Tag Archives: Web Hosting

Free Web Hosting Offers for Startups

Software/Internet startups have never had it easier. A handful of the largest cloud hosting providers offer very substantial amounts of free credit to startups. If it says [Reviews] next to the company, it means we have published reviews of that specific company on Review Signal. Check out the offers below.

Company Offer Requirement
Amazon AWS Activate [Reviews] Free tier for 12 months. Free Technical/Business Essentials Training. $80 Credit for self paced labs. 1 month business support. Open Application
Amazon AWS Activate [Reviews] Varies by Partner Approved Accelerator/VC
Microsoft BizSpark (Azure) [Reviews] $150/user/month up to 5 users for 36 months Startup, <5 years old, <$1m revenue, and privately held.
Microsoft BizSpark Plus (Azure) [Reviews] $10,000/month for 12 months Approved Accelerator/VC
Digital Ocean [Reviews] $10.00 Anyone
Digital Ocean [Reviews] $250,000.00 for 12 months YCombinator/TechStars/Case-by-case
Google Compute Engine $300.00 Anyone
Google Compute Engine $100,000.00 for 12 months Approved Accelerator/VC/Incubator
IBM Global Entrepreneur Program $1,000/month for 12 months Open Application
IBM Global Entrepreneur Program $10,000/month for 12 months Approved Accelerator/VC/Incubator
RackSpace [Reviews] $2,000/month for 12 months Open Application
SoftLayer [Reviews] $1,000/month for 12 months Internet dependent startup

If an offer is missing please contact us.

The Best Web Hosting Company

Who is the best web host? Which web hosting company is the best?

This is such a common question and people keep asking it. Why? Because there is no 'best' company.

Best is pretty well defined, but human perspective and opinion is not. Every company has many properties that define its service. Some examples of those properties might be customer support, price, uptime, hardware, software, sales people, and engineers. There are a few very defined properties like price. But price is meaningless without the greater context of 'What am I getting for that price?'

So really, we're left with a large set of hard to quantify and compare properties that make up service companies.

So let's throw our hands up and give up. Not quite. Some companies are definitely better than others. Some are definitely worse. Most occupy a middle ground of being ok. The larger the company, the more opportunity for variance in experience. With web hosting companies, most people's experiences are either touch the technical side or human side of the company. The technical side of webhosting (at least in the shared market) is quickly becoming commoditized. So that really leaves the human side to impact opinion of a company.

I have a personal opinion that you can attempt to quantify the somewhat intangible human experiences with big data. If you are able to collect enough opinions about multiple companies, you could compare people's average experience. That is the entire basis of Review Signal.

Check Out Review Signal's Web Hosting Review Data and Compare Web Hosting Companies

So we're back to the question of what is the best web hosting company? Based on the hundreds of thousands of opinions Review Signal has collected the answer is, it depends. No company is close to perfect. That seems like a reasonable outcome. People are going to have bad experiences and encounter problems with any service company. The highest rated company we are tracking right now is WebSynthesis at 84% (source: WebSynthesis Reviews - Updated May 2014). That means 16% of people expressed an unfavorable opinion of them. The lowest rated is MochaHost at 19% (source: MochaHost Reviews - Updated May 2014). So even the least liked company has 19% of people expressing favorable opinions.

So you could end up happy or angry with any company. All you can do is hedge your bets by picking a company that a greater percentage of people like, relatively speaking. The other issue is information and experiences change. Companies get bought/sold. They move. They make personnel changes. Opinions of a company can be fluid. However, there is rarely titanic shifting of opinions without a catastrophic event (for example: Post Mortem of the EIG Outage (August 2, 2013) That Affected BlueHost, HostGator, JustHost and HostMonster). You're more likely to see slow changes over long periods of time.

So what's the best web hosting company? It depends. But we've built a tool to help you make smarter hosting choices based on what everyone else is saying. Just check out the data we've collected.

Hulk Hogan Launches a Web Hosting Company

Friday's theme is Anything Goes Friday, and I couldn't have asked for a better story.

