Programming and Technology blog

New Year and New Hosting

I decided not to renew my hosting (Webhost4life) and decided to give Lunarpages a try.  The reason for my move was not because I had any issues with Webhost4life, I have been with them since