Hosting Bleg: Enough Is Enough

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The site is popping up and down today like crazy. It isn't traffic — we've had this level of traffic before.

This is just the latest example of this annoying pattern. We get transitory outages several times per week. It's rarely very long — often 5 minutes to half an hour — but it's tremendously annoying, and saps what little confidence I have in our host, Dreamhost.

So. I know I've asked before, but I'm asking again. Suggestions? Hostgator has been suggested by some. We've looked at Amazon but it looks a bit throw-you-in-the-deep-end.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

64 Comments

64 Comments

  1. Sam Devol  •  Jun 11, 2012 @12:29 pm

    I've heard good things about Hostgator and Bluehost… I'm happy with Site5, even after 4 or 5 years.

  2. Grifter  •  Jun 11, 2012 @12:37 pm

    Just…not GoDaddy.

  3. Jeffrey Ellis  •  Jun 11, 2012 @12:56 pm

    I've had A2 Hosting for the past 1+ year (at the suggestion of TJIC). Last week all my sites were down for about 26 hours straight with no response to my trouble ticket. Other than this single incident, no problems whatsoever.

    I would urge you to stay away from Directnic, whatever you do. I actually lost about a weeks' worth of posts and comments due to a server crash there, before switching to A2.

  4. oldsweng  •  Jun 11, 2012 @12:57 pm

    canvasdreams.com has been very good for me.

  5. Sheeley  •  Jun 11, 2012 @1:19 pm

    What level of hosting are you looking for? Just wordpress? There are some quite nice wordpress-specific hosts that ought to be less work and more reliable, but probably won't do it if you're looking for more functionality.

  6. Dwight Brown  •  Jun 11, 2012 @1:19 pm

    I've been very happy with Bluehost, but my needs are few.

  7. jaxkayaker  •  Jun 11, 2012 @1:30 pm

    No hosting suggestions, as I'm completely ignorant on the subject, but it is possible you're being subjected to DDOS attack, given some of your recent topics of discussion?

  8. Ken  •  Jun 11, 2012 @1:33 pm

    Funny you should ask, jaxkayaker.

    We discovered the source of the issue (outbound DOS). We've disabled the source and contacted the account responsible.

    No doubt a coincidence.

  9. Lynn  •  Jun 11, 2012 @1:34 pm

    NOT Hostgator! Billing and security issues. Don't go there.

    How much are you willing to pay? For cheap, I switched to Web Hosting Hub. Someone else mentioned HostMonster to me. If you are willing to pay a bit more, I can come up with some respected names.

  10. Dan  •  Jun 11, 2012 @1:34 pm

    I came here to say that I LOVE my hosting through Site 5, but I see that Sam Devol beat me to the punch. They really are great, worlds better than my previous host (GoDaddy). I chose Site 5 after getting tired of dealing with GoDaddy, but made sure to do my research before I switched. Site 5 had the best price : review ratio of any host I could find.

  11. Ken  •  Jun 11, 2012 @1:37 pm

    David patiently explains that I have no idea what I am talking about when it comes to DOS.

  12. Phil  •  Jun 11, 2012 @1:41 pm

    Have you tried using Cloudflare? They have a free CDN with static caching that should help with loading pages despite Dreamhost's flakiness. It's pretty well integrated with Dreamhost, just check a box to turn it on in your control panel (Domains->Manage Domains, click the Edit button under Web Hosting, then check the Enable Cloudflare box under CloudFlare Services, just above the Google settings). I've not had any problems with it, although you undoubtedly have many times more traffic than me.

  13. Barron Barnett  •  Jun 11, 2012 @2:10 pm

    I just recently discovered Cloud Flare. I'm still working on getting all the kinks worked out but thus far it seems to work as advertised.

    My site fell offline a few times and it remained up for the most part. Their services hadn't archived my newest posts yet, but they were only 15 minutes old at that point. I have noticed a decrease in my bandwidth usage as well.

    Their service also does threat analysis and helps to stop DOS and DDOS attacks. (Basically bunches of fake malicious traffic sent in an effort to knock your site offline.) It also evidently will increase the caching ability in the event of an extremely high traffic event.

    It was pretty easy to set up and is worth a shot if you want to avoid moving to a new host.

  14. different Jess  •  Jun 11, 2012 @2:20 pm

    Here's another CloudFlare suggestion. You won't have to switch hosts, and they are highly skilled at defeating DOS. If they could keep Lulzsec online, they can keep Popehat online: http://blog.cloudflare.com/58611873

  15. TheOtherMatt  •  Jun 11, 2012 @2:42 pm

    Go with RapidXen, you have to manage it yourself but they've got a backbone that can handle this and more, and if you need a Unix Wizard, I'm sure there's a few who hang around this blog

  16. Patrick  •  Jun 11, 2012 @2:45 pm

    you have to manage it yourself

    Immediately disqualified.

