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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Web Hosting Search Summary

I've been looking into purchasing webhosting. I'm finally processing all the responses to my previous request for hosting recommendations.

One thing I'm obviously wary of is sites that offer "unlimited disk space" or "unlimited bandwidth". Such an offer is obviously false, and the true limits are usually buried in the fine print of the Terms of Service. I'd much rather see reasonable limits, than "unlimited" usage.

Another good way to evaluate a potential hosting vendor is "Does their website suck?" The more information the website has, the more likely the vendor to be useful.

Another point to emphasize is that I'm a computer programmer. I'm looking for more than just a plain vanilla hosted WordPress account. I want to write my own programs and put them on my site.

Before I asked here, I'd done my own homework, and was leaning toward lamphost.net. I decided against using them. The problem is that I only get 1GB storage on the basic package ($10/month), and 2GB on the next tier ($25/month). My blog easily fits in that space. I backup my blog on my PC's HD, and it's only 2MB per month. However, if I write a forum engine or RSS reader, and get 100-200+ users, then I'll be hitting the limit.

Lamphost.net provided good customer service when I asked them questions. However, there was no option for me to purchase extra disk space. Further, I don't get SSH or root access on my server slice.

Someone mentioned Linode. That seems to be the most promising candidate so far. Linode gives me 12GB of disk space, which is much better than lamphost.net. You can purchase additional HD space, but it's $2/GB/month, so I'd be better off moving up to the next tier plan. 12GB is 12x more than Lamphost.net, for only 2x the price. I'm planning to have my own forum engine, which could potentially require a lot of space if I get lots of users.

I'm expecting that my site will be HD-bound, rather than bandwidth-bound or CPU-bound. I'm not serving videos, just plaintext, so my site should be fine bandwidth-wise. I'm not using much CPU, although my forum engine might have some calculations cached and batched, for the "match readers' interests" bit. If I allow user-generated content, that can use up a lot of disk space quickly, if I get a decent number of users.

I also realized that, if I want to write my own RSS reader, I have to cache all the data on my server. RSS feeds only contain the 20-30 latest posts. If you parse out the RSS feed on the fly, it takes too long. Plus, you have to cache older data.

One good way to check the reliability for a vendor is to ask them questions before making a purchase. When I was shopping around for a discount broker, I called E*Trade, but got an automated customer support number. I decided "If E*Trade isn't going to have a potential new customer speak to a representative, then I'm not going to bother buying from them."

Also, Linode had an active discussion forum where you can post questions.

Linode is completely unbundled service. I get a login, but no other support. I have to install and configure LAMP and WordPress myself. I can handle that. Whenever I've needed a Apache, mySQL, or PHP question answered, Google always gave me a good answer. (Contrast that to my experience with Rails, where getting a simple answer was hard.)

One nice bit about Linode is that there's no long-term service contract. I can buy monthly, and then terminate/move if they suck. You get a discount for making a 1 or 2 year commitment. I see no reason to do that, especially considering Moore's law. The hosting I can buy 1.5-2 years from now should be 2x as good as what's available now, for the same inflation-adjusted price. Linode also offers plenty of higher-tier packages, so I can grow my site without being forced to move.

I also looked into Slicehost. Like Linode, Slicehost also had a good forum and online help. Slicehost just got bought out by RackSpace, a larger corporation. That could be a bad sign. Customer service tends to deteriorate, when acquired by a large corporation. The offerings of Linode and Slicehost were pretty close. I'm learning towards Linode.

This thread on Hacker News had a comparison of Linode vs. Slicehost. It seems that both options are "good enough". There were some concerns about "Slicehost got bought out by RackSpace. RackSpace may **** things up." Neither Slicehost nor Linode have any offerings for less than $20/month.

There was one interesting bit on Linode. I found this thread via Google. In accordance with Moore's Law, Linode has been increasing the size of their packages as costs go down. That's a good sign.

Briefly googling, Linode had good feedback from customers, as did Slicehost. Both Linode and Slicehost also had a good customer support forum.

Both Linode and Slicehost cost $20/month. The good news is that it appears I'm making at least $20/month via AdSense, so I can afford it. It's hard to tell, because I've had a *STEEP* dropoff in AdSense revenue lately. I've had more traffic, but less revenue!

One thing I've learned is "Buying cheapest isn't always the best!" I'm willing to go with $20/month, rather than paying less and getting lousy customer service or a lousy product.

"Shared hosting" should be good enough for my site for now. I doubt I'd get enough traffic to justify getting a dedicated server (or it'll take awhile to get that much traffic). I'll worry about that problem when it happens.

Since I'm a computer programmer, I'm better off choosing the option that gives me full root access to my Linux slice. This way, I have maximum flexibility. For example, version 1.0 of my custom forum engine will be in PHP. If I get lots of users, and performance is an issue, I may redo some bits in C/C++.