According to the press release published today wrestling super star Hulk Hogan is launching a web hosting company: Hostamania.

"HOSTAMANIA is already being felt across the internet – the “other guys” have just hired a Hollywood kung-fu fruitcake to be their spokesman! Not even 24 hours after I announced the world of hurt I intend to put on these unreliable web hosts and they are running scared!

Can you believe this, brother? They’ve got this little punk playing a rainbow flute on their homepage!

How do you think a FLUTE is going to stand up to these 24 inch pythons??

Weak mascots of the web hosting world – whatchu’ gonna do when HOSTAMANIA runs WILD on you?

HH"

The latest video from their blog is simply... indescribable. WARNING: Might be mildly not safe for work in a GoDaddy-esque way.

I have no idea how serious this is, but by looking at his partner, Tech Assets, it seems like it's legitimate. They own and operate a handful of niche brands including Christian Web Host and Open Source Host.

It seems like a simple branding play to leverage Hulk Hogan's awareness to get web hosting customers. Given that generic web hosting is so commoditized these days, branding is one of the few differentiators left.

Which Programming Languages, Frameworks and Databases are used at Web Hosting Companies

This is just a small piece of a hopefully bigger article analyzing what I've been looking at in the Review Signal data.

X-Axis: Programming Languages, Frameworks, Databases

Y-Axis: Web Hosting Company

Colors: The deeper the green, the more positive. The deeper the red, the more negative.

What stories do you see?

Interactive Graph of Historical Web Hosting Ratings

Since Review Signal has launched we've been tracking the opinions of consumers towards some of the largest web hosting providers. Some people frequently ask how often is our data updated? Every day. How often do the rankings change? Not very often. It generally takes time or catastrophic events to shift people's opinions. I can only describe it as a mental inertia or branding. But brands do change, they evolve over time and information spreads. Today you get a chance to look into our data for yourself.

Click Here to Explore Our Interactive Historical Web Hosting Ratings

Happy Staturday!

Keeping Domain Names Separate From Web Hosting

Domain names and web hosting seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. You buy a domain name and connect it to your web hosting. It seems natural to have the two together. But I generally advocate against keeping your domain name registered with your web hosting company.

The main reason I advocate for keeping your domain name(s) separate from web hosting is because things are far more likely to go wrong with your web hosting before your domain name. Domain registrars are at least partially regulated, by ICANN. There is only one documented major registrar failure, RegisterFly, and stricter oversight has been put in place because of it. Domain registrars aren't perfect, but for the most part they serve one purpose: managing a domain name for a small fee. The majority of them are adequate at this function. Registrars have also standardized the process of transferring domain names between registrars. So switching registrars isn't terribly complicated (get transfer code, provide to new registrar, accept transfer). The registrar also has no influence on your domain name*.

Web hosts have full control of what your website can do. Almost all of them have restrictions in their terms of service (especially shared hosting) which limit what you can and can't do. If they have your domain name too, you can't simply change web hosts in the event of a problem or dispute. Your domain can be held hostage or as a bargaining chip to make sure you renew or pay them.

There is potentially a secondary problem with a web host registering a domain name for you. The ownership of the domain name comes into question. Do they register it in your name making you the legal owner or their company's name, making them the de facto owner.

The common arguments in favor of keeping your domain name with your web host are simplicity and cost. I can't argue against the simplicity argument. If having two accounts with different companies is too difficult for some reason, there is no counter argument. The cost argument shouldn't come into play when a domain name is around $10/year. It's a fairly low cost item relative to the amount of pain it can cause if something goes wrong.

In conclusion, unless you have some exceptional circumstance preventing you from keeping your domain separate from your web hosting, the two simply don't belong together at one company.

* Some registrars do have policies restricting the type of name, the content put on the domain and the activities a domain can be used for. These generally include spamming and illegal materials.

I Am Free To Do Whatever I Want! Will Your WordPress Host Agree With That?

