Hosting – Tech Tips, Reviews, Tutorials, Occasional Rants Fri, 21 Mar 2014 05:03:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Why GoDaddy is a Horrible Host Sat, 24 Dec 2011 19:16:44 +0000 GoDaddy sucks… their dashboard is completely un-navigable, their shared hosting has repeated errors, their VPS hosts are so poorly configured that they can’t even run updates on themselves, their CEO murders elephants for his own amusement, and they think that a few Superbowl ads featuring Danica Patrick will somehow make us forget how bad they suck. And now this…

You may remember my earlier comparison/rant of VPS Hosting Providers. GoDaddy was on that list of hosts to avoid, but recent events have loaded my arsenal with rant-fuel and I cannot contain myself any longer: GoDaddy is a horrible web host and a terrible company that not only wastes your time and money, it may actively be trying to F you in the A!

The Technical

First, the the technical stuff. This is stuff that actually happened. These are facts, and I invite any other developer to share similar experiences. I got a call late Friday night from a frenetic client with the horrible words: “THE SITE IS DOWN!!!”. Any developer who has heard those words on a Friday night knows that they can kiss their weekend goodbye, and so it was.

The site in question was hosted on a GoDaddy shared host. Ok, so what happened? Well, it’s an eCommerce site that required that a certain port be open for incoming and outgoing requests in order for the site’s software to communicate with the credit card processing (hosted on secure site somewhere else). Without warning, GoDaddy changed their firewall rules and they closed that port. Oops. That prevented the site from doing any business.

So what’s more frightening here? The fact that GoDaddy shut down this port without any warning, or the fact that they denied ever having that port open in the first place? In a separate incident, I had another GoDaddy server upgrade its version of PHP from 4 to 5. Any application developer will know that such a dramatic change in the underlying code can be catastrophic. And it was: the application completely broke because much of the code was not compatible with PHP 5. So the point of the story here is that I have personally experienced massive server changes on GoDaddy servers without any warning and sometimes without any acknowledgement. This is just not acceptable for any web host, and to date, I’ve only experienced this with GoDaddy.

And then it gets worse. The client wanted to keep his GoDaddy account, so he forked over the money to get a Linux VPS with GoDaddy. Man. The provisioning took over 12 hours and several calls to tech support. The GoDaddy dashboard is awful, and their ticketing system is equally poor: you can’t see your open tickets (!!!), so you have no idea what status they are in. You can chat with the techs (if the chat window doesn’t crash before you get through to somebody), but you cannot see any updates or add any information to your requests… you have to call to get information, and this can take a looooooong time.

But eventually GoDaddy got it up (heheh), and I started to configure the Linux Server with Plesk. Now the site required PHP 5.2.4 or greater, but the server shipped with PHP 5.1.6 (CentOS). There was no option to select different distros or different setups other than Plesk or cPanel on CentOS. So I started to get the server ready for take-off by updating packages and compiling a new version of PHP. I tried to download core updates… but out of the box, the repos were not correctly defined, and the VPS could not update itself. So I tried to run some updates by hand — we just needed PHP 5.2.4. So I tried to download and compile it. But the damn thing kept hanging. After some googling, it turns out that GoDaddy intentionally spikes the CPU which causes memory allocation failures. So the Plesk setup as offered by GoDaddy could not even put its own pants on.

So we had to pay an extra $10/month to get a WHM/cPanel server. So it was another 12 hours of provisioning (turns out the process hung, but without the ability to see the status of the ticket, I only got this info when I phoned in). But basically the same thing happened with the cPanel server: EasyApache could not finish executing due to memory/CPU throttling (not even on the command line). Something on those servers was completely F’d. As usual, GoDaddy techs denied everything, even when confronted with error logs. It was ridiculous and a waste of time for me and for the client (who hadn’t been able to sell anything on his site for about 48 hours at this point)

The final bit of ludicrousness was when we requested a separate IP address for the server so we could install the SSL certificate. With LiquidWeb, getting an extra IP address takes about 60 seconds. With GoDaddy? It took about 6 hours. Blink blink.

