Cheap Host Review … 6 Months on, Here’s the Verdict



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When I researched cheap-as-chips ISPs, 6 months ago, I got fed up with all the false friend posts, blog posts that sell you on whatever ISP – Lunarpages, IX, HostGator, GoDaddy, DreamHost, MonsterHost, HostThis, ThatHost – basically telling you they're all great and just “Sign Up Here”. Damn annoying! Here's some reality.

As a Lunarpages reseller * I would recommend them to some, but not for all…

* EDIT: No, not any more .. I binned those 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.

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Sure. I became a Lunarpages reseller, but I'll be damned if that means I can't be honest about their shortcomings, as well as their good points. They've got both.

So here's a review of my earlier research – Now Reselling Lunarpages Hosting, but why? – which I suggest you read also – and a dose of reality to help you review cheap host ISP's, whether Lunarpages or other internet service providers in the sub-$10 per month range. Hope it helps…

So What Makes A Good ISP?

A good ISP is one whose name you can't remember! Everything just works. They upgrade a server, and you never know anything about it. There is no downtime. Occasionally, very occasionally, when you've got a question, you ask it and they answer your question within a few hours. You've got all the necessary trimmings, like the latest php and security modules, access to configure your webspace, a quality administration front-end and a decent webmail client with spam control. Plus you've got unlimited add-on domains/space/bandwidth and the server doesn't keel over when you've been Digged. And you pay a reasonable amount for all that. Actually, you'd pay a mid range price. About $30 a month, but possibly thrice that if you didn't shop around.

The Problem With {insert cheap host name here}

Take Lunarpages, although I would be amazed if their ISP market competitors – the Gators and Dreamers, Monsters and Daddy's – are any different. They're cheap, cheap as chips. What, the cost of a couple of beers a month? That's the deal. And for that they promise the earth. But let's analyze the sales spiel.

Lunarpages claims (for under $5 monthly for a 12 or 24 month basic hosting plan):-

  • 1 FREE domain nametrue
  • UNLIMITED storage – true
  • UNLIMITED Data Transfer – dubious claim
  • $775 Bonus Programs – dubious claim
  • 24/7 Award Winning Support – dubious claim
  • UNLIMITED Databases/Email/FTPtrue but…, true and true
  • Blog, Forum & Photo Gallery – true
  • Fantastico (Over 35 Scripts) – true
  • JSP/ASP Available – true
  • Spam Protection- IMAP Support – true
  • Microsoft® Frontpage® Compatible – true
  • Dreamweaver Compatible – true, but…
  • UNLIMITED Add-on Domains – true, but…
  • Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL – true
  • MySQL 4+, PHP 4+ – true
  • MySQL 5 & PHP 5.2+ Available – true
  • Free Web Design Templates – true
  • Webmail (Horde & Squirrel) – true

First up, there's a lot of true stuff there, and those features are splendid. Hats off!

Now for those dubious claims, in detail…

UNLIMITED Data Transfer – dubious claim

This means you can have a zillion people on your website, viewing pages. And you can, as long as they aren't accessing a database. But show me a successful, highly visited site that doesn't serve its data via a database. Hmmn. Sounds like a hollow claim then. Reality, enter stage left…

What matters (if you need a database) is the number of allowed simultaneous database connections. With Lunarpages, the maximum SQL connections is 50, per account, per 10th of a second. Compare that with the competition, and Lunarpages actually looks very good. With IX, for example, they provide just 12 connections per second. (Actually, they told me 60 connections, but then broke that down by saying it's really 12, but that if you multiply that by 5 seconds, it gives 60 simultaneous connections. Er!? Really, I think they need a dictionary, and a maths lesson. The IX:Lunapages ratio is about 1:50 and other cheap hosts are frequently worse. So check that, and get it in writing.)

There is a proviso with Lunarpages here. You should max 3 concurrent connections from any one IP to the server, at any given point, to avoid IP bans. Very occasionally, when making a few simultaneous queries, say, while updating your database and at the same time carrying out other database-necessary tasks, you will lose access to your site from your IP. That can be a pain while waiting for the site to be reset but, in reality, is also a safeguard against hackers.