Guest Post from Lilyana Yakimova, Marketing Director of SiteGround | SiteGround Reviews

When it comes to freedom, WordPress users seem really blessed. Not only they can extend their website almost infinitely with the help of thousands of WordPress themes and plugins, but they are also free to choose among more hosting options than anyone else. The range is really wide: starting from the free service at wordpress.com, going through all the standard shared web hosts*, which are perfectly compatible with WordPress, and ending with a number of managed hosts** that are highly specialized in WordPress only. There are many articles comparing the prices, the speed, or the reliability of the WordPress hosts, but what is seldom talked about is how the different hosting options compare in terms of website management freedom they give to the user.

What affects the level of freedom allowed by a WordPress host?

The easy, but not completely correct answer is that account management freedom depends on the price. Of course it is only natural that if you use a completely free service like wordpress.com, you will be limited in some ways. You will not be able to install all themes and plugins you want, or you will not be able to use your own domain, or you will not be able to call someone 24/7 to report a problem.

However, when it comes to paid hosting solutions the correlation between the price and the freedom is not so straightforward. Quite often you can do more things on a standard and cheaper host, than on a more expensive managed host. For example, you can easily get access to MySQL, 24/7 phone support, additional hosting services like email, SSH etc. on a general host, while at strictly managed WordPress hosts some or all of these features are missing. In addition, most standard hosts do not place any limitations on which WordPress versions you may host or what plugins you can add, while managed hosts often force the newest WordPress version on all of their users websites and completely ban certain plugins.

So why is there such a discrepancy? Managed WordPress hosts would probably argue that the real price of the freedom is the level of your website security. They will claim that if they are to take full responsibility for your website security, you should sacrifice some of your freedom in return. On the other hand, the standard shared hosts will leave most of the responsibility in your own hands and when something goes bad, it will be blamed on your decision to use a vulnerable plugin or your failure to upgrade your application.

So what do you choose - freedom or security? And can’t you have both?

It seems that it all comes down to the good old question: how much freedom you are willing to sacrifice in the name of security? Well I believe that in the WordPress hosting world there is a reasonable middle ground.

Let’s take, for example, the auto-upgrades. The WordPress managed host will normally upgrade compulsory all their users, whenever a new WordPress version is released. Most standard shared hosts, on the other hand, would do nothing and their customers may never realize that an important security update is released and that an upgrade is now due. A good middle ground host can do better. It can still be proactive, by providing automatic upgrade to its customers and informing them about each new version released, and, at the same time, it can be more democratic by allowing its users a way out of the auto upgrades. Thus people that would like to take over the upgrade process themselves can easily do so.

Another interesting security case is when vulnerability appears in a plugin used by the host customers. The easiest way to protect efficiently all your users, applied by WordPress managed hosts, is to simply disable all instances of the plugin installed. However, thus a functionality chosen by your users will be taken away from their websites. The contrary approach is to let the users add any plugin and deny, as a host, to take any responsibility for their choices. A good middle ground host will again look for a different way around. It will work on a solution that will fix the vulnerability on a server level. Thus it will take care of the security without punishing the user for a flaw in a plugin code, for which the user was most probably not even aware of. Of course this scenario is efficient when the host is always on top of the security and is able to provide a patch for the vulnerability almost immediately after it has been disclosed.

So to conclude: you probably can never be totally free and totally safe at the same time. However, when it comes to your WordPress hosting, I believe that you should not be forced to sacrifice too much from either your freedom or security, as in most of the situations there is a reasonable middle ground.

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*Examples of standard shared hosts companies: HostGator, BlueHost, DreamHost, etc.

**Examples of popular managed WordPress hosts: WPEngine, ZippyKid, Page.ly

Understanding Unlimited Web Hosting

We have all seen the advertisement. Unlimited Web Hosting. For a few dollars a month you get everything. It sounds great, right?

What are Unlimited Hosting Plans Really Offering?

Unlimited disk space and unlimited bandwidth are the two things generally covered by unlimited plans. You sometimes see other things such as email accounts, mysql databases, and more; but that's not very important for this article because they are dependent on disk space.

Does this sound too good to be true?

