this can vary greatly between countries and even between states). The other data center related costs may be much lower or non-existent as a small customer. If you have your own server there is no payback period to worry about and certainly not a profit margin.

However keep in mind that all this won't start being profitable (compared to leasing a dedicated server) until after a couple of years. The positive thing is that the cost of the hardware is a one time expense. To drive this home, let's compare leasing vs owning:

Leasing a dedicated server:
  • Fixed price of 90 dollars a month for 5 years: 5400 dollars.
Buying a dedicated server and co-locating it:
  • Server cost: 700 dollars, one time investment.
  • Data center cost at 70 dollars a month (all-inclusive) for 5 years: 4200 dollars.
Difference: 500 dollars, or 100 dollars per year. Plus the added benefit of being in full control over your hardware, placement and having full physical access to the data center whenever you want. That's just using these (generous) examples. Prices will fluctuate a lot (both up and down) depending on where you look.

So if you're setting up a large project that you are sure is going to be around for a few years, do some calculations to see if co-location is something that can save a couple of bucks. It makes very little difference in terms of technical know-how since it's practically the same the moment the hardware is installed, but the savings can add up to a brand new server (or software licenses) over the years.
 
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cheat_master30

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Yeah, I should play the lottery since I have had godaddy hosting for 12 years and had outstanding performance and excellent support. Must just be dumb luck.

It depends what you're hosting, as well as plain luck in some cases. If you've got a small site, then even a terrible host can 'work' for it, since it doesn't demand many resources. For example, my secondary Wario themed site could be hosted just about anyone, since it uses the bare minimum in resources.

But if you're running a more demanding site (like an active forum), then you'll need to find better hosting options.

Best guide I've read.

Succint, but thanks.
 

KimmiKat

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That used to be a great site for that stuff, but pretty much gone downhill last few years. It's better to do really good research by searching, etc then relying on WHT or similar sites.

So what's this Web Hosting Talk thing?

It's the biggest forum out there about web hosting. It's known as a place a lot of customers go to find new hosts, and where an awful lot of companies go to try and win back said customers.
 
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cheat_master30

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That used to be a great site for that stuff, but pretty much gone downhill last few years. It's better to do really good research by searching, etc then relying on WHT or similar sites.

Still more reliable than the affiliate link listings though.

Though it does make me wish there was a heavily, heavily moderated webmaster forum out there for this sort of thing...
 

Wes of StarArmy

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I noticed Startlogic is on the list of non-recommended sites, and I have to echo that. I was with them for a couple years and they bombed in reliability and in customer support. One time they even wiped my server because Bing's search robots were overly aggressive in indexing my wiki and they somehow concluded that "MSNbot" was a malicious program that had taken over my server. What??

I'm on Dreamhost's VPS now and it's been quite nice. I can't speak about their shared options as I've never tried them.
 
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cheat_master30

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I noticed Startlogic is on the list of non-recommended sites, and I have to echo that. I was with them for a couple years and they bombed in reliability and in customer support. One time they even wiped my server because Bing's search robots were overly aggressive in indexing my wiki and they somehow concluded that "MSNbot" was a malicious program that had taken over my server. What??

I'm on Dreamhost's VPS now and it's been quite nice. I can't speak about their shared options as I've never tried them.

They probably bombed for a very simple reason; EIG bought them out.

Remember, EIG was never really much of a hosting company itself. It buys out established hosts. When it does, support and reliability comes crashing down (usually due to their move to overloaded, oversold servers in their own data centres and outsourced support) and the host's reputation kind of falls through the floor. It's why old school Hostgator was seen as a decent host, whereas new/current Hostgator is basically unusable.
 

Shimei

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Do you suppose that Siteground may be creating articles for SEO purposes?

For FYI, I have been using Siteground for years. I love em. I tried others such as Digital Ocean but with unmanaged servers found myself dedicating too much time to admin or webmaster roles instead of building content. I really like Siteground's new to them servers that autoscale. Right now I run probably around the minimum for a Vbulletin board. Though my traffic is only around 5-7 thousand visitors a month, I run only 2 x 3.0 GHz CPU Cores, CentOS, 2GB RAM, 40GB SSD, cPanel, Cloud Storage, Management Services. This runs me less than 80 bucks a month.