So the final solution here was to move this site over to my own server, which only took an hour or so. Instead of taking all weekend, it took only an hour. The conclusion is that GoDaddy is really good at creating billable hours, but not at actually having a working product.

The Non Technical

The non-technical stuff here is a bit more subjective, but it’s equally unflattering. You may remember the controversy when GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons bragged about shooting and killing an elephant and a leopard. Mr. Parsons tried to play it off as some kind philanthropy because “elephants are destroying Zimbabweans’ crops”. In my opinion, anyone arrogant and/or stupid enough to justify their actions with a statement like that really deserves a punch in the dick. LEOPARDS DON’T DESTROY CROPS. And if Bob Parsons really cared about the plight of Zimbabweans’ crops, he’d do something more effective like fund charity organizations in Africa or help them build a fence. I mean, seriously… have you seen his Video Blog? Arguably, the elephant and leopard got treated more humanely with bullets to the face than those of us who watched a 61-year-old man ogle the scantily clad women grinding against him while he lectured us on “hiring great employees.”

Bob evaluates his employees greatness

And remember my disgust with QuickBooks? Looks like Bob had a hand in that as well: apparently, he sold his accounting software to Intuit in 1994.

And now with the internet censorship laws coming up in relation to the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (aka SOPA), we see that GoDaddy is a political animal. First they came out in support for SOPA. Then after a “maelstrom” of internet backlash, they later discontinued support for SOPA. But what bothers me is the casual internet citizen is fooled by this token gesture. It seems that it was a calculated move by GoDaddy where they make a public statement to placate the sheople, but behind closed doors, they still are working to game the system for personal gain and the expense of public freedom. This article about a judge forcing domains to be transferred to GoDaddy was alarming. How much does the system have to be corrupted if the legal system is ORDERING domains to be transferred to GoDaddy? Why does this sound like Iraq under Saddam Hussein where oil companies were ORDERED to do business with Saddam’s relatives. It just stinks to high heaven.

What to Do

Get your sites off of GoDaddy. They are Ok as a registrar if you can tolerate their idiotic dashboard and general ineptitude, but you’re wasting your life and your money if you host with them. Gotta love developers: here’s a good reference for how to move your domains off of GoDaddy: Moving Domains off of GoDaddy, but really, if you want to stick it to GoDaddy then you should call them and tie up their phone lines as much as possible. Have them walk you through how to transfer your domains…. step…. by…. step.

Sign up to boycott Godaddy here.

Find another registrar. NameCheap offers pretty much every TLD you can think of, and they at least as cheap.

If you need some good VPS hosting, I still have some space on my server: you get more horsepower than you’d get on your own VPS, and you don’t have to spend all the time setting the thing up. Contact me if you’re interested.

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Moving WordPress to MediaTemple Hosting Fri, 27 Feb 2009 12:00:32 +0000 Continue reading Moving WordPress to MediaTemple Hosting ]]> I just finished transferring hosting for from 1and1 to MediaTemple. I had no major qualms with 1and1 other than feeling like we had outgrown them (see the downsides of shared hosting). MediaTemple will give us a lot more room to grow without worrying about the occasional spike of traffic from Digg, StumbleUpon, or whatever.

During the move, I had a heck of a time getting WordPress to work. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t avoid the dreaded WordPress white screen of death. In other words, WordPress only displayed a blank screen, nothing else. Frustration beyond frustrations!

I didn’t get it. I moved all my files from the old server. I exported and imported the database without error. What the heck could be wrong? Manually disabling the plugins by renaming them didn’t help. Messing with the .htaccess file didn’t help. Shouting at it certainly didn’t help (though it DID make me feel a little better). What else could I do?

Tips for a Successful Migration to MediaTemple

If you’re having a hard time migrating WordPress to MediaTemple, try these tips:

1. Remove/Rename your .htaccess file.

In your main hosting directory (html for MediaTemple), you likely have a file called .htaccess. If that file came from your old web host, there may be some wacky stuff in there that is conflicting with the new host. Just try renaming the file to something else. WordPress will create a new .htaccess file when it needs one.

2. Create a new user for your database.

What I found slightly confusing when setting up my WordPress database at MediaTemple is how they do not automatically assign a new user to the database (like 1and1 does). Instead of trying to rely on the default database user (dbXXXXX), just create a new user under the Global Settings.