There is no such thing as an unlimited size disk drive and no network connection with unlimited speed (and therefore bandwidth). There are physical constraints, hard drives are a certain size and network connections only go so fast. So in a sense, it is too good to be true. Most of these companies are overselling their services. That means they know how many resources an average customer uses and puts as many customers as they can on a single server to minimize costs. The reality is that most customers use very few resources. For the customers that do use a lot of resources, they hide limits in the terms of service.

Common Limits Hidden in Terms of Service:

  •  iNode limitations – This is the number of files you can have on your server. Unlimited disk space, but limited number of files.
  •  CPU limitations – Hosts generally say you can't use more than your fair share of the CPU. If your site gets a substantial amount of traffic, it is likely that the CPU usage will be dramatically higher too and they will pull the plug or ask you to pay more.
  •  Memory limitations – This is similar to CPU limitations, when you get a lot of visitors, your website will generally increase memory (RAM) usage.
  •  Content Restrictions – Hosts often disallow file hosting, backups and many other types of content. File hosting is a pretty ambiguous term because everything on the server is a file.
  •  Suspend you for any reason – This is a catch-all for unprofitable customers. Using too much of their resources? Goodbye.

Are All Unlimited Hosts Bad Then?

No. They vary like any other type of company. Some are better than others. If you plan on using a lot of resources though, you will probably be kicked off or asked to upgrade, generally to a VPS which dedicates resources specifically to your website.

Just be aware unlimited does have limitations, but they are really designed to keep the users who would use unlimited resources out. Most customers don't fit that profile. But once you've decided you're not really going to need unlimited resources, it's worth comparing web hosts on other dimensions.

Graph of Web Hosting Ratings at Review Signal Since Launch

Happy Staturday!

I didn't quite finish porting the D3 / Rickshaw version of this to WordPress, so that users can explore the data themselves. So that will probably be next Staturday. However, I wanted to share a preview visualizing how the rankings at Review Signal have changed over time.

A few interesting points are this month, August 2013, you can see the four major EIG brands we track drop (BlueHost, HostGator, HostMonster, JustHost). We see WPEngine come down to mortal levels. We see the rise of DigitalOcean. I will do a more thorough investigation when the interactive chart gets published.

 

[Click Graph to Enlarge]

web_hosts_overall_rating_monthly_changes

How to Deal With Web Hosting Failures and Outages

First off, it sucks. I am sorry that you have to go through the ordeal of downtime and web hosting failures.  

There are a couple of facts about web hosting companies that everyone needs to realize:

1. Every web host has failures, given enough time. None are perfect.

2. Given 1, that doesn't mean every web host is the same. Some do better than others in handling situations. Different people will feel differently about how well a situation was handled, not everyone will be pleased. But in general, some companies handle failures better than others.

What happens after a failure

The company almost always apologizes. Sometimes they give their customers some type of compensation, often in the form of credit or payment forgiveness. Anything less than an apology should be an immediate warning sign.

Customers are then faced with a big decision.

Do you want to remain a customer of this company?

Some people will ditch the web host no matter what, given a good enough reason. Some will be locked in because of long term contracts or budgets. Some will be wondering what the future performance of the company will be like: was this a one off or a pattern? Everyone will make their own evaluations on these issues. People will see this outage differently. Choosing the right web hosting company is a personal decision. No web host is perfect for everyone.

I have a unique insight given the data I track here at Review Signal. My full time job is analyzing web hosting companies and what people think of them. I've watched multiple major outages and problems across different companies.

What generally happens is called regression to the mean. Simply put, the companies generally return to their pre-failure/outage service quality.

godaddy_dns_outage_full

GoDaddy had a major DNS outage in September 2012. You can see a clear drop in rating and increased negative sentiment during and for a couple days after the event. However, within a week, things appear to be back to normal, their long-term overall rating is just under 50%.

hostgator_sentiment

HostGator experienced a major outage in August 2013. We can see a huge decrease in rating and a massive spike in the number of negative messages. However, within days, HostGator was receiving ratings above 60%, they were 62% before the crash.

