Dave Enjoys Gets An Upgrade.

I sometimes go AWOL from posting on Dave Enjoys, so I’m sure no one has been wondering why I haven’t posted in the last two days or so…but there is a real reason why – upgrades.

I got really tired of Bluehost having downtime, running slow, and so on. I hope they get their problems straightened out – but DigitalOcean is offering sweet deals on virtual private servers (VPS) at prices lower than Bluehost offers shared hosting. So, I’m in the slow process of moving sites over. I already moved FreeWargamer and have just now finished moving Dave Enjoys.

What does this mean for you? Well, nothing much on the front-end, but hopefully:

  • The site will load a lot faster, making browsing the site a more enjoyable experience.
  • The site will be more stable – rather than the frequent downtime I’ve been experiencing with Bluehost.

In addition, WordPress released the latest and greatest Jetpack plugin which means you can now used your WordPress.com authentication with Dave Enjoys. If that doesn’t make sense to you – that is okay – it won’t affect your utilization of the site.

Finally, this does mean that there will probably be some hiccups along the way…so if you see any technical glitches with this or any of my other sites please let me know!

The Bluehost Update: Waving Goodbye.

I finished migrating my most important sites off Bluehost and decided the load would be light enough that the rest could run on Bluehost’s shared hosting. I was planning on staying around for Bluehost’s shared hosting and keeping side projects on this host. I was informed that there was no migration path from VPS to shared hosting. Maybe they told me this when I signed up – probably – but it was quite the shock.

I asked what I’d need to do to get down to a shared hosting plan. They said I’d need to cancel my account and then recreate it. Essentially, I’d have to offload absolutely everything onto my local computer, then reupload and reconfigure everything.

Not what I wanted to hear, but I gave it a try. I canceled the VPS expecting to be able to instantaneously reorder the shared hosting…but that didn’t happen.

Having experienced more than a few IT transitions that haven’t gone as smoothly or quickly as desired, I had done this during the night hours – so I’d have time to work out any kinks that might arise…

Unfortunately, apparently, I needed to remove my domain from my bluehost account and literally create an entirely new account. Now we were talking about not only moving hosting files and databases but also DNS records. Okay, I guess I can do that…nope.

I can’t disconnect a domain from my account after cancellation by myself – Bluehost has to do it for me – but the department that handles this is not open 24/7 – so I have no choice but to leave the site down and wait until normal business hours. Well, that kind of undermines the point of having 24/7 support, imho.

I did a search for “best shared hosting.” Lifehacker is a reliable source of information. They found their users recommended Dreamhost, Hostgator, Bluehost, Linode, and A Small Orange.

I didn’t want another VPS – I already have them with DigitalOcean – so Linode was out of the picture. My first choice was A Small Orange – but their hosting is expensive in comparison to the other providers (though I hear their customer service is great).

I also found Ryan Sullivan’s post on WP Site Care which reviewed seven top WordPress hosts (and I use WordPress extensively in my sites). The comparison included A Small Orange, Bluehost, GoDaddy, HostGator, Dreamhost, MediaTemple, and Site5.

A Small Orange was out of the picture due to price as mentioned above and I added MediaTemple to this grouping. I was on Bluehost, so that wasn’t an option and Sullivan’s research showed problems with HostGator’s response – so those two were out.

I’ve never been a big fan of GoDaddy – in part b/c of their juvenile marketing – which I know they have abandoned, but I decided to make them a last choice. I wasn’t really influenced by Sullivan’s observation that once he hit 25+ users performance degraded due to GoDaddy’s security software “Sentinel” which prevents traffic believed to be a DoS. While Sullivan thought this was too low, I didn’t think so. I can’t see many shared sites getting 25 simultaneous users coming across a single IP – unless one is being used as an example in a college classroom and an entire class loads the site at once…still this is unlikely, and even if it does happen, there may be enough variation in the identifying elements from the computers (e.g. OS, browser) for GoDaddy to determine it is not a DoS attack.

This left me with Dreamhost or Site5. I started with Dreamhost b/c Lifehacker had a “deal” where I could get Dreamhost for $20 for one year.

The home cooked control panel took some getting used to – I’ve been using cPanel for so long and webMin on most Linux boxes I’ve managed that this interface was foreign and somewhat confusing…but I got the hang of it.

Ooohh…They have a cPanel importer. Could I really import my cPanel backup from bluehost and save tons of time?!? Unfortunately, no. I tried several times and while the emails said the import had succeeded – it failed. Ohh well, I’ll try doing it manually – but then I see that in at least some cases I have to transfer my domains to use their DNS. What?! I ask if I can get around this – but the answer is no. I use CloudFlare for DNS and other acceleration features and don’t want to use Dreamhost’s DNS.

I decided to sign up for Site5. Maybe they would make me happy – and they did. There were still a few minor inconveniences – once again, their control panel doesn’t look like a regular cPanel. but, But they excelled on support – their techs. responded within seconds to each of my live chat requests, were knowledgeable, and seemed to have the power to accomplish the necessary tasks (as opposed to Bluehost, where segmentation of responsibilities so firmly meant technicians were unable to help me when I needed it, since the other departments weren’t open).