Once you’ve added a New User, be sure to hit the Permissions button and set the permissions for that user to Read/Write on the specified database.

Now just add the appropriate entries to the wp-config.php file.

3. Disable the WordPress Super Cache plugin completely. did not come to life on MediaTemple until I completed this step. The Super Cache plugin, while ultimately helpful, was the culprit in causing the site to only produce the blank screen of death. If you had the caching plugin enabled on your old host, you may need to complete this step.

To completely disable it, first take a look at your wp-config.php file. Look for the line near the top that reads:

define('WP_CACHE', true);

Comment it out by putting a hash mark (#) in front of it. My site came alive after I did this. You can worry about re-enabling the Super Cache plugin later.

Moving to MediaTemple was ultimately a straightforward process. In my case, I ran into a bout of trouble for a couple hours while I figured out what the culprit was. If I could do it all over again, I would definitely disable ALL plugins BEFORE sending it over to the new host. Lesson learned.

Overall, I like MediaTemple a lot so far. I’m still doing some experimenting, but I think I’ll stay here for a while. The site certainly feels more snappy than it did with 1and1. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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An Introduction to Podcasting with Blogger and iTunes Thu, 18 Dec 2008 13:00:13 +0000 Continue reading An Introduction to Podcasting with Blogger and iTunes ]]> Podcasting is the practice of distributing media files online for subscribers to view. Since it is Internet-based, it is similar to simply posting on a website. Many podcasts are distributed as episodic content – such as weekly radio or television shows.

This brief tutorial is focused toward people who have never created an audio podcast before. I put it together for an electronic music class that I teach, and thought it could be of use here on

Required Tools


  • Digital Audio Workstation Software

If you’re only recording speech with little or no music, you likely won’t need software like this. Something like Audacity will suffice. For more complicated editing and mixing, you’re going to need digital audio workstation (DAW) software.

The big-boy software titles include Cubase, Sonar, Digital Performer, Pro Tools, Logic, and Samplitude. They also come with a big-boy price. For more modest uses, consider Tracktion or even FREE offerings such as MU.LAB. Use Linux? Try Ardour.

  • Audio Compression Software

You’re going to need to compress that audio file for the Web, and free tools such as Audacity, iTunes, and BonkEnc will do the job with aplomb.

  • FTP Client

Use a free FTP client such as Filezilla or Cyberduck to store your files online on a file/web host of choice (more on that below).

  • Podcast Catcher

To take a look/listen at your newly created podcast, subscribe to it with a tool such as iTunes or Google Reader.


  • Online Web Space

You need a place to store your files on the Web that allows for direct linking. If you already own web space, fantastic. If you do not, don’t worry. There are free workarounds.

  • A Publisher

Though not absolutely required, a free publishing account with a service such as Blogger or WordPress is highly recommended. Podcasts require an RSS Feed (allows podcast catchers to subscribe), and services such as Blogger generate the feed for you automatically. The other option is to write the XML file yourself… tedious.

Create Your Audio File

When you have finished composing and mixing your masterpiece, you need to prepare it for the web. The issue here is to make the file small enough without sacrificing too much quality. You will need to to compress your hi-res audio mix (*.aif) into a lossy format. Most podcasts use either MP3 or AAC. See our digital audio primer.

I suggest using Audacity to compress your audio. No matter what software you use, set the bitrate to at least 128/k (up to about 192/k). Make sure the resulting file has all lowercase letters and no spaces or special characters. Also, make sure your file has an extension (*.mp3).

The compressed audio file is what your subscribers will hear, naturally.

Storing Your File on the Web

The next step is to upload your file to a storage host. The aforementioned free services such as Blogger and WordPress do not currently allow for storage of audio files (legal/piracy reasons). Instead, I suggest using some web space to store your files.

If you do not pay for any webspace, don’t fret. Take a look at our article on overcoming Blogger’s upload limitations. Though the article mentions Blogger specifically, the solutions can apply to any other service.

Publish your Podcast

Now it’s time to publish your podcast so that the world can listen. This section of the tutorial is specific to the Google Blogger service. If you use a different service, please consult their Help section for podcast-specific tips.

