So you need an ISP, a server to host your website or blog? Else you’re paying too much at the moment, with no thrills or poor service. But where do you start to research your new host? Here at Guvnr, I’ve done the research for you, and me.
UPDATE: No, not a Lunarpages reseller any more, no way! .. I binned the LooneyTunes months ago now, after their “support” department managed to lose my database. Didn’t really ring true, reselling space cadets. Course, I gave ‘em a rocket. Hmmn.
Fact is, web hosting has changed a lot over the years. Gone are the days of having to put up with a grumpy webmaster, pay them a small fortune and get a measly package.
UPDATE. While still essentially correct, this post is superceded by a more recent review of Lunarpages. SO READ THIS TOO: Review Cheap Host
How much was it that I used to pay? Ha, hundreds of bucks for a hundred MB, limits on everything…and that didn’t even include a database. These days, for most of us, we can expect unlimited storage, unlimited data transfer, unlimited databases, unlimited domains, unlimited ftp accounts, unlimited email accounts, email forwarding, user statistics, plus a whole lot more – basically, a bumper deal, all easily configurable with a cracking admin panel, how-to guides and a smiley community, and costing no more than a couple of beers a month, and no setup fee.
…not that that’s just a Lunarpages thing; it’s common and, if you don’t have it and are paying an old price, it’s time to switch.
Not that Lunarpages is the only host offering top-notch functionality; the truth is, the top of the web host market is all pretty much the same. I looked at HostGator, Dreamhost, HostMonster, BlueHost – all very good – and more than a dozen others. So why did I plumb for Lunarpages?
How often does the server fall over? In the 6 months I’ve been with Lunarpages, they’ve been “down” for three hours straight, while they were upgrading the machines.
For some businesses, that’s still too long, and Lunarpages offers dedicated servers for those, but they do cost more, currently $99 per month. But, for under 5 bucks, LP reckons 99.9% uptime and I’d say that’s about right, fingers crossed. Other popular hosts, I can’t be sure, but my old host used to be down for at least a couple of days a year and often they didn’t even know that. I got fed up having to request that they take a look, if they wouldn’t mind, and please pretty please oh thank you so much; this is most worrying with a static site that you don’t look at so often – who knows how long the site has been down.
Anyone who has surfed much knows how useful it is to find a friendly community, to help you troubleshoot problems fast. Indeed, this was absolutely key to my choice of web provider. Before I signed up with Lunarpages, I asked a ton of questions in the forums of all my shortlisted hosts. These questions ranged from issues such as server reliability, bespoke htaccess for security and friendly URL’s, to finite detail about the number of possible simultaneous database queries. These questions were answered by regular people, with their pages hosted with those hosts, so I could gauge reality, not parrot-speak. Whereas in other respects all the top hosts were pretty samey, here, Lunarpages won hands-down, with my questions answered quickly, and fully. You can also open support tickets with most of the big guns, for more specific support requests, but I’ve not had to do that yet.
Can you control your pages, or does your host? Most ISPs allow little or no control over your serverspace configuration so, for example, you’re stuck with their php.ini configuration, or you can’t secure specific website areas via htaccess, or implement those shiny, friendly URL’s that not only make a link make sense, but which also are important to help your search engine ranking. With most shared hosting, this is a problem, you are tarred with a generic brush…with Lunarpages, there is the flexibility I need to fine-tune my site’s configuration, with all the options I need.
The reality is, how much space can you handle? Sure, “unlimited” sounds great, but do you really need more than a few hundred MB of space? For me, I just wanted the option, but it wasn’t top of the list. Then again, it is nice to have another spot to backup your data to, should you so wish.
This is more important, certainly if you plan to build an audience. For Guvnr, and especially for other sites I’m planning, it was important not to limit simultaneous users, so this had to be at least enormous, but preferably unlimited. It’s not an issue today but, for sure, I don’t want to change hosts again in a hurry – what a pain! – so it’s good to be ahead of the game.
For most this is irrelevant. For me it was crucial. I used to have to pay for hosting, per domain. If you do that, and have more than 1 domain which doesn’t need a dedicated server, you’re paying over the odds. With any top host, you should be able to expand your web empire with add-on domains, without the drawback of those extra costs to curb your enthusiasm, and so that each domain resolves to it’s own, unique URI. Not only that, you should be looking for unlimited parked domains, and unlimited sub-domains. In other words, be careful to avoid future, effectively hidden costs.
Again with the top hosts, you tend to get unlimited email accounts, forwarding, a decent web client online (a choice of two with Lunarpages, plus SMTP access), spam-killing, a catch-all address and so on…but make sure, because all of these are important.
Or rather, cPanel, because cPanel is so easy, and even fun, to use, with all your hosting functions easily accessed and administered. With cPanel, which comes as standard with Lunarpages, I can setup and configure my databases, password protect directories, create new domains to host new sites, plus, well, just a heap of stuff.
Easily unpack dozens of useful softwares, using Fantastico, from blogging packages like WordPress to in-site form-builders, wikis, content management systems like Joomla, eCommerce packages and forum packages like Simple Machine Forums. This isn’t the most advanced, bespoke way to build online, but it is very useful for website or blog farms and novice webmasters. With Lunarpages, there are dozens of one-clickers.
As well as Fantastico’s useful software unpacking, with most top hosts there’ll be a ton of free software and other cheap deals offering, for example, SEO tools or basic website builders. Personally, I think all those softwares tend to be poor alternatives to the kind of tools you really need for a cracking site overall. Then again, as a web developer, I would say that! Some folks will find some useful tools but, personally, I wouldn’t get carried away with software bundles, with any host.
…vs the rest? Lots to consider, sure. Confused? So was I! In a nutshell…
When you look at web hosts, bear in mind the above points. If anything is limited, ask yourself if that matters to you, to future-proof your product. Sure, you can move again but, will you really want to?
But. The top hosts are pretty much all more of the same, and I’m not going to knock the great value that is achieved with the majority of them. When it came to Lunarpages vs the others, I went with Lunarpages because:-
And the other reason I went with Lunarpages? Because I wanted a product I would be genuinely happy to resell, as an important part of my web business. If that changes, and one day it may well change, I’ll change, and I’ll be telling you why.
UPDATE. THAT HAS CHANGED, a bit. READ THIS: Review Cheap Host
If you want to buy a Lunarpages hosting package via me, whether for shared or dedicated hosting, that’s great. For my web development clients, at the least, I’ll help you get started, with any questions you may have, to make your setup or ISP transition as painless as possible.
Have I forgotten something? Probably! Leave a comment below to let me know.