Matt has left a new comment on your post "FSK Asks - Good Web Hosting?":


Several of my friends and I use Linode. The basic $20/month plan should be enough to serve your needs.

Linode looks like my #1 choice for now. $20/month is higher than "cheapo" competitors. I see the advantage of getting full root access on my Linux slice, especially if I want to write my own code. This way, I control the full configuration of PHP and Apache.

Have you looked at Slicehost? They appear to be nearly comparable to Linode.

DixieFlatline has left a new comment on your post "FSK Asks - Good Web Hosting?":

Oh geez. Get a Text Link Ads Account, and use that to make money directly into a PayPal account your parents will never know about.

I wound up deciding to use AdSense. (We had this debate already, but this comment was posted before I made my decision to put up AdSense.) The good news is that it looks like I'll make $20/month via AdSense. The bad news is that AdSense seems woefully inadequate as an advertising engine.
  • I'm only getting $0.002 to $0.003 per pageview in February. In other words, my page eCPM is only $2-$3.
  • I'm dependent on "users clicking on ads" to get paid. I suspect my regular readers are much less likely to click on an ad than a typical Internet user.
  • AdSense doesn't work on pages with dynamic content or user-generated content. If/when I write an RSS reader or forum/digg/reddit/wiki engine, I'll have to rely on other means of advertising.
I heard that online advertising rates are down 50%+ everywhere. The crash in my eCPM from January to February might be due to the recession/depression, rather than other factors.

I'll stick with AdSense until I get my own domain. I'm also looking into other ways to profit from my blog than advertising, such as starting actual agorist businesses. One "easy" agorist business to start is a gold/silver/FRN barter network.

AdSense is "good enough", but suboptimal. I'm on pace to go over $100 sometime in March, which means my first AdSense check will arrive in May. All I want from AdSense is "cover my hosting costs", which looks doable.

h--p://labnol.blogspot.com/2006/12/text-link-ads-support-blogger-platform.html

As far as configuring LAMP, you won't get root access for $10 a month unless you are willing to use a VPS without a control panel. You'd need to be very competent with *nix.

I can handle Linux administration. I decided to go with one of the higher-tier packages, since I do plan on writing my own code for my site.

For what you do, go to A Small Orange

h--p://www.asmallorange.com/services/hosting/

You can get an account for $5 a month that will probably cover your needs now.

I decided to go with one of the more "industrial strength" packages. I should be a host that's "developer-friendly", since I plan on writing my own code.

A word of advice, don't spend money unless you have a revenue stream. Install TLA on your Blogger blog for now, You should be able to easily bring in enough to pay for $10 or $20 a month hosting within 4~8 weeks.

I'm making about $20/month so far with AdSense. It's hard to tell. My traffic is increasing, but my page eCPM is decreasing!

Another annoying bit is that, with AdSense, I don't get paid until my earnings reach $100, and then I have to wait another 1.5 months to get the check. Based on current trends, I'll go over $100 AdSense revenue in March, and I'll get my first AdSense check in May (and by then, I'll probably have earned another $100!). The good news is that, by waiting a few months, I'll have a good idea of what my AdSense revenue should be.

I can afford the $20/month expense for hosting. The only reason I haven't just done it is that my parents control my finances and veto any purchases I make. I got my parents to agree "FSK may use the proceeds of advertising to pay for his own domain and hosting!" Besides, waiting a few months gives me some time to experiment with LAMP/WAMP and start writing some code. I'd like to have my RSS reader and forum engine ready for beta testing when my site goes live.

As an unemployed loser, I have nothing better to do but work on my blog and work on writing some code to put on my site!

Hopefully, in a year or two I'll get my own apartment again. I'd probably need a wage slave job or a profitable web-based business to justify doing it.

What sort of page eCPM do you think I could get from text-link-ads? One nice thing about AdSense is that it gives me a baseline to compare.

barry b. has left a new comment on your post "FSK Asks - Good Web Hosting?":

Hey FSK,

Glad to see your coming around... I pay 5.95 a month and get plenty of extras from internetplanners.com.. I'm sure there's plenty out there that offer the same. I use wordpress but it may not be any better than drupal or the others...

Linode seems better for me. Remember that I'm a software engineer, so I'm looking for more than a simple WordPress hosting.

I heard some people saying "Use Drupal to host your blog instead of WordPress." WordPress seems "good enough" (and way better than Blogger). Besides, I see lots of job advertisements asking for Drupal experience, posted by stupid people, which makes me think "Drupal must suck!" Writing a WordPress plugin seems easy enough. In WordPress, you can easily mix PHP code in with your layout, which is very nice and flexible.