The site that my class used is:

To set up a Blogger account for podcasting, do the following:

In your Blogger dashboard, go to Settings → Formatting. Enable the Link Field to enclose audio in your posts.

Now, when you create a New Post, you will see a field for Enclosures.

Add the full link to your hosted audio file (including the http://).

Voila! When you publish your post, it will instantly become a podcast. All RSS Feed requirements are handled automatically.

Subscribe to the Podcast

If you want to subscribe to the newly created podcast, just enter the full URL to your Blogger site in your podcast-catching software.

Example (Google Reader):

Subscribe with iTunes

iTunes is slightly different. To subscribe to a Blogger feed in iTunes, go to the Advanced menu, then click Subscribe to Podcast.

Add the full URL to your site, plus /feeds/posts/default

Click OK, and your podcast subscription will show up like this:

Anytime you write a new post on the site, it will show up in the feed reader.

This concludes the tutorial. Happy podcasting!

Fed Up with Blogger’s Upload Limitations? Wed, 17 Dec 2008 13:00:18 +0000 Continue reading Fed Up with Blogger’s Upload Limitations? ]]>

Update: There’s now a third, very simple method available – – see more info.

Google Blogger is a great and easy way to create your own blog, but one nagging problem is the limitations on uploads. Sure you can upload images and video, but not other common file types such as MP3, DOC, ZIP, and PDF.

There are a number of ways around this limitation. I’m going to show you two of them today.

I had three requirements in mind when finding a solution:

  1. None of the methods should cost a single penny!
  2. The method should allow for direct linking to files, not going through a middle-man.
  3. The process should be as simple as possible.

Method One – Google Sites

The simplest solution that I have found is to use another Google service – Sites. To enable Sites, just log in with your Google account and create a name for your site. Make sure to make your site Public.

Sites offers 100 MB of extra storage space where you can link directly to MP3s, PDFs, or any other type of file you wish.

Now let’s make a page where you can add some files. In Sites, click Create a New Page at the top.

Choose File Cabinet as your page type. Once you’re done, all you have to do is add a file on the page you created.

Once your file uploads, the last step is to simply right-click your file and Copy Link Location (Firefox – other browsers may say something like Copy Shortcut).

Paste that link into Blogger, and voila! You now have a direct link to your file! If you find that you cannot link directly to your file, make sure your Site is listed as Public.

This is the easiest method I’ve found, and I like that it’s tied directly to your Google account. If you run out of your 100 MB, you can create another Google Site, or consider method two below.

Method Two – DriveHQ

This solution is slightly more complicated, but offers much more storage space. DriveHQ has been around for many years, and they offer 1 GB of free space accessible by FTP. You can link directly to files provided that you create a True account – still free, essentially just requires verification of what they call a trustable, non-mainstream e-mail address. Accounts like Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail do not count. I just used my university e-mail.

Though there are other free FTP hosts, I recommend DriveHQ because they have been around for many years, and because your files never expire due to inactivity. I created an account with them four years ago, and I went for over two years without logging in. My files were still just as I left them.

DriveHQ Web Share

Once you create a free account with DriveHQ and upgrade to True status (free), you will have access to a website root folder (wwwhome). Anything you place in your wwwhome folder is accessible online (

Feel free to create folders, but for simplicity’s sake I strongly suggest sticking to all lowercase letters and omitting special characters in your folders and file-names.

Example 1 – If you put a file called sample-file.mp3 in your wwwhome folder, the web path is:


Example 2 – If you create a folder in wwwhome called music and put your sample-file.mp3 in there, the path is:


Adjust your links accordingly and paste into Blogger. Voila! You have direct links.

FTP Access

Once you’ve registered, you can use FTP to upload files if you do not feel like bothering with their web interface. Just connect to with your favorite FTP client (such as Filezilla or Cyberduck).

DriveHQ offers 1 GB of storage space, but one catch here is that free accounts only have 1 GB of download bandwidth per month. For most people, this is likely sufficient, but if you know your files will get tons of hits, this is not the best option. Or, you could use a combination of these two methods – use Google Sites for files that will see big traffic and save DriveHQ for seldom-accessed files.