  17. Ruth  •  Jun 11, 2012 @2:48 pm

    I'm on http://www.machighway.com/ (No, you don't have to have a Mac to use their hosting). Only been there a few months (no problems, and tech support was awesome the couple times I've called in), but I was recommended by another blogger who's been with them for at least a few years and he said he's had essentially no issues, and what he had was fixed right away.

  18. Paul  •  Jun 11, 2012 @2:52 pm

    I've used and liked http://www.crystaltech.com for about a dozen years. My websites are hosted there, as well as a few of my customers.

  19. TheOtherMatt  •  Jun 11, 2012 @2:58 pm

    > Immediately disqualified.

    Why you afraid of an 80×30 terminal with only matt@pikachu ~$
    for graphics

  20. Ken  •  Jun 11, 2012 @3:01 pm

    Because he knows I'd try to use it. Imagine it for a second. I'd probably set the internet on fire.

  21. Clark  •  Jun 11, 2012 @3:16 pm

    How much traffic do you actually go through in a month? This is important for any hosting recommendation.

  22. Ken  •  Jun 11, 2012 @3:18 pm

    Around 100k visits.

  23. Narad  •  Jun 11, 2012 @3:32 pm

    Why you afraid of an 80×30 terminal with only matt@pikachu ~$ for graphics

    Sadly, probably not because of the realization that the Bourne shell is ghastly.

  24. Product Ion  •  Jun 11, 2012 @3:34 pm

    Just came here from theoatmeal, thanks for offering your help.
    I use mediatemple.com for my hosting. Rates start pretty low, and the sites are scalable, so as you grow it can be expanded easily. Good luck finding a good match.

  25. Clark  •  Jun 11, 2012 @3:38 pm

    Shared hosting is a scary world, in general. It is pretty much always overcrowded and oversold. For most people, $9 bucks a month is totally within reach (painless, even) and will cover their needs. They might not even notice when it goes down, or when their performance is degraded due to the plethora of other users doing stupid things on the same box.

    I personally, for the last 9 years, have gone with a smaller host that caters to developers and doesn't oversell its machines to the point of insanity: Apis Networks (http://apisnetworks.com). They don't promise unlimited storage or bandwidth, and they're more expensive than the people that do. What they promise is uptime. Here's a remote monitoring tool showing outstanding uptime for the last couple months: http://www.hyperspin.com/publicreport/73740/19403

    In my control panel, here's my current uptime: 8 months 16 days 22 hours 34 mins

    Before that, last year, it was over 15 months. The people who run this company (I used to know the founder) are obsessed with uptime, and stability, and not being wrong about these things.

    So, 100k visits I'm guessing translates into between 50 and 150 GB of monthly traffic. Please correct me if I'm wrong. That puts you in the territory of the top ("Enterprise") plan. I realize this plan is ten-thirds as much as a dreamhost plan, but as someone who, when he cannot access his site, assumes that there's a core/backbone routing issue affecting the southeastern United States, if not the world, rather than that his server might be down, I attest it is worth the money.

    So this is my humble suggestion. It's not "unlimited"; it's not couple-bucks-a-month cheap; it is reliable and you won't regret it.

  26. Terry Gibbs  •  Jun 11, 2012 @3:43 pm

    I used site5 for about 5 months in 2006 and moved to hostgator because of constant problems. I was at hostgator for a few days and got so fed up with their lousy support I moved again to a shared server.

    Hostgator told me they'd move my sites, but screwed them up, and then their support said my sites were more complicated than what they were willing to move.

    I know that both of those companies have lots of happy clients, but I was so pissed off at them I thought I was going to have a stroke.

    I pay $60 a month for 1/3 of a server and have telephone support 24/7. I know it's more expensive than other hosting plans, but it's more reliable and I find it comforting to not have to deal with problems.

    The interesting thing is the company I'm with now – http://www.nobaloney.net – required a background check before they opened the account. No spam, no porn, no malware.

    Also when I had a scammer unhappy with my review send me and the host DMCA complaints and takedown notices, they helped me deal with it.

  27. Brad Warbiany  •  Jun 11, 2012 @3:46 pm

    Ever look at nearlyfreespeech.net?

    You'll probably spend a little bit more than a "budget" host, but you'll actually get hosting that's more appropriate to your traffic. Most hosts try to ridiculously oversell their servers, and thus don't build in the capacity to handle traffic within the limits they actually advertise.

