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March 28, 2006

Choosing a Web Host

Filed under Blogging, Reviews

A web host is when you pay a company to serve up your web pages. You could host web pages yourself, but you miss out on several advantages of a web host:
  • Backup is automatic and transparent
  • Internet access to your web pages is typically faster than what you can serve up from home
  • You don't have to buy/configure a server
  • You don't have to worry (as much) about people exploiting security holes in your server
  • You don't have to worry about sharing bandwidth with a server
  • You don't have to worry about fixing/upgrading hardware
In short, it is a good idea to let someone else host your web pages rather than try to do it yourself.
 
I started shopping for a new hosting company when I decided I wanted to use Movable Type as my blogging software. I ask my previous web hosting company, Hostway, if I could run Movable Type. They said I could, but I would have to switch my account from Windows to Linux, and they would charge me $40 to do that. I used Hostway since April 2002 and was happy with their support. I paid $215 a year for the Windows Gold Web Hosting Plan which came with 600 MB of storage. Rather than pay $40 to switch my account to Linux, I decided to do some web host shopping to see if I could do better.
 
When researching Movable Type, I saw that Yahoo! Web Hosting came with Movable Type already configured. This sounded perfect, so I signed up. Yahoo! also gives you a temporary domain name. The domain name I have (http://davidlenihan.com) still pointed at my Hostway account and I did not want to disturb it until I was able to get my new web host working the way I wanted. The temporary domain name allowed me to setup my web site on Yahoo! without moving my domain name. BUT, I quickly ran into a problem...Yahoo! (for unexplained reasons) does not support uploading files that have spaces in the filename. This file, for example, would have to be renamed to something without spaces. That would break a bunch of my current HTML pages. I considered this unacceptable, since I plan on using spaces in photo names in the future. So I canceled my Yahoo! account, and they gave me a full refund.
 
Next, I tried godaddy.com. You may remember their infamous super bowl ad. Unlike Yahoo!, Go Daddy supported spaces in file names. However, they did not give you a temporary domain name. They charged me a fee ($6) to get a static ip address to setup my web site, which I could cancel once I switched over my domain. I got my web site copied over, so I started working on installing Movable Type. I ran into SO many problems...it was very frustrating. I finally found this thread which had a quote from the president of Go Daddy saying, "We understand that there are a few instances of MovableType running on our servers, however, we agree that installation is almost impossible." The issue has to do with a security sandbox Go Daddy uses, that forces any software to be modified to run correctly. At that point, I canceled my service and Go Daddy gave me a full refund.
 
Next I tried 1&1. They gave me a free .info domain to get started, so I grabbed http://davidlenihan.info. They support filenames with spaces, so my web site transfered without any issues. Movable Type installed cleanly. Two other features 1&1 has that are very useful for server side software installation: SSH and CGI Output Monitor. SSH lets you login to the server from a command prompt so you can run scripts. CGI Output Monitor lets you see the error log from when you run a script...not sure how you are supposed to diagnose script problems without these two features!
 
So I decided to go with 1&1 for my web hosting. I chose their 1&1 Business Package. It is MUCH cheaper ($120/year vs $215/year) and has much more storage (100,000 MB vs 600 MB) than my old Hostway account. I'm really happy with 1&1's price, features, and slick web administration interface. Two thumbs way up!
 
If you want 1&1 to host your web site, click on this banner ad to set one up. They will pay me a commission and I'll think you are really cool!
 

Comments (1)

Trey:

I was actually going to call you and ask your advice on web hosting but decided to check out your blog first. I guess now I don't need to talk to you. Thanks, chump.

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