Other Thoughts

Of course, the two methods I present here are not the only possible ways to host files for inclusion with Blogger. There are literally hundreds of free web hosts and file storage services out there. Finding a place to store your files is easy. Finding a good and reliable place to store your files is amazingly difficult.

The vast majority of online storage services either:

  1. Do not allow for direct linking, or…
  2. Expire and delete your files after a certain amount of time or inactivity, or…
  3. Have not been around long enough to be considered tried and true, or…
  4. Try to spam you to death with ads and optional services.

Concerning free web hosts, yes, many of them offer free FTP access. While I applaud this, you need to be careful. The vast majority of free web hosts have a clause in their Terms of Service stating that they are not to be used as file storage. Any accounts found breaching this clause will have their files mercilessly deleted without warning. These companies make the bulk of their money by putting ads on your free site, and file storage/direct linking is simply not profitable for them. You don’t want your files disappearing, do you?

That’s why I chose Google Sites and DriveHQ for this article. If you know of any other solutions that are free, reliable, simple to use, and allow for direct file linking, please let us know in the comments.

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Free 100 MB Remote Drive – Who.hasfiles (Online Storage Series) Sat, 10 May 2008 20:13:25 +0000 Continue reading Free 100 MB Remote Drive – Who.hasfiles (Online Storage Series) ]]> who.hasfiles logoI recently started using – a free, 100 MB remote file storage service. Before you start scoffing and lambasting me with insults for what seems like a pitiful amount of space, allow me to explain why I think who.hasfiles is worthwhile. While it is true that 100 MB does not go very far these days, especially when compared to some other free online storage services (such as, XDrive, and DropBoks), it is the manner in which you access files on who.hasfiles that sets it apart from the rest.

Remote Drive Mapping

Most online storage services are web based, meaning that you must access them through a browser. By contrast, who.hasfiles allows you to map your storage space as a remote drive from within your operating system. You don’t have to install anything. Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X are all supported.

who.hasfiles instant mapperThere are specific instructions for each operating system on the who.hasfiles website. Since I run all three major operating systems in my household, I’ve been able to test accessing my storage space from all three platforms. It works.

Windows users can use a nifty instant mapper application to quickly set up access to your 100 MB. The application requires no install and can be deleted afterward.


Because who.hasfiles integrates directly into your desktop, it also offers the ability to edit and save files directly on the remote server. Need to do some quick editing to an OpenOffice document or spreadsheet? Open the file directly from your mapped storage space! There’s no need to copy the file(s) directly to your hard drive, edit, and then re-upload them. Nice!

Because only 100 MB is available for free, don’t expect to upload much of your MP3 and movie collection, though there are paid upgrades available ($1 per gigabyte per month)*. Here are a few uses that I’ve found for who.hasfiles:

  • keep an updated copy of your bookmarks handy
  • store a KeePass database that you can easily access from any computer
  • backing up important documents
  • quick-and-dirty file sharing between computers

While who.hasfiles focuses on simply storing files, not embedding them into blogs and sharing them with the world, they DO offer a basic sharing service between members.

who.hasfiles sharing

Of course, I’d love to see who.hasfiles offer more than 100 MB for free, but considering the easy integration into the desktop from any major operating system, I can’t complain about the stingy amount of space. For now, I just treat it like a glorified floppy drive (remember those?), or maybe like a networked USB flash drive from 2001.

*Note: in addition to increased space, encrypted access to the storage space is part of the paid plan.

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Domain Switch Complete – from to Thu, 20 Mar 2008 03:53:02 +0000 Continue reading Domain Switch Complete – from to ]]> As you may have noticed, I recently changed the domain name from to


The old domain ( was difficult for the average person to remember and pronounce. I liked the old name, which is a combination of an old nickname plus my middle name, but alas, it was time to make the domain name more relevant to the content of the site.

Since the bulk of the content is comprised of tips and tutorials relating to computer technology, the new domain ( is much more relevant.

Are you keeping the old domain name?

Yes. Also, all links to the old site *should* automatically redirect to the appropriate page. I hope.

Will all the old content remain?


Anything else new?

