Help me pick a webhost
January 26, 2006 2:19 PM   Subscribe

Yet another request for help selecting a web host - but this one's a little different. I'm not trying to move a small personal site but something bigger.

I'm on the board of a non-profit organization that is taking over control of a large, old online community site. We need a hosting package that offers shell access, at 8-10Gb of storage space and a minimum of 40Gb of bandwidth allowed per month. It has to run on Unix servers. This site has thousands of everyday users from all over the world who hit the site 24 hours a day with only a small drop in traffic overnight (EST). With that kind of usage, uptime is extremely important.

Most of the commercial hosting providers we've looked at offer a package that looks viable, but I would love to hear about people's experiences and impressions about which host might suit our needs best.

Some of the sites we've looked at are Lunarpages and Dreamhost, but also the Yahoo Small Business package looks quite interesting.

Any thoughts or suggestions?
posted by mikel to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
If you're comfortable running the server yourself -- or you know a geek who will be doing it -- I recommended ServerBeach (note: I'm a customer, not invovled in any other way).

I'm paying right now for a Debian server with a 60 gig HDD and 2 TB (yes, TeraBytes) or transfer per month, and it's costing me $90/month.

Of course, I handle all the software side of things, but when I've had a hardware issue they've been on it very quickly. The longest downtime I've had in the last year (that wasn't caused by me) was 15 minutes that the server was offline, yesterday.
posted by barnacles at 2:34 PM on January 26, 2006

I'd say check out - I've been using them for years, for me it's always been about their support which is fantastic (at one point my site was hacked by a phisher, but site5 recovered it for me and pointed out my problem without slapping me for it).
posted by rc55 at 2:48 PM on January 26, 2006

I really like BliksemHosting. Their dedicated server page is undergoing some changes right now so I can't give you prices, but their top shared plan has 5GB storage, 65GB bandwidth on a Unix server with all the usuals for $18/month. I think the dedicated packages offer shell access; contact them to find out. They could probably help you to get exactly what you need for a reasonable price; their support is amazing. Definitely worth a check out, at the very least.
posted by cgg at 3:12 PM on January 26, 2006

oops... apparently (according to thir heading), thats Linux, not Unix. My control panel for my sites say it's a Unix server tho.
posted by cgg at 3:14 PM on January 26, 2006

All our high-availability sites go onto our Verio VPS; it's been down approximately once in the past 3 years and that was for about 40 minutes. Compare that with our Dreamhost server which is unobtainable at least once a week and you realise that you get what you pay for. Also, no bandwidth fees with Verio, telephone support, full root access...
posted by blag at 3:25 PM on January 26, 2006

Best answer: 8-10gb of storage space? Wow, what do you store?

With regard to any suggestions you get here, I would suggest searching the webhostingtalk forums for other people's thoughts on the companies. I'm sure EVERY company has had some people with bad experiences, but you really should see multiple opinions on a hosting company before choosing one.

I know a few people who said "FeaturePrice was great, I never once had a problem!" -- well that may well be true, but a lot of people had HUGE problems with them. I think they're gone now as a result.
posted by twiggy at 3:28 PM on January 26, 2006

I used to recommend Serverbeach, but after having multiple servers with hardware issues I've been hesitent. Their datacenter must be 100 degrees with how many drives we've lost. I currently host with EV1 and have been satisfied.

That said, it really depends on the kind of site you're running. You say it is a large community site. Does that mean a forum of some sort? I've done system administration for a few different forums and they tend to be resource intensive, especially disk I/O intensive. A shared server really isn't going to cut it (at least, it doesnt for a forum with anything over, say, 10 concurrent users).

Understand that Serverbeach and other discount dedicated server providers don't do much in the way of system administration. If you're Linux savvy this is probably OK, otherwise you should seek some qualified help in getting it set up and secured (important!).