This blogger shit sucks.. at least in my opinion. I hope you'll create a site which will lead America to complete and utter chaos.. at least that's what I'm hoping for. And you know what.. washington D.C. is doing the dirty work for us.. well them and the media. The media of course being nothing more than a full time propaganda machine. Along with our public schools.. etc, etc..
The more I research WordPress, the more I realize how lame Blogger is. The more I research writing my own PHP RSS reader, the more I realize how lame Google Reader is. It appears that all the hard work of "Write an RSS reader!" is "Write an XML parser!"

Actually, my goal is "Lead America to order!" A State is chaos; a real free market is order.

That's one thing that's always on my mind. "How much personal risk am I taking with practical agorism?" and "How to promote agorism and show a profit at the same time!?" It appears that "promote agorism" takes precedence over "practical agorism" for now. The good news is that "promote agorism" is 100% legal in the USA, due to strong "freedom of speech" protections. If I attempt practical agorism, I'm taking personal risk.

If I never attempt practical agorism, then I'm a hypocrite. A gold/silver/FRN barter network seems like a low-risk starting point. As mentioned elsewhere, if I operate a gold/silver/FRN barter network, the person *MOST* likely to complain to the State is someone with a State-licensed gold or silver business!

gilliganscorner has left a new comment on your post "FSK Asks - Good Web Hosting?":

canaca.net

It's Canadian. You get a discount as long as your dollsr is stronger than ours.

Nice Admin UI at: h--p://cpanel-demo.canaca.com:2082/frontend/x/index.html

Username/passwd: demo/admin

Have a look, let me know what you think.

I'm going to stick with US-based vendors. Most of my users are in the USA, and they'll have slightly faster page load times if my servers are in the USA.

Also, that vendor seemed to be in the "too good to be true" category. They can't possibly be seriously offering that much disk space and that much bandwidth.

John Petrie has left a new comment on your post "FSK Asks - Good Web Hosting?":

Hostmonster.com and Wordpress.org. (Not wordpress.com; that's like blogspot.com. Wordpress.org is the FOSS blagging software that you upload to your new domain yourself. You probably know that.)

Perhaps my blagmate Kel could tell you more about the features you want since he is also a computer programmer. But one thing I remember him being excited about was that Hostmonster gives us the ability to do cron jobs, which wasn't offered by his previous host and other hosts we looked into. We pay like $6 or $7 a month for more space than we'll ever use.

I decided that I wanted to go with a higher tier of hosting than wordpress.org. I want my own PHP programs, and not merely WordPress.

Any vendor that says "unlimited disk space" or "unlimited bandwidth" is obviously lying. Either their service sucks, because everyone is maxing it out, or there's some predetermined point where they cut you off.

I'm willing to go with the next higher tier of service like Linode.

Dirkson has left a new comment on your post "FSK Asks - Good Web Hosting?":

Hey! I'm root for the webserver of a small company, and we could likely get you an account for $25(us) a month or so. I can set you up with a shell account, a decent webpanel, and I'm very flexible about installing things for you. We're more expensive than a generic shared host, but you generally can't email the sysadmin and ask him to install X program on the server for you on one of those.

Drop me a line at jeffreystewart [atsign] frogstar.ca if you're interested.

Also, that idea for adsense is a very good one - It's easy to set up, and while Google /is/ sort of semi-evil about it, they do generally pay you /most/ of what they owe you. An extra hundred (They only pay when your account hits $100us) in a private account every now and again isn't a bad return from a hobby.

Cheers!
-Jeff

I'm going with a US-based provider like Linode. Also, your offering wasn't as good as Linode for the same price.

My goal for AdSense is "earn enough to pay for hosting". I probably should branch out from blogging into other things, if I want a full-time source of income other than a wage slave job.

Josh has left a new comment on your post "FSK Asks - Good Web Hosting?":

You want a host?

I'll help you. I run a host that's starting at $55 a year. LAMP, cPanel, wordpress ..etc.

And no, I didn't just come here to advertise, I am a libertarian/agorist/Ron Paul supporter. And I love the way you defended Hunt brothers, and explained the best way to argue against taxation.

I'll answer any questions you have, even adjust my packages if necessary. My e-mail is on my site and I've done this for over 5 years.

If I have a problem with TOS violations from other vendors (or the State harasses me), then I may switch. Until then, I'm probably better off sticking with one of the more professional hosting vendors.

If you compare your webpage with that of Linode or Slicehost, they're obviously a more serious operation.

It's a nice offer, though.

Josh has left a new comment on your post "Is Selling Advertising on Your Blog Immoral?":

Hosting your own site does NOT cost $10 a month (while I would love to charge you that much).

Ads on your site is NOT immoral. Nothing on your own site is immoral as you are neither harming a person, nor do you owe any reader an ad-free space. As long as you don't engage in piracy, defamation...etc.

I can have you hosted for $55 a year domain name included. (feel free to talk me down if you insist)

E-mail me if you got any questions, I'm here to help.

I'm leaning towards Linode as my #1 choice, Slicehost as my #2 choice.