Um… yes and no. The site will still focus on computers and software, but you may see more variety in the topics covered. Two good friends will be joining me in creating content, and the articles they produce will be tailored toward their areas of expertise. Stay tuned.

Will you write a tutorial on how you switched domains with WordPress?

Say, that’s a pretty good idea. I should do that sometime soon. 🙂

Are you still “not a terrorist… seriously”?

Um, yeah. Of course. Seriously.

* for those unfamiliar, my old tagline was “not a terrorist… seriously.” Before you freak out, it was meant as a joke. Hmm, I wonder how many government watch lists I’m on now….
Simple Web Hosting Performance Test: 1and1 versus HostICan Sun, 22 Jul 2007 08:27:11 +0000 Continue reading Simple Web Hosting Performance Test: 1and1 versus HostICan ]]> Is it true that 1and1, the world’s #1 web host, has slow servers? Let’s find out.

Since I just switched to a HostICan hosting package, I have a prime opportunity to do a little performance comparison. But first, let’s do a reverse IP check.

Reverse IP Check

By doing a “Reverse IP,” one can tell how many domains are hosted on a server. Since I have a few other domains still on my 1and1 hosting package, I can check both my old plan and my new one.

Current PlanHostICan Base Host Package

Thirty-four domains on one server. Not too shabby.

Old Plan1and1 Business Package

Whoa! 251 domains? Now I don’t know the specifics of each server, but my educated guess is that the HostICan server will run circles around 1and1’s poor server, which must feel a lot like Atlas right now.

The Test

The test is simple: in order to stress the CPUs of the servers, I decided to use the WordPress Database Backup plugin to export a copy of the database for this site. The actual MySQL database is fairly small – only about 1.5 MB. The database is exactly the same on each server.

So, how long will it take 1and1 to export this database versus HostICan? When you see the download window pop up, that means the export has finally completed.

And they’re off!


Depending on your download speed, you may need to click the “play” button again to restart the screencasts. If you start them at the same time, you will see that the HostICan backup takes just under 30 seconds to complete. The 1and1 backup, on the other hand, takes approximately 70 seconds to complete an export of the exact same database!

So, based on my very unscientific conclusion, yes, 1and1’s servers are slow, at least in comparison to HostICan.

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Switching Web Hosts: From 1and1 to HostICan Sun, 22 Jul 2007 06:55:24 +0000 Continue reading Switching Web Hosts: From 1and1 to HostICan ]]> I recently switched web hosts for this site since I was starting to outgrow my former hosting package. Here is an overview of my experience.

Former Host: 1and1 Business Package

New Host: HostICan Base Host Package

I run several different web sites. This one receives by far the most traffic. I have already been warned once by 1and1 that I was “consuming the resources of the shared server,” and if I overload the server again, I must either purchase a dedicated server or leave.

Hmph. Ordinarily my site traffic levels are fairly mild (roughly 1,000 visitors a day), but last October one of my articles was “dugg,” and apparently 1and1 will kick me if I write another popular article, thereby knocking ALL of my sites offline (since they were all hosted on the same package). You can read more about the dangers of shared web hosting here.

So, what to do? Not quite wanting to shell out the cash for a dedicated or virtual private server, I decided to simply host this site elsewhere, isolated from the others. That way, all of my eggs are no longer in one basket, and if this site goes down again, it goes down alone. 🙂

Finding A Shared Host

What, then, differentiates one shared hosting host from another? Is it gigabytes of storage space and bandwidth? No, most of that is a pipe dream, and due to overselling, no shared host will really let you consistently consume the hundreds of gigabytes offered without finding a way to ban you.

Is it claims of “unlimited” databases, e-mail accounts, and subdomains? No, that’s overselling in action again. Nothing is “unlimited,” except human stupidiy, of course. 🙂

Is it the quality of support offered? Somewhat, though I’ve never called any web host since I try to handle everything through e-mail. Anyway, most web hosts are abysmal when it comes to support. Receiving an e-mail response in 2-3 days is great. Heck, I’m STILL waiting for replies to questions I asked to web hosts of ages past.