That doesn't mean every company will always regress back to the mean. Failures and outages can often be signs of systemic or worsening problems. There are sometimes signs that you can look for to determine if this is something that simply happens or perhaps a sign of things to come. Here is a non-exhaustive list of potential warning signs:

  • Management Changes
  • Ownership changes
  • Degrading Service Quality (eg. slower response times, less knowledgeable customer service representatives)
  • New / Different Infrastructure
  • New / Different Software

So you still want to move or at least consider other options?

There are a lot of hosting companies out there. There are probably some even cheaper, there are some that have better reputations in different areas, there are some that might suit you better than your current provider. It's sometimes a good idea to look around just to make sure you're getting the best value.

When choosing a new web host people generally consider one of two options: asking friends or reading reviews. If you have a friend who knows the web hosting industry and you trust them to give you a good recommendation, that's often a good place to start. If you like reviews and trust a lot of opinions more than one person's opinion then finding reviews can be a better option.

I am biased here and I want to be upfront about that. This site (Review Signal) is a webhosting review site that works by tracking the opinions people share publicly on social media. That's where I get my data and insights, watching and reading all the recommendations and complaints against most of the major players in the web hosting space. All of the data we collect is published for free and available here. Each review is linked to the original posting source so you can verify it, or even reach out to that person if you really want. Review Signal's goal is to be the most honest and transparent review site in the industry and has more than 150,000 reviews (or ~100 times more than any of our competitors).

That said, there are other venues that you can look at too. Web Hosting Talk is the largest web hosting forum and has years of people talking about different companies. There is a ton of great information there and it's a great place for people interested in learning about web hosting as a business.

What should I be concerned about when looking for a new host?

There are a lot of considerations but I will list some of the major ones:

1. What do you need? The primary constraints of any site are software, hardware (disk space, cpu, memory/ram), and bandwidth. Unlimited sounds nice, but nothing is really unlimited and you don't need unlimited. Most sites don't need much at all. WordPress is only a few megabytes to put this into perspective. A high resolution photo is generally a few megabytes. Realistic goals and expectations can help make for a better hosting experience.

2. How do you expect to be supported when things go wrong or you need help? There are two primary categories of hosting: managed and unmanaged. Managed hosting means the provider manages the server for you and takes care of things like security updates and software updates. Please note this is on the server side, generally not the software you install yourself. When your server goes down, they fix it. Unmanaged hosting makes you responsible for doing these things. Most people aren't comfortable with that, but some are. If you decide you need managed, look at things like how you can get support: is it ticket system only? What about telephone? Is it 24/7? Test out the support. Try calling/emailing and asking a question. Was it fast? Easy? Did you like talking to the person? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you are going to be really pissed off when you're a customer and actually have a real problem. Maybe that company isn't right for you.

3. How much should I spend on hosting? There is no right amount. You should be asking yourself two questions, how much can I afford and makes sense? How much is what I am running on my website worth? If you have an online business making $1,000/day running on a $3/month hosting plan with poor support, you might want to re-think your plan. If you run a personal blog for fun with cat pictures you found on reddit and your mom is your only visitor, $3/month might be the right amount to spend on it (no offense to all the cat picture websites, the internet needs more of you <3 and take this cat picture offering).

chemistrycat

4. There is no best host. Hosting companies are good at different things. Some specialize in very specific types of hosting and services while others are the best at being cheap. It really depends what you want and how you want to make trade-offs.

Conclusion

I tried to include some basic guidelines and help here for anyone considering the issues around a major catastrophe at a web hosting company. Not every situation is covered and getting specific help and recommendations is sometimes necessary. I am happy to answer any questions people might have and help any/all of you to the best of my ability. Please use our Talk to a Web Hosting Expert form to get started. If you are just interested in reading reviews, I suggest taking a look at our big list of providers, ratings and data available on our compare web hosting providers page.

Good luck and I hope this has helped!

-Kevin Ohashi

 

 

This post was inspired by the EIG outage [covered here 12] and a comment I wrote on Mashable discussing the outage.

Photo credit: Nathan Reed.