    Plus, NFS has a good policy regarding controversial content: https://www.nearlyfreespeech.net/about/faq#Unpopular

  28. Windypundit  •  Jun 11, 2012 @3:50 pm

    I've been using downtownhost.com for years. They're a small outfit with fairly responsive customer support.

  29. TheOtherMatt  •  Jun 11, 2012 @4:08 pm

    > Because he knows I'd try to use it. Imagine it for a second. I'd probably set the >internet on fire.

    They stopped making computers that could internally coumbust as a result of user action in the mid 80s. Although my old CS Prof was going to show me one last year/ Imagine the Dean vetoed that :(. But you'll always have these types of problems with shared hosting everyone does when they get big enough. My other suggestion is Media-Temple, or a private host. NFS is also good but with you being vocal about Kimberlin, I don't know if even they can keep you online if AnonOps start to go after you.The best course is to find a contractor who will set it up pro bono, or for an in kind exchange

  30. AlphaCentauri  •  Jun 11, 2012 @4:50 pm

    Inboxrevenge.com is on servint.net and we've been very pleased with the service, including through several DDoS's.

    Cloudflare is not a hosting service, but is a way of using their DNS service to distribute load if you are DDoS'd or slashdotted. It does affect the appearance of your server logs, so you'd want to make sure the script they provide to show you the incoming IP addresses will run with your hosting service. (Without the script, you would still see enough in the entries to see "the road to Popehat," but all the IP addresses would belong to Cloudflare's servers.)

  31. Amy Alkon  •  Jun 11, 2012 @4:58 pm

    I love Nexcess.net – they're a bit more expensive than other sites, but they actually help you when there's a problem. You email support@nexcess.net and they get back to you right away, usually. Also, if there's a huge problem, you can call them, but usually email is best.

    My boyfriend Gregg picked them because he goes to Detroit and they're in Ann Arbor, not Calcutta. They seem like good guys. Occasionally, I get unhappy with something but they always fix it and make good. Overall, I'm very happy with them.

    PS Feel free to tell them I sent you if you decide to go with them. I don't think I get a discount for that, or that you will, but I think Gregg has talked to them and has a good relationship with them (he's the tech manager on my site) and you'd be under the Gregg and Amy umbrella of longtime customerhood.

  32. Loren Nason  •  Jun 11, 2012 @4:59 pm

    WP Engine is the best out there right now and I've been moving my clients there. Built in caching, security scanning and backups. (aff link)

  33. Loren Nason  •  Jun 11, 2012 @5:01 pm

    And with that kind of traffic, manged hosting is your best bet. Shared hosting sucks when you start pulling in large amounts of traffic

  34. Joe  •  Jun 11, 2012 @5:26 pm

    "David patiently explains that I have no idea what I am talking about when it comes to DOS."?

    Ken what DO you mean when you are talking about DOS? Denial of Service? Was there an actual denial of service attempt?

  35. Matthew Cline  •  Jun 11, 2012 @5:28 pm

    Sadly, probably not because of the realization that the Bourne shell is ghastly.

    Heretic! Shun the non-believer!!

  36. Alan Miller  •  Jun 11, 2012 @5:45 pm

    I went with Hosting Matters (hostmatters.com) years ago because they dealt well with the loads of both lefty and righty blogs (including LGF during it's heyday) and nobody had anything bad to say (and several had good things to say). They're solid and reliable, have decent plans (now basically $11/month unless you need a small account) and have responsive support when I've needed it, though their user forums are mostly a ghost town these years.

    That said, for WordPress you might be just as well off looking at WordPress.com – they have the infrastructure to deal with high loads, you can't say they aren't familiar with the software, and the cost would likely work out to $9-12/month.

  37. Nicholas Weaver  •  Jun 11, 2012 @5:52 pm

    EC2 may be "throw you in the deep end", but its dead-solid-reliable. We use it to host the back-end measurement infrastructure of a pretty significant network testing application, the system is SOLID.

    Its not THAT cheap however. But "Good, Cheap, Reliable", pick two.

  38. David  •  Jun 11, 2012 @5:59 pm

    Permit me to narrow the focus.

    We're not using shared hosting. We're using a VPS. (Of course, the VM is hosted with others on physical hardware, so that merely pushes the resource competition issue out a bit.) We enjoy a guaranteed minimum of CPU, RAM, and bandwidth.

    The problem areas with a Dreamhost VPS seem to be availability and scalability. The VM is easily managed, maintained, and extended, and we're not paying for failover, so our expectations are modest. But periodic spikes in activity outside our VM, in other VMs on the same hardware, are apparently compromising the system. (For example, Dreamhost reports a DOS not against our host, nor in any way related to us, but outbound from an unrelated host virtualized on the same box. When that occurred, our site tanked until they located and throttled the automation.)