Lemme say, most of my hard earned money has gone to SEO. I hate SEO companies, after spending some thousands of dollars this year alone I have seen no results. How can a company claim to have produced hundreds of links and not one show up in Google?

God bless,
William
 
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cheat_master30

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Do you suppose that Siteground may be creating articles for SEO purposes?

For FYI, I have been using Siteground for years. I love em. I tried others such as Digital Ocean but with unmanaged servers found myself dedicating too much time to admin or webmaster roles instead of building content. I really like Siteground's new to them servers that autoscale. Right now I run probably around the minimum for a Vbulletin board. Though my traffic is only around 5-7 thousand visitors a month, I run only 2 x 3.0 GHz CPU Cores, CentOS, 2GB RAM, 40GB SSD, cPanel, Cloud Storage, Management Services. This runs me less than 80 bucks a month.

Lemme say, most of my hard earned money has gone to SEO. I hate SEO companies, after spending some thousands of dollars this year alone I have seen no results. How can a company claim to have produced hundreds of links and not one show up in Google?

God bless,
William

Okay, sorry for the late reply. But basically, what you need to consider is that SEO... is not like other forms of marketing. What do I mean by that? I mean you don't always get a direct return for your efforts, and it's pretty difficult to measure the actual effects on your traffic.

You also need to consider that SEO is about quality of links, not quantity. You may have hundreds of links, but are they from good sites that are relevant to your own? For example, I hear your site is about theology in some way. Then a good link will come from an authorative source or site about theology, philosophy, religion, etc. It will not come from say, directories and topsites.

I also worry about the 'paying thousands of dollars this year alone' thing. Who are you paying? What exactly do they claim to offer SEO wise? Because if you're not seeing many effects... maybe they're using dodgy tactics that go against Google's guidelines, or are buying links, or some other form of spam or blackhat SEO.

But yeah, you should follow this stuff up, read a few guides on sites like Moz and then see if you can find a better way of doing SEO and some more up to date, likely effective tactics.
 

spanky

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As a former Endurance employee, I have to say, stay clear of them. I worked for a well-known brand before and after their EIG acquisition and it was night and day difference. I went from working for one of the best hosting companies, to leaving the crappiest company I've ever worked for. There was no pride left, still none.
 

GoingRight

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I've used Stablehost from $9 shared account to $100 managed VPS. In 1 year they have rebooted the server twice that it needed SQL repairs to get forum going again. Maybe 3 hours total downtime for the year. They are pretty helpful and reasonably priced in my opinion but I haven't tried others.
 

Neal

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I just had to visit webkings website after reading your article, he offers web design too!

Ouch. My eyes and ears! - http://www.fantasticindoorswapmeet.com/ To be fair to the guy, he probably made these in the late 90's early 00's when websites were put together in notepad, and gifs thrown in to hypnotise people.

Great article. Thank you for writing it.
 
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cheat_master30

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Ouch. My eyes and ears! - http://www.fantasticindoorswapmeet.com/ To be fair to the guy, he probably made these in the late 90's early 00's when websites were put together in notepad, and gifs thrown in to hypnotise people.

Great article. Thank you for writing it.

You'd hope. But the site you linked has the images uploaded in 2011, and the latest update in June 2015. And the Internet Archive dates it to August 2004:

https://web.archive.org/web/20040515000000*/http://www.fantasticindoorswapmeet.com

For comparisons sake, CSS Zen Garden was started in 2004 as well:

https://web.archive.org/web/20040301000000*/http://csszengarden.com

Yeah. His design is outdated even for the time.
 

GoingRight

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I have had good luck using Stablehost for the past 2 years. Shared hosting up until 400 people on Xenforo and now VPS. Pretty good support and only averaging 2-3 down episodes per year.
 
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