So, UNLIMITED Data Transfer is great for sites without a db, but a smokescreen for the rest. Then again, the simultaneous db connections is generally more important and with Lunarpages is relatively handsome.

$775 Bonus Programs – dubious claim

How do you value the software? This is the classic ‘buy this and I'll give you that' strategy. ‘That' generally sits in the drawer, unwrapped. But aren't I cynical! For many site owners, the softwares will be useful. If you know a bit about building and marketing websites, the freebies are tinsel at best.

24/7 Award Winning Support – dubious claim

If this is measured by the time support staff man the office, it's probably true. And in my experience with Lunarpages, you can call them during regular office hours (Pacific Standard Time, that is) to speak to someone. But let's get the reality. There are 2 types of support that site owners require – general and specific.

‘General' is a query like, “How do I do such and such?” These queries are better placed with LunarForums where you will get a valuable response. The Lunarpages forum is excellent, top-notch.

‘Specific' is more like, “Why is my site down?” and for these you submit a support ticket. Expect to wait, likely a day, for a solution. And this is where the 24/7 claim is hollow because, in the meantime, site visitors are instead surfing to your competitors' pages. I have been with Lunarpages for about 6 months and generally I haven't had problems.

Then again, in the last 2 weeks I have seen the site go down 4 times, but twice that was only for a few minutes each and, the third occasion, for about half an hour. The 4th occasion, I was hacked, so that's my fault or bad luck. My take…

Bearing in mind that most people never find out that their server was down, and that I'm on my site a whole lot these days, probably, the downtime at Lunarpages stacks up well for a cheap host. Genuinely I believe so.

What annoys me though, is that when you ask support specific questions, to try to gauge if a problem is properly sorted or just given a sticky plaster, there is little or no response. For many small sites, that doesn't matter too much. For large sites, owners should pay for a true, better quality 24/7 support.

Support verdict: Hey, this is so important it gets a verdict! For profitable larger scale sites, keep looking. I recommend nothing. Sorry, but my reputation is more important that to sell you something I haven't tested. For smaller or budget, startup sites – or if you're belt-tightening – sure, I recommend Lunarpages. The 24/7 support could be better but, then again, the help at the Lunarpages forum is outstanding, and that's generally what you'll need.

UNLIMITED Databases/Email/FTP – true but…, true and true

Email and FTP. Yes, absolutely true. The FTP is all you'll ever need. And the email, by the way, is configurable to the nth degree. Superb, both for webmail and your local email client, where you can set up SMTP as well as POP. The database claim, though, harks back to the points I made above, about UNLIMITED Data Transfer. You can, though, have unlimited databases, yes, and that in itself is useful.

Dreamweaver Compatible – true, but…

Well, I don't see the relevance of this. I mean, I use Dreamweaver, connect it to my pages and databases at Lunarpages. So what? Isn't that a question of understanding Dreamweaver? Tell you what though, at Lunarpages' forum, there is a specific section crammed with useful Dreamweaver tips and tutorials, and that is cool.

UNLIMITED Add-on Domains – true, but…

Yup, this is true. But again, as with the UNLIMITED Databases claim, you should read my points about UNLIMITED Data Transfer, which is where we are limited. You can, though, have unlimited add-on domains, and that in itself is great. I have several .coms, each with their distinct address, bundled into my primary domain package, and that's handy, Andy.

The Verdict with this Lunarpages Cheap Host Review

Damn cheap, loads of features, relatively scalable, just don't get too caught up in all the UNLIMITED sales hype, and don't expect first class support from a third rate price. Then again, do expect great general help at the forum.

And Lunarpages vs HostGator vs DreamHost vs IX vs GoDaddy vs MonsterHost vs vs vs

While this post supercedes the earlier one, overall, I stand by what I said in Now Reselling Lunarpages Hosting, but why? I researched the lot. Of the sub-$10 a month cheap ISPs, overall I'm happy with Lunarpages. And I'm demanding, believe me! (Lunarpages know all about that 😉 )

For virtual or dedicated servers, I'm not so sure. Were I paying $20+++ bucks per month for a solution, I'd be researching a different market, and I don't know enough about that to comment. Give me another 6 months, when I'll probably have to upgrade the hosting for this site, and I will tell all.