I'm willing to pay slightly more for higher quality.

LovinItAll has left a new comment on your post "Is Selling Advertising on Your Blog Immoral?":

Hi,

Just found your blog and your writing is compelling and interesting to read. I have a dedicated server (not a vDed) with SingleHop, and you are more than welcome to host on my server for $0 (that's zero dollars, as in free). I have plenty of drive space, sync. 100mbps dedicated port, etc. You would have cPanel as your control panel.

If your interested, shoot me an email. Always happy to help people that are delivering messages people should ponder.

Best ~ RLR

I decided to go with paid hosting, probably from Linode. (I haven't bought it yet. I'm waiting for my first AdSense check to arrive.)

Seth from Bureaucrash also offered me free hosting on his site. I'm better off going with professional hosting (It's only $20/month anyway!). If I accept free hosting, and there's a problem, I'm SOL. If I buy hosting, and there's a problem, I can call them and say "WTF?", expecting a resolution since I'm paying for it.

The only serious problem I can think of via hosting is if they claim I'm violating their TOS, because I'm writing about free market economics. I haven't had a problem with AdSense or Blogger. It probably would only be an issue if some State enforcer complained about my site.

Summarizing my conclusions, I've decided to go with one of the higher-tier services. I'm leaning towards Linode as my #1 choice. Slicehost was a close #2 choice.

I want to put up my own code, and not just have my own WordPress blog, which rules out most of the less-expensive offerings. There's one thing I've learned, which is "You get what you pay for." and "Going with the cheapest option usually isn't best."

I can handle doing my own Linux administration. (I've never been root before! There's something erotic about logging into a UNIX/Linux environment as "root", after all those years as an ordinary user.) I wonder if I should put my site on my resume? I'll have "Linux administration experience", and most PHP jobs ask for a demo of a site you've worked on.

I appreciate the offers to donate hosting. I'm considering setting up a method for people to make donations directly. The problem with that is any transaction must be reported to the State and taxed. If you write me a check for $10 (or pay via PayPal), then the transaction is reported to the State and I must pay taxes on it.

For now, AdSense appears to be raising $20/month, which is enough to pay for Linode. The only reason I haven't already bought hosting is that my parents veto my spending habits. If my parents didn't control my finances, I would have just directly spent the $20 already. Anyway, I want to experiment with some LAMP/WAMP development first. I'd like to have some stuff to put on my new site than merely a WordPress blog.

Since I plan to do more than just a WordPress blog, it pays for me to go with a higher tier of service. Linode is the favorite, over all the suggestions I've seen.

4 comments:

DixieFlatline said...

I've never heard of slicenode or linode or cathode. Don't buy more hosting than you need. Right now, you are only blogging. Until you have a few hundred lines of code written, you don't need more. It's a waste. Trust me on this. Everyone is month to month, you can always upgrade later, even at the same host, possibly in a seamless manner (as easy as their sysop flicking a switch or clicking a link).

Unlimited is a farce. Be wary of these vendors as they oversell.

I use WAMP locally for mucking about in PHP. I can't code, but I can hack. WAMP works fine until I am ready for a production environment.

You're making a classic entrepreneurial mistake. You are scaling revenue. There are no guarantees you will ever make another nickel from Adsense. That is why you need to diversify your income sources. Google is very fickle when it comes to it's vendors.

You have twice posted something inaccurate about Adsense. Adsense works on dynamic pages. Google spends most of it's resources on 2 things. Search and Adsense. The reason is, earnings off ads on the search network can be as high as 10x as much as the content network. You are on the content network, basically Google's cheapest traffic because it is relatively untargetted. Anyway, Adsense does work with dynamic pages, has for years.

TLA is a steady measurable income. You get monthly contracts to display a link, and so you are better able to budget. Again, you should not put all of your eggs in one basket, but a mutual friend of ours had sold a link quickly by signing up, since your blog is geared more to financial discussion and investment, I think you have more opportunities to monetize.

Youe eCPM is probably going to end up around $2~$2.50. Your ad positioning and blending is not very good. But even then, eCPMs have been falling with Google for some time. We are in a deep recession you know, since content network converts less than search, you will see less advertising on the content network, which means lower bids, and lower revenue for you.

Josh said...

thanks for the mention and plug.

My hosting is not limited to availability, because hosting is so cheap today that it's hard to sell, I have more than what you and 20+ friends will need at a time.

I understand I didn't spend time to design my webpage, and I work on my own for the most part, so my operation IS much smaller.

But, if you're worried about "quality"? Why don't I let you do a free test drive for a week or so, pay when you're satisfied, stop using if you're not?

Thomas Asaro said...

Let us know if we can answer any questions for you. If you haven't already, you may also want to stop by our community IRC channel: #linode on irc.oftc.net

http://www.linode.com/irc/

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