Web Hosting: You Get What You Pay For. Or Less.
It’s kind of unfortunate that one of the first decisions you have to make about your blog is where to host it. This decision can end up being extraordinarily important down the road, yet you are forced to make it when you know next to nothing about the differences among web hosts, or why one costs more than other, or what distinctions like private server, shared server, or a virtual private server mean. Or if they even mean the same thing to everyone who uses the terms.
Over the last week, I’ve had the misfortune of having to switch web hosts. This decision has been a long time coming, and I only finally pulled the plug on DreamHost this week after their complete and utter failure to respond to any of my support requests after my site was effectively shut down last Monday for reasons still not completely clear to me. I have despised their service almost from the time I first started using it, but still tried to upgrade to a “private server” (scare quotes used here because there is really no such thing at DreamHost, from what I can tell) to avoid some of the slowness and because at least then I could request a reboot of my server on occasion. For a while, my service improved but the complete lack of support, for days at a time, in the middle of a crisis, was what finally did me in.
I had put off the server migration because I suspected it would be a giant pain in the ass. The good news is that I was right: it is a colossal pain in the ass. The bad news is that it is so much of a pain in the ass, in fact, that it has far exceeded my expectations, and in the end I had to pay somebody to do it for me, a professional who does this kind of crap all day long–and even he keeps saying things like, “The complexity of this job,” is causing him to do xyz, or the “complexity involved” is such that xyz pdq . . . lmnop. Short version: no it’s still not done yet.
If I had only known this a year ago! I would have just gone with the slightly more expensive hosting company in the first place! But the thing is, you do your research on blogging platforms, decide on WordPress, and those bastards over there have DreamHost et al. al hooked up and ready to go over there at WordPress.Org. And you think maybe that’s some kind of endorsement of the hosting companies. But it’s not, my friend, oh it is most definitely not. It’s an affiliate program, just like any other.
So I guess what I’m saying is: do a little research on your web hosting company. If it’s not too late, consider if it’s likely that the one that charges $4.95/month is very good. Check out sites that run well, have a lot of uptime–who do they use? Sure, they might have more traffic than you do now, but success in Web 2.0 is all about acting as if. You need to plan now for what your traffic will be in the future. And it won’t be running on $4.95 per month.