Quite simply, the distinguishing factor for me in finding a shared web host is in how they handle resource consumption. Forget the bloated claims of how many terabytes of bandwidth they offer; it’s the CPU that’s important!

When looking for a shared web host, be sure to read the Terms and Conditions (usually a tiny link at the bottom of their main page). Most of them will mumble something about “excessive resource consumption,” but they don’t define what they mean by excessive.

On the other hand, HostICan has a very clear policy on resource consumption.

Yes, HostICan enforces rules where customers are not permitted to be using more than 25% of the entire server resources for more than 90 seconds.

For example, if you are using a script that is poorly written and you are using more than 25% for 90 seconds your account maybe suspended pending an account review.

Clear. Simple. To the point. With that policy, I probably won’t survive a good Digging, but at least I know my limits.

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To VPS or not to VPS… Sat, 04 Nov 2006 03:41:04 +0000 Continue reading To VPS or not to VPS… ]]> That is the question. Whether tis nobler a choice in web hosting options than “shared” hosting will be determined, though I have high expectations.

If you are confused and are wondering what on earth a VPS is, I call your attention to my article on “Web Hosting Options.” Essentially, most “shared” web hosting offers are completely unrealistic borderline on being outright scams. If you read the TOS (Terms of Service) for almost any “shared” host, you will find clauses limiting your use of the server CPU. So, what good are those terabytes of bandwidth if you willl NEVER be able to use them. I’ve seen TOS contracts which state that your account will be suspended if you consume more than 1% of the overall CPU. Excuse me? I understand that hosts need to protect themselves from CPU overload, but they should be more forthcoming about it. I’d much rather see a hosting plan that features “CPU minutes” rather than oodles of bandwidth. Will it ever happen? Not with shared hosting.

This is why a VPS is attractive to me. So what if a shared plan supposedly offers ten or twenty times more bandwidth? You’ll never be able to use it before they slam you for CPU consumption. Hosers.

I plan to switch fully to a VPS by the end of the year. Yes, it will cost a little more than my current shared plan, but at least I won’t have to worry about actually having to handle more than a few site visitors at a time. I have a few articles in the works that should generate some traffic this holiday season, and the last thing I want is for my host to lock me out of my own site (again).

Web Hosting Options – The Downside of Shared Hosting Mon, 23 Oct 2006 02:15:03 +0000 Continue reading Web Hosting Options – The Downside of Shared Hosting ]]> Earlier this month, an article I wrote on Ghosting Windows XP for Free found its way to the front page of nearly a year after I wrote it. The ensuing spike in traffic caused my web host (1and1) to move my site temporarily to a new server. Naturally, I received an e-mail from them stating that my account was “seriously threatening the resources of the shared server” and that I should consider purchasing an expensive dedicated server. Furthermore, they informed me that if I decline the dedicated server offer, the next time a traffic spike occurs I MUST either purchase the dedicated server or find hosting elsewhere. Sheesh.

Now, this is not an attack on 1and1. Until this incident I’ve had nary a problem with them. While I do not like being forced into a decision, I certainly cannot blame them for trying to protect their resources and the other accounts on their server. While I have moved my current domain to another host, I still have other domains hosted with 1and1.

So, what is the big deal here? Supposedly, even my “beginner” package is supposed to handle 250 gigabytes of traffic a month. Surely I was not saturating that much bandwidth, as my site has hardly any media. While the “digg” effect sucked up several gigabytes, 1and1 locked my account long before I reached the allotted 250 gigs.

Herein lies the problem with shared hosting packages from any hosting company, not just 1and1. Their sales pitch sounds stellar. Many hosts easily boast of fifty gigabytes of storage space or more, with bandwidth stretching into the terabytes, all for less than $10 a month. Many offer “unlimited” subdomains and SQL databases, which of course is unfeasible. What they decline to tell you is that the ONLY way you will be able to harness these resources is with static HTML pages and large, static file downloads.

The problem here is that most web sites no longer function in this late-90s manner. Most sites are dynamic, and include processor-intensive scripts and databases. Hosting a Content Management System (CMS), a forum, or a blog in a shared-hosting environment is fine provided that only a few users at a time are accessing the data, but a sudden surge in traffic can cause even a single WordPress installation to consume “excessive” resources in the eyes of a shared host.