I now have my sites transferred over to Site5. I’ve canceled Dreamhost. My Bluehost is already canceled (though I’m still using them as my domain registrar – from habit and convenience, not b/c they offer such low prices [they don’t on domains]). We’ll see how things go from here.

 

P.S. I don’t think Bluehost is the devil. I’m not sure what is going on over there – I think they need to be a little more transparent about what is happening and why. It is obvious that they launched the VPS product before it was fully baked. This resulted in huge problems at the beginning – the most significant being that sometimes my support tickets would not be answered for days!

I think of myself as a pretty patient guy. If Bluehost had sought to proactively work with me, I probably would have stayed with them…but their product failed and they didn’t bend over backwards to make it work, so I left.

What do I mean by proactively work with me? Simply that they would have done whatever it took to get the site up and running and figuring out the issues. As long as I know someone is working on things, I can be pretty flexible (these aren’t sites that have to have 99.9% uptime, though I prefer that they do). I also enjoy helping companies work through issues like this – and as long as you “compensate” me (by giving my high quality tech support and perhaps some free credit for hosting) – I’ll work with you…but I got the feeling that Bluehost had taken off such a big bite that they couldn’t do this and weren’t interested in doing this.

All this to say, Bluehost may be a reasonable choice in a few months – if they are able to put out all the fires that have been haunting them. Keep an eye open for others reviewing and saying better things about Bluehost in upcoming days. Unfortunately, Bluehost has lost me as a hosting customer…and I don’t see myself returning, even if the situation improves, for the foreseeable future (there is no incentive to do so).

 

Bluehost Review.

Multiple racks of servers.
Image via Wikipedia

When it comes to choosing a web hosting provider the options are nearly limitless. The first decision once has to make is what platform one’s website will run on. If one is using plain static HTML, which almost no one does completely anymore, then even this doesn’t really matter…but if you are in the 99% who will be using more than HTML, it is important to consider whether one wants a Windows or Linux host. When it comes to Linux options one of my favorites for the past several years has been Bluehost.

I’ve written about Bluehost in the past, but I figure its time to give an update on how I think things are going. This time I’m going to start out with the bad and then move on to the good.

The Bad:

  • SLOW: This is very subjective, but I feel that my sites have been running significantly slower of late. Sometimes it can take 5-10 seconds for a page to load, and I’m on a 10 Mbps Verizon Fios connection with a fairly powerful machine! This is in part due to CPU throttling – an intelligent mechanism Bluehost invented that ensures that no one site on a shared host can utilize all the bandwidth thus slowing other sites down…but even when my account isn’t being penalized with CPU throttling (and it is, fairly frequently), it still seems to oftentimes move at slow speeds. Let me add the caveat that I do run a fair number of sites off my single hosting account – and that I expect for the average single website (or even two or three websites), Bluehost will continue to be a speedy option…but for us “power users” I’m wondering if Bluehost’s abilities are diminishing?
  • OPTIONS: Bluehost allows you to do almost anything with your default account, but when it comes to adding on additional options – its really lacking in a few key areas. Sure, you can buy additional domains, get premium spam protection, and get a static IP address – but what about the most basic – extra CPU and memory share? For folks like myself who apparently are pushing the bounds of whatever share Bluehost is giving us on a shared host, we sure could use a way to buy extra “slices” of CPU share. Bluehost does offer a Pro package now which includes, amongst other things, “increased CPU and memory” – unfortunately, Bluehost doesn’t tell us how much CPU/memory (10%? 20%? 100%? 300%?) and the price at $19.95/mo. is a pretty steep step up from the base price of $6.95/mo. (yes, there are other features, but quite honestly I don’t care about free ssl certificates, domain privacy protection, or postini email filtering!).
  • PRICING: The base product is nice and cheap, but they tag you decently on additional domain names. Each additional domain name costs $10/yr. – but I’ve got perhaps twenty domains – and it begins to add up. It’d be nice to see some decreases in pricing as number of domains purchased increases.

The Good:

  • PRICING: The base product for $6.95/mo. has a ton of features built into it and will be more than adequate for most folks.
  • RELIABILITY: As long as you don’t push the CPU share restrictions, Bluehostseems to be an extremely reliable host (again, from my personal experiences).
  • SIMPLE SCRIPTS: SimpleScripts is beautiful! It allows anyone to get a site up and running in minutes. SimpleScripts automatically deploys any of a large number of applications to your website in minutes at your request. Examples include WordPress, SugarCRM, Drupal, Moodle, SMF and phpBB, Coppermine, and MediaWiki along with dozens more.
  • LIMITS: The base package includes some pretty significant features as I mentioned above – just a few that are really worth highlighting – unlimited monthly bandwidth, unlimited storage, and 100 MySQL databases. This is really sweet!

Overall Conclusion:

If you are running a single site or a few sites – go get Bluehost. If you are a power user running a half-dozen or more sites…you may need to look elsewhere. I’m hoping Matt Heaton and company will add at least the ability to purchase additional CPU/memory shares soon…b/c I’m currently in the market for a new host for this power user…and considering options like AWS…though I’d prefer to stick with Bluehost due to ease of use and flat storage/bandwidth handling which makes pricing significantly simpler.