Taking a look at other hosting options

So for the past week or so my host seems to have been having serious troubles with their MySQL servers which means that and WordPress-based system (such as this blog) is running painfully slowly. The experience hasn’t been a good one for me and I’ve seriously been considering switching hosts (especially since the only reply I can get is that the engineers are aware of the issue and are looking into it). I don’t enjoy the whole process of selecting and then moving to a new web host, but I’d take that pain if it meant my site ran smoother.

My search for a good hosts was rather depressing. Being a starving college student, I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money on hosting. I found a number of good deals online, but almost all the hosts I looked at had a fair amount of negative reviews about them. I understand that if your operations grow beyond a certain size you’re going to have some disgruntled customers no matter what. But I just couldn’t bring myself to actually deciding on another host. I’m a little reluctant because I’m only about 4 months into the year that I’ve paid for and I would really like not to lose that money.

Four main factors influenced my not making a decision. Firstly, I want to give my current hosts some time to solve their current problems and see if they actually do anything. Secondly, I wanted to look for cheaper alternatives. This blog has always been running on WordPress and I really like the WordPress platform. Admittedly the only other platform that I’ve really used is Blogger and that too, years ago. For most of last year this blog was hosted on the free WordPress.com site with a custom domain name (that cost me only $10 a year).

WordPress.com gives a really robust hosting solution at the cost of limited customization. Though I first moved away from WordPress.com because I wanted to have more control, I’ve since come to realize that I don’t do all that much customization. In fact, I prefer to have a more content driven-site and so adding widgets and such is really not that important. The main issue is that since I moved to dedicated hosting my trafiic has almost tripled. I’m not sure whether that’s actually a result of moving away from WordPress or simply that I’ve been putting in more effort. I’d like to think it’s the latter but I’m not sure. I also just read a very detailed article on how much hosting bandwidth a website needs as the readership grows. Though I still have a rather small daily hit rate, I have had the occassional spikes. WordPress.com has handled theses spikes without flinching, but I’m pretty sure that my current host wouldn’t do as well. This is an important consideration for me as readership has been increasingly steadily over the past few months and I want to keep encouraging it. A slow or unresponsive site would really derail those plans.

The third option is more expensive: using a more expensive solution such as MediaTemple‘s Grid Service or one of the plans from FutureQuest or Pair (both of which have almost no negative reviews). They both sound like great options, but at about $10-$20 a month, I’m not sure I can justify the investment, especially since it will certainly be a good few months since I actually have so much traffic. Since I have no plans to monetize this site all that money would be coming straight of my pocket. Again, not something that I would enjoy doing.

While being a student may have some disadvantages in terms of financial strength, the good thing is that I get my school’s great network services all for free. I already have a small server on the network which I use for file backups and I could just host The ByteBaker on its very own server (if the network people are fine with it). The only downside of this is that I would then have to do all the server administration on my own. Having never actually administered my own open-to-the-world server I don’t know how much of a challenge this would be. I would have total control and wouldn’t really have to think much about bandwidth or excessive CPU strain (unless the site suddenly gets hundreds of thousands of hits a day). On the flip side, I would be totally on my own if something were to ever go wrong and that’s rather unsettling, even for a do-it-yourself guy like me. Once again, I would really like to be able to just write this blog and not fiddle with the technology stack behind it.

One of the reasons I like to write blog posts is that they’re a great way for me to think out loud. In the process of writing this post I’ve come to realize that simplicity is really what’s important for me. The more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I realize that WordPress.com is actually the sweet spot for me at this point. For just $10 a year I get a really robust platform which should be able to scale very well. And for just $15 more I get custom CSS for my site which combined with their Sandbox theme means that I can have most of what I can get from a custom theme. The only thing that I don’t get is the ability to use my own plugins and themes and I’m stuck with a very basic stats tracking package, but that’s something I’m willing to accept. In retrospect, I think I may have jumped the gun somewhat by moving to paid hosting without seriously exploring everything that WordPress.com had to offer.

If it weren’t for the fact that I’d spend a considerable amount on my current host, I would move back to WordPress.com right now. But considering the circumstances, I’ll wait till the end of the week to see if my host resolves its SQL issues. I don’t have much hope because after reading around on the internet, it seems like other people have been having the same problem for a while with no solution. At the moment it seems like by Monday I’ll be back at my old home. The domain name and the RSS feed will still say the same, so regular readers have no reason to worry. Here’s looking to a faster, simpler ByteBaker.

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Shrutarshi Basu

Programmer, writer and engineer, currently working out of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

2 thoughts on “Taking a look at other hosting options”

  1. I’ve been looking at the same issues and I also want to host Django, as well as wp and webfaction has great reviews and few negative comments and seems like reasonable cost http://www.webfaction.com/

    I don’t have anything to do with them and have not yet used them, they are simply at the top of my investigative list as of now.

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