Of course, none of this information is new, and I’m certainly not trying to take credit for it. Web hosts know it. Clients with popular sites know it. Casual site owners who are at the wrong end of a good “slashdotting” or “digging” painfully find out about it. If you have a shared hosting plan, you will not find out about it until it is too late. Those oodles of storage space and bandwidth promised by your host are in reality a pipe dream. Chances are that you will overload your allotted CPU time long before you approach the bandwidth limits. Sadly, this simple fact is only exacerbated since many hosts “oversell” their shared plans in the first place.

While every shared host will giddily advertise how much space and bandwidth they offer, not one that I’ve found even mentions how much CPU time one can consume. In my hunt for a new host, I decided to largely ignore the boasts of bandwidth and try to determine just how busy a given server generally is. Since most hosts offer a live “demo” account, I checked the server load in each of these demo accounts. Now, my plan is not flawless because a web host can have many servers, but I hoped this would give me a general idea of average server load. A conservative estimate is that a server should not remain above one full point for each processor/core. Several popular hosts that I checked were around this vicinity, but one not-to-be-named host had a dual-processor server that averaged between 18-20 points at the time I checked. I decided not to go with that one. 🙂

Here are sample stats from two anonymous web hosts:


(Host 1)


(Host 2)

The moral of this story is that shared hosting is only good because it’s cheap. Sometimes, you get what you pay for. What, then, are better options for people who “outgrow” their shared hosting packages?

Naturally, one can choose to personally host a web site. Do you have Cable/DSL? Do you have an old computer lying around? If so, running a server can be a satisfying experience. It can also be frustrating, especially if your connection is flaky. Also, the “upstream” speeds for most popular broadband plans are significantly lower than the “downstream” speeds. Dealing with a dynamic IP address can be like chasing a rabbit as well, though there is software to overcome this obstacle. Many people successfully run sites from their home computers, but most choose to give that duty to someone else.

With that in mind, one could jump straight to a dedicated server. Most hosts would be gleefully happy for a user to migrate from a shared to a dedicated plan. Of course, this comes at a hefty price, usually exceeding $100 a month. Price aside, all the CPU time belongs to you. If you *really* need it, a dedicated server is great, but it’s overkill for people like myself. Before the “digg” effect I received 50-60 hits per day. Now that the effect is winding down, I’m receiving about 300-500 hits per day. For me, a dedicated server is like dropping an atomic bomb on an anthill.

Another option is for a Virtual Private Server (VPS). Quite simply, this is the process of using virtualization techniques to divide a single server into multiple environments. Using software such as OpenVZ, Virtuozzo, Xen, or VMware, one can run multiple copies of “virtual” operating systems with a pre-defined amount of dedicated hard disk space, RAM, and even processor usage. For instance, a host might offer five gigabytes of space, 128 MB of guaranteed RAM, and your choice of operating system. With VPS hosting comes more power and customization as well. With a VPS plan, one usually gets root access, a dedicated IP address, and the ability to install and customize software. Because of the independent nature of VPS hosting, no one user can monopolize resources. If one user’s site on a VPS is getting blasted by Slashdot, no one else is affected. Each user is guaranteed a slice of the server “pie.”

Naturally, VPS hosting is more expensive than shared hosting, even though the offered space and bandwidth are usually (and falsely) more generous for shared accounts. Honestly, I’m still on a shared plan, simply because I’m still investigating VPS offers. I plan to migrate most/all of my sites to a VPS by the end of the year. While my articles may not get tons of traffic, at least I’ll be more prepared in case of a sudden onslaught.

Before the sudden bombardment of traffic, I knew very little about the various types of web hosting. The needlessly bloated space and bandwidth numbers on my shared package gave me a false sense of confidence. Little did I know that those inflated numbers are hardly achievable if one’s site has any dynamic content. My lesson has been learned, and I hope this article is useful to someone.

If you notice, aside from listing my current host at the beginning, I have not named any other hosting companies. It is not my plan to advertise for any web host, but rather to inform the reader of various types of web hosting out there. Let the buyer decide which is appropriate for his/her needs.

— Brian Bondari
October 2006

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