Feel free to email me if you'd like more info about the above.
posted by kableh at 3:29 PM on January 26, 2006

Err, just realized I dont have my email addy in my profile. randomguyonthenet at gmail dot com
posted by kableh at 3:32 PM on January 26, 2006

I've been super happy with voxel (.net) for a couple years now. I'm probably their smallest customer, but I like the fact that they actually answer their emails at midnight (EST) if it's important enough.

Their plans range to well above what you need (always nice to know that you're not their most taxing customer, and therefore they can deal with worse/more then you expect) so price might be an issue. Honestly though, their data centers are both in the NY region and my site stayed up back during that big old black out, so I'm ok with paying more than I would for bargin basement hosting.
posted by tiamat at 4:20 PM on January 26, 2006

Since you mentioned you're looking at Lunarpages:

I've used them for a few years, and have been generally happy (and hey, it's cheap). And then this weekend, something mysteriously bad happened to the server one of my sites is on. I got an email after it was already offline, letting me know they were doing an emergency server migration. The server was down all day, and when it was back up, I discovered that they'd restored with a three-day-old backup of my database -- meaning that the last three days' worth of posts on my semi-busy forum were gone forever.

So, yeah. Thumbs down for Lunarpages.
posted by katieinshoes at 7:23 PM on January 26, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the info everyone.

To follow up on some of the questions, it's a large forum system that has been running for just over 10 years now and contains over 6 million posts. The software we use is extremely functional and was initially designed to run on servers of 10 years ago. It actually uses just over 6Gb of storage, but logs and things add up quickly and we need some breathing room (storage-wise) in order to be able to build in other services as we get organized and move things in this new direction.

The developer (who supports us) suggested a shared hosting situation - since the software was designed originally to run on older hardware, it seems that it doesn't have heavy requirements despite the volume that goes through.

Any more suggestions are welcome.
posted by mikel at 7:58 PM on January 26, 2006

Response by poster: Oh - if anyone has anything to say about Yahoo's service I'm interested.
posted by mikel at 8:14 PM on January 26, 2006

I'm not sure where everyone finds these crazy web hosts but is one of the very largest.

$20/month will net you:
- 30GB of space
- 1.5TB of transfer
- 5 included domain names
and pretty much anything else you could want (perl, php, python, 2000 email addresses, 100 mysql databases).

Their uptime and transfer capability are very impressive too. You'll never have to worry about "the server going down" because they've got several redundant sites around the world, with multiple carrier grade internet links to each one. So even an earthquake wouldn't take it down because it would be mirrored on two other continents.

I'd say it's pretty good.
posted by sirsteven at 11:09 PM on January 26, 2006

Oh yeah, it's also less money than Yahoo in every regard.
posted by sirsteven at 11:10 PM on January 26, 2006

1and1 and dreamhost will probably also slap this guy around hard with their seemingly arbitrary 'resource limits." I have a customer that fled 1and1 because yes, stuff was going down, and his site & email were unreachable. Personally, I seperate that stuff and don't do the "all services on one box" thing.

You said "Unix" instead of "Linux" - is this something that is currently running on Solaris or BSD? Will it work on a Linux box?
If it's at all cpu/disk intensive, I wouldn't really try the shared hosting route.
I have boxes at ServerBeach and have been happy with them. I also have my own servers at a local colocation facility, and things work quite well.
Do you have a sysadmin staff or would you be requiring the ISP to do system administration? Lots of things to consider. :)
posted by drstein at 1:52 PM on January 27, 2006

Best answer: FWIW, I've heard a *lot* of bad reports about Dreamhost, but almost none about the other ones mentioned here. Lunarpages doesn't seem like they really target sites of the scale you've mentioned. I didn't know much about Yahoo, but have been pleasantly surprised by how much I like their offerings the last few months. Caveat: I discovered Yahoo's hosting offerings because my employer has a business relationship with them. I'd use them myself anyway, though, if I had a site like this.
posted by anildash at 2:43 AM on January 29, 2006

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