    Ken's hit estimate is too low. We averaged about 130k hits per month over the past year. We need a hosting service that can provide this modest service level without tanking intermittently for lack of monitoring, sanitation, and security elsewhere in the VM farm.

    Desiderata include Linux hosting with shell access, MySQL instances, and the usual scripting support for WordPress and phpBB3. Tomcat or Jetty would be a plus.

    We require complete administrative control over the blog and forum software, so wordpress.com and other low-threshold services (e.g., blogger) are ruled out on that basis.

    Any pointers would be most welcome!

  39. David  •  Jun 11, 2012 @6:00 pm

    @Nicholas All too true.

  40. AlphaCentauri  •  Jun 11, 2012 @6:34 pm

    Servint would still be providing that type of hosting.

  41. Steve  •  Jun 11, 2012 @7:02 pm

    Hmm, (also a Dreamhost) client, I switched to a virtual host when the shared traffic became to heavy. What I really like about them is that they blog their problems, nobody else is that transparent.
    I have pretty complete access at an insanely low price. I call it insane because of what it would cost to cover the same services in-house by some 24/7 staff.
    I used to experience delays and interruptions but when their came to update mine it went away.

  42. Sass  •  Jun 11, 2012 @7:16 pm

    Recommend you take a look at ipage.com Reasonable price and very good uptime. They also facilitate installation of wordpress.

  43. TheOtherMatt  •  Jun 11, 2012 @7:17 pm

    @David RapidXen, i've been up for a year without a hiccup, just install the Debian LAMP VM. So long as Ken doesn't have sudoers access it should be fine, and they have three datacenters so if you get tanked in one you can have the instance moved, if you require web based control Webmin is fully supported

  44. Ken  •  Jun 11, 2012 @7:19 pm

    RapidXen, i've been up for a year without a hiccup, just install the Debian LAMP VM. So long as Ken doesn't have sudoers access it should be fine, and they have three datacenters so if you get tanked in one you can have the instance moved, if you require web based control Webmin is fully supported

    You're just making words up now, aren't you? Don't make fun of me.

  45. Scott Jacobs  •  Jun 11, 2012 @7:19 pm

    Allowing Ken to access that stuff could lead the the entire internet being italicized again…

  46. TheOtherMatt  •  Jun 11, 2012 @7:45 pm

    @Ken:
    Not making fun of you
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudo

  47. Windypundit  •  Jun 11, 2012 @7:57 pm

    David, that's a lot of control and reliability for just a blog. And Tomcat? What the heck else are you guys doing?

  48. Nick  •  Jun 11, 2012 @7:58 pm

    It doesn't matter what you use.
    There are down time everywhere.
    Great service we have in the USA right?

  49. TheOtherMatt  •  Jun 11, 2012 @8:02 pm

    Asking what someone is doing with tomcat is like asking what someone is doing naked a Samuri sword. best not to.

  50. Tom  •  Jun 11, 2012 @9:46 pm

    Ken,

    I've never tried it myself, but several technology bloggers that I follow have used and praised Squarespace. It provides a number of easy to use site templates, can handle more sophisticated sites, and promises to manage the server support so you don't go down. It's a host and a cloud service.

  51. David  •  Jun 11, 2012 @10:09 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations, folks. If you have more, keep 'em coming!

    @Windypundit Tell you, kill you, etc.

    @Nick You may be right. Wouldn't it be amusing if Dreamhost turned out to be best of breed at the current price point. But we're willing to find out empirically.

    @TheOtherMatt I'm the sole sudoer, which keeps a tight lid on shenanigans. Whatever you do, don't teach Ken about sudo.

  52. Wrak  •  Jun 11, 2012 @11:59 pm

    David, if you can manage a VPS (and you just said you do), and need performance – check out Linode.com. I'm a customer since a few years with some heavy sites, and they provide excellent performance, and excellent support (usually answer time is counted in minutes).

    One problem for you might be if you need tons of disk space and don't want to pay for one of the really huge plans because you don't need so much of the other resources (like RAM) – the common method is to offload "downloads" and other big user-facing files to Amazon S3 or similar service.

    … and I didn't even stuck my referrer code in there. Go figure.

  53. jb  •  Jun 12, 2012 @5:47 am

    I use bluehost.com for a website running WordPress, and I've been quite pleased with the speed, performance and uptime.

  54. Nicholas Weaver  •  Jun 12, 2012 @6:59 am

    David: Since you are already using a virtual hosting system, just bite the bullet and go with EC2. Its actually pretty easy to get going with, if you are already in "we manage a VM" mode.

