Web Hosting With Generous Bandwidth Limits
August 6, 2008 7:53 PM   Subscribe

I need web hosting, and my needs are pretty narrow. I don't need fancy tools or applications, everything I'm doing is pretty much text. I don't need hand-holding or customer service. But what I DO need is to not have to worry that if any of my domains (I've got five or six) go viral, I'll be socked with $$$$ bandwidth overage bills. That happened to me once a long time ago, and I still have trauma scars. I realize that no hosting service can offer, like, infinite bandwidth. At a certain point, service would either cut off or else overage charges will cut in. But are there any web hosting outfits out there known to have particularly generous bandwidth limits, and reasonably priced overage charges beyond those limits?
posted by jimmyjimjim to Computers & Internet (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If it's not dynamic you could host everything on S3 and point your domain to it. This link talks about static hosting and setting up your domain.
posted by null terminated at 7:58 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by blue_beetle at 8:02 PM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: Nice. I don't know much about S3, but will read up. Thanks, null.

Anything to watch out for?
posted by jimmyjimjim at 8:02 PM on August 6, 2008

Don't believe anyone who suggests Dreamhost unless they are hosting a high-traffic high-bandwidth site.

Yes, they offer a lot of everything. I've yet to see them not pull the plug on any site that threatens to actually use their resources, using their 'Too much CPU' TOS clause.
posted by Memo at 8:09 PM on August 6, 2008

Separtea Hosting and Domain. Hold you domain for example at godaddy.com, host at hostgator.com
posted by yoyo_nyc at 8:21 PM on August 6, 2008

I've never dealt with Nearly Free Speech.net, but I kinda wish I could. They seem ideal for your needs.
posted by MadamM at 8:37 PM on August 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

DO NOT go with dreamhost. They blow these days. In the past month they fucked up 3 of my clients' sites and passed the buck in every case--even after it was proven to be their fuckup.
posted by dobbs at 8:38 PM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: hostgator offers generous bandwidth at a good price, but I'm having trouble determining how they calculate overage charges for each of their various plans.

Is it possible to host plain old html files with S3?

I'll look into Nearly Free Speech.net, thanks MadamM!
posted by jimmyjimjim at 8:42 PM on August 6, 2008

Dream host is what I use. Works great.
Although current comments scare the crap out of me. I'm adding crap to my uploads daily.
If you're blind, stupid or interested you can use an account code to get like 10% off, Jeremiah2911.
I hear mediatemple is awesome.They're on the pricey side but I hear they're the best. http://www.mediatemple.net/

What ever you go with search for them on Retail me not ( http://www.retailmenot.com/ ) and you can save any where from $10 - $100.
posted by BoldStepDesign at 8:47 PM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: Hmm. Nearly Free Speech.net gets $83 for the first 250g of bandwidth. Hostgator gives you 250g/month for $23. Of course, if my sites doze along at 2g/month, I'll pay only pennies on NFS.net, whereas at Hostgator I'd pay for bandwidth I wasn't using. So NFS.net actually does the very opposite of what I'm asking....it charges beaucoup bucks for heavy traffic, but saves you money if traffic is light.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 8:50 PM on August 6, 2008

I use Geek Storage and highly recommend them. With 5 or 6 domains you'd probably have to go with the Developer or Geek plan.

The above link is just to the site. If you do decide to use them, I'd love to get credit as an affiliate. Not saying you have to, just throwing that option out there.
posted by theichibun at 8:58 PM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: Geeksquad charges a big $2/g for overage (though they do let you swap up to next higher plan if you do so within one week of the end of the month....scant help if you get slashdotted 6 days before the end of the month).
posted by jimmyjimjim at 9:23 PM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: Sorry, I meant Geek Storage, not Geeksquad. Doh.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 9:24 PM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: Ack, and I meant to type "though they do let you swap up to next higher plan if you do so no later than a week before the end of the month". Sorry, all, it's late....
posted by jimmyjimjim at 9:25 PM on August 6, 2008

jimmyjimjim: Is it possible to host plain old html files with S3?

Yes, this is how the Democratic party hosted the Super Tuesday results.