That's my advice, and I offer it to anyone reviewing cheap host ISPs.

Here's my pitch, by the way

Having read all that, and realised that you've had some reality here, not just the regular sales pap on some dog-awful site, and if you do decide to host with Lunarpages, hey, don't forget to sign up through me!

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.

And if you learn anything useful while researching this key decision, pop back here and tell everyone. I am happy to be corrected, and grateful for your views. You can leave a comment below…

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About the Author:

Olly Connelly (yeah, that's me) blogs at guvnr.com, polices WordPress security at wpCop.com and helps noobs build web servers at vpsBible.com, so if you've got sleeping problems you know where to come.

Discussion

  1. the_guv  August 23, 2009

    @Kevin .. use this .. Set Up an Unmanaged VPS (4 Newbies) .. The V-P-S Bible, shed shared and viva virtual!

    .. am now just finishing writing the sequel, VPS Admin for Newbies.

    For $20 a month, unless you’ve got a hobby site or a simple site with little traffic, I recommend an unmanaged virtual private server as the way to go. The guide I’ve put together explains the lot, and you can literally copy/paste the instructions, for this ..

    Serve multi sites & blogs on a budget .. at the fastest possible speed .. with the least downtime .. in the most secure environment .. and future-proofed for easy admin.

  2. Kevin  August 19, 2009

    I had nine shared hosting servers all for the same site. I don’t use MySQL but have a large data base, thousands of html files, all of which get looked at, so that the download is spread among a lot of html files.

    After being with Gisol for more than two years and paying for another two, they suspended the account without any warning. I just removed the pointers. I didn’t or haven’t yet received any money back. Fastnext suspended the account twice, without any warning. They reinstated the account after my constant complaint but I never trusted them. I also removed the pointers. I used the account for a small account I had and they suspended that after I time.

    In both Gisol and Fastnext, their reasoning for suspension was that I was using too much bandwith, even though bandwidth was unlimited with Gisol and way more that I was using with Fastnext. When Gisol suspended my account I was using half the bandwith I had been using six months previous.

    Having nine servers, the bandwidth was never that much, 2G to 3G a day never more for each server.

    Unlike you of the nine servers I found IX to be the fastest and most reliable. Lypha is also a great hosting service.

    I have to tell you I had LunarPages and did not renew after the two years. Their service was the slowest of the nine. I had about a quarter traffic on Lunarpages than I had on IX and Lypha, per the daily logs. This was all to the same domain. There is a filtering system in place on shared hosting and Lunarpages seemed to be the most extreme, per my daily logs. I figured Lunarpages pick up is slower.

    Recently have gone to a virtual server. This is my first. Have been on it for a month. Like having root access and learning a lot from this expanded capability. I have WHM which is the over program for cpanel. Having WHM, I haven’t tried Plex yet, so cannot comment on Plex. WHM seems to provide all that I need at the moment.

    I am thinking of going to another virtual server, so as not to have all eggs in one basket. I asked for 512mg memory, and it costs in the 40 dollar month bracket. Now I have six shared host, three in Malasia, Ix, Lypha and MidPhase. In truth I could probably use those last three and they would handle the traffic. MidPhase moved me to another of their servers because I had a lot of traffic, but they never mentioned suspension, and when they moved me I had more traffic.

    Both Lypha and Ix have been excellent.

    I recommend MidPhase, Lypha and Ix for even mid-size traffic requirements. Certainly for startups.

    Where I am not responsibly I need to have a virtual server. Out of the 13 pointers I use, 4 nameservers are going to the one virtual server. I will likely increase this to six nameservers, so the virual servers will be handling half of the traffic and the six other shared hosting servers the other half. If the vitual server goes down, the others can pick up the traffic temporarily.

    It traffic increases I will open up another virtual server in some other geographical location. That’s the plan.

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