    We use it for a substantial network measurement project ( Netalyzr, http://netalyzr.icsi.berkeley.edu/ , the back-end is almost all EC2 except for some IPv6 tests), and it is been very solid, very reliable, and very stable.

    An EC2 small instance is 1.7 GB RAM, 160 GB local disk, and a decent CPU-equivelent, and GOOD net. (I can shove 100 Mbps through a small instance without breaking a sweat). Its $60/month for the instance (cheaper if you pay in advance, its $30/month if you pay for a reserved instance for a 1 year term), and $.12/GB for bandwidth.

    The only thing you really need to do is treat it like a real machine in terms of backing it up: EC2 has been reliable (we haven't had a node irrecoverably crash yet after 3 years), but since EC2 is designed to be able to bring stuff up and down very quickly, it doesn't have a real good solution to auto-back-up images on a continual basis. But then, with ANY hosting provider, you're going to want your own backup anyway.

    And 4K hits per day is nothing on the traffic front. An EC2 small instance should be able to handle this trivially.

  55. David  •  Jun 12, 2012 @8:15 am

    @Nicholas I'm tempted, and we discussed Amazon internally as an attractive option for some of the reasons you mentioned. (At work we use Amazon GovCloud for certain sites, and there's a lot to be said in favor of the flexibility and reliability of their services.)

    My concern is that a solution understood by several of us instead of just one of us will serve the site's needs better in the long run.

    Plus, it would be nice to be able to take backups and routine maintenance for granted. Multiplying work isn't in the picture for all us busy people. Dreamhost, and like providers, may be flaky, but at least they automate some of their flakiness!

  56. Douglas Muth  •  Jun 12, 2012 @8:32 am

    I too will vouch for NearlyFreeSpeech. I've been a customer of theirs for years and have had a fantastic experience with them.

    It's basically a webhost run by nerds, where you only pay for the resources that you use. Being a professional nerd (read: software engineer) myself, I can't say enough good things about their infrastructure and competency. Highly recommended!

  57. slambie  •  Jun 12, 2012 @8:37 am

    I've used iPower for my personal web hosting for more than a decade and I can't remember the last time there was any server downtime. Now, granted, I get like no traffic to my domain but it still might be worth checking out.

  58. Paul Lemmen  •  Jun 12, 2012 @8:45 am

    I had a good experience with Hub: http://www.webhostinghub.com/

  59. Paul  •  Jun 12, 2012 @10:41 am

    Extremely happy with Webfaction here but not sure if it suits your needs or not :)

  60. TPRJones  •  Jun 12, 2012 @12:46 pm

    Hostgator has been awesome. I've had 0 seconds of downtime since 2008. Never any problems of any sort.

  61. Walter Olson  •  Jun 12, 2012 @1:48 pm

    I used Hosting Matters for many years for Overlawyered and recommend them as helpful, knowledgeable, and not-expensive.

  62. Pete  •  Jun 12, 2012 @4:25 pm

    http://www.nixihost.com/

    Your rich lawyer salary is far higher than mine, so you'll be able to afford it. You will want to contact them with some traffic figures to verify that their standard 2 domain/1 year of hosting (for any number of domains) package will be suitable.

    However, I submit nixihost as a candidate because they understand the concept of customer service, and what's more, they are fast in responding to questions. The first time I thought up a question for them, I emailed them on a saturday morning expecting an answer on monday. I went outside and back in and had my answer. The next time I emailed them a technical "can I do this, is it allowed?" question at something like 11:49pm or some other unreasonably late hour, and I had an answer within minutes.

    And then days later that conversation had devolved into me picking on them and making fun of them for trying to develop a Cerebro clone (think X-Men magic psychic computer thing) using Java. And then guy fires back blaming me for the 90 Java developers that are suddenly out of work.

    Great bunch of people at nixihost, all positive experiences so far, heartily recommend.

  63. David  •  Jun 13, 2012 @9:06 am

    Thanks, y'all. We now have quite a list of options to investigate. Let the filtering begin!

  64. Pete  •  Jun 15, 2012 @11:19 am

    Update: I had another question for my host and after I got my answer I gushily (maybe even a little creepily) told them how happy I was with the service and that I always take the time to word-of-mouth in their favor when appropriate. He told me to let them know if anyone is going to sign up, and he'll supply me with a coupon code to discount the signer's order. (I'm assuming I will get nothing out of this deal, which is in line with what I want/expect, and he made no mention of any potential benefit to ME, but in the interest of full disclosure: This is not a reseller's pitch and I gain no personal benefit.)