There are a few issues doing this. You need to set up your own DNS servers (this can be done for free at a place like www.zoneedit.com). Also, S3 doesn't provide a native FTP interface so you'd have to use a proprietary program to upload files. If it fits your requirements though, it would be cheap, reliable and infinitely scalable.
posted by null terminated at 9:52 PM on August 6, 2008

It's not exactly what you asked for, but if you're just worried about weathering the occasional slashdotting or something, you might be able to use CoralCDN. Ideally you'd have some server-side goo that would automatically start issuing coral cache redirects only when the traffic spikes— I don't know if such a thing has already been written.
posted by hattifattener at 10:09 PM on August 6, 2008

I use Host Department and have been very happy with them. Their plans are "unlimited." You can have as many domains as you want on your account, as long as they are all yours.

Obviously, read the fine print. They say they have unlimited traffic, but I don't know if there are any caveats.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:14 PM on August 6, 2008

nthing S3. The whole idea of S3 is that it scales computing resources smoothly to any capacity, which is what I think you're basically requesting if you want your site and pocketbook to survive a geometric growth in popularity.
posted by XMLicious at 10:19 PM on August 6, 2008

Are you looking for databackup?
posted by BoldStepDesign at 10:22 PM on August 6, 2008

Plus, S3Fox is an FTP-like S3 client that makes uploading really easy. And aliasing S3 files to a DNS is pretty simple. Amazon's developer documentation goes into good detail on this.

The best part? 6 cents a month for a few files and a few thousand hits. For reals.
posted by disillusioned at 11:12 PM on August 6, 2008

"Don't believe anyone who suggests Dreamhost unless they are hosting a high-traffic high-bandwidth site."
I've had some big spikes of traffic that they've coped with fine (static files and lightweight PHP).
I'm normally the first person to roll their eyes when people jump in and suggest Dreamhost in hosting questions, as they've provided a poor service for many (most?) of their users, but you do get a ton of bandwidth for a few dollars a month and if you're lucky you can get great value from that (all depends what web/file/db servers you end up on).

"But what I DO need is to not have to worry that if any of my domains (I've got five or six) go viral, I'll be socked with $$$$ bandwidth overage bills. That happened to me once a long time ago, and I still have trauma scars."
I had a near miss when something of mine went 'viral' years ago (ate through my bandwidth quota in a day, was lucky to notice as the hosting firm charged an obscene 50 quid per GB), so I can understand your worries, but hosting is a lot more generous with bandwidth nowadays.

If you don't need bullet-proof reliability and don't want to spend much then DH may be worth a try. If you set up the DNS somewhere like DNS Made Easy and give it a fairly short TTL then you can repoint the domain if the hosting lets you down and you need to try somewhere else in a hurry.
posted by malevolent at 12:22 AM on August 7, 2008

I use bluehost for a couple of reasons:

1. They are a WordPress recommended host, which means that most CMS's that rely on LAMP should work fine.

2. They have a one-flat rate shared hosting plan that claims unlimited bandwidth, so no need to worry about getting caught out because you signed up for the "cheap" plan.

One caveat - they do have a very specific limit around CPU quotas, so if your site that suddenly goes viral is CPU-hungry, you still have a problem.
posted by your mildly obsessive average geek at 3:22 AM on August 7, 2008

I use Cartika Hosting. They're expensive, but very reliable.

I used to use WebOnce, and would recommend them as well, after Cartika Hosting. They are cheaper and fairly reliable, though not in my experience as much as CH. Also CH is a larger company so your support requests would be answered more quickly.

Both are excellent, though.
posted by Perpetual Seeker at 5:37 AM on August 7, 2008

Seems like you have a lot of suggestions, but I'll throw in my 2 cents.

I currently have hosting with Powweb and Hostican.

Powweb is (was) horrible and I should have cancelled my account a long time ago, but I host a few very small, html-only websites on there still and for now they work ok. They have had many CGI/MySQL problems in the past. This was like a year ago, but it lasted for about 9 months where sites were like molasses in winter. They may have cleaned up their act but I haven't gone back to 'stress test' them with my heavy-hitting sites. They do offer a good amount of bandwidth, though. I think it's like $7 a month. However, if you're not going to rely on php or mysql, you may have no problems at all. The one good thing about them is that they have a very active support forum with both staff and customers contributing. It was a popular place to commiserate with other customers when their service sucked.

The other provider I use is Hostican, which has "unmetered bandwidth". It's not 'unlimited' (no one will ever give you unlimited no matter what they advertise) but there is no posted "bandwidth limit". I think it's to be considered 'within reason'. If you're hosting a 500 meg mpeg video and it gets digged, slashdotted, or farked, chances are they'll pull the plug. I've not had this happen to me, but I've never had anything go viral. I did have a huge 'StumbleUpon' flood one day on a php/mysql-heavy application I run which serves up to 20,000 animated gifs and they held up fine. The only time my site has been brought down by Hostican was for unknown causes but the error was for CPU resources - related to my php/mysql queries. (My site is self-written and not terribly code-optimized, I'm sure.) It's automatic and only lasts for 2-3 minutes so it's not like you have to contact someone to flip the switch back on.

Regardless of which host you plan to go with, I would check out their support forums to look for current customers having problems, specifically with bandwidth or shut-down problems. Also contact their sales/support department and just ask them how they handle situations with high spikes in traffic. A high-bandwidth allotment per month, when spread across a month's use, is much different than using your 3 terabytes of bandwidth over the course of a day because your site just made the front page on digg.
posted by MarkLark at 6:19 AM on August 7, 2008

I see you've already vetoed Nearly Free Speech--I used them for about a year and for me, it was noticeably slow, even for my tiny website that didn't cost more than $10 for the year.

I now use A Small Orange and have been much happier. For the smallest package, it's very cheap.
posted by sian at 6:36 AM on August 7, 2008

Response by poster: Upon doing some research, especially the excellent and insightful FAQ at nearlyfreespeech.net, I've learned that host services do what's known as "overselling". It's directly analogous to the overbooking airlines do. They don't expect clients to use anywhere near the bandwidht they pay for, and they pack 'em in accordingly. In rare situations, havoc can be wreaked if a couple sites sharing a server suddenly get "hot". It slows down all sites on that server. So host services include in their TOS all sorts of wiggle room....fine print exemptions and gotchas that allow them to terminate you if you start using more of the bandwidth they'd promised you're paying for. You remain in their good graces only so long as you are making them a profit by not consuming the product you've paid for. Their business plans require that clients remain unsuccessful and low-trafficked.

Unless you're on a dedicated server, there's no way out of this. So I don't give the slightest attention to advertised bandwidth promises. The relevant information is the overage charges, and the configuration of the servers. For example, nearlyfreespeech.net uses a cluster configuration that they say enables them to distribute load more effectively to allow sites to catch fire without slowing down the rest. Unfortunately, comments by A Small Orange, above, indicate it ain't working.

So I think S3 is my only realistic solution.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 8:30 AM on August 7, 2008

Contrary to sian above I don't think NearlyFreeSpeech.net generally has a reputation for being slow. I've hosted with them for five years (only low traffic sites so I can't speak for experience), and I've never heard comment that they were slow. The really nice thing about them, as you mentioned above, is that they don't lie and they don't screw customers over. I have to deal with a couple other hosting companies for clients and it is a nightmare of incompetent support people and stupid TOS.

You have to figure that all the same-scaled hosting companies out there (except Amazon w/ S3) are paying basically the same amount for their bandwidth and servers. If one company claims to charge less than another they are either actually providing less or making less money. I don't believe hosting companies have a very large profit margin to screw around with, so something else is happening.

Bugmenot.com is the famous example site that hosts with NFSN.
posted by ChrisHartley at 9:26 AM on August 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks. But here's another pretty legit-sounding complaint about latency.

And, again, they are expensive in exactly the scenario that concerns me, expense-wise (though everything's relative...the "cheaper" alternatives, per my previous posting, aren't legit when a high bandwidth situation actually transpires). Very cheap for low-traffic sites, though.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 10:17 AM on August 7, 2008

I just heard about this site which is a cloud computing subsidiary of rackspace. They do scalable cloud computing like Amazon, but charge a flat $100 a month. I'm not quite sure how that works (if they'd pull the plug if they'd need too, I would imagine they would). And S3 would probably be crazy cheap for most personal, non-commercial website stuff.
posted by delmoi at 9:30 PM on August 8, 2008

Response by poster: Interesting, delmoi. Out of my budget, but a great tip for the thread, thanks.

I'm wondering if there's a tutorial out there for using S3 as a traditional server....i.e. for hosting html and image files, nothing hardcore. That's not really its emphasis, so I'm having trouble getting my mind around it (I'm sort of stuck in 1992, internet-wise). The ftp-like S3 client mentioned above will surely be super helpful.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 8:56 AM on August 9, 2008

Response by poster: This looks like a good start:
posted by jimmyjimjim at 9:50 AM on August 9, 2008

Response by poster: Nope, S3 does not work for hosting whole sites.

You cannot have domain.com/index.html show up at domain.com. domain.com will lead to a 404 error if you try to host your entire site on S3.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 9:37 PM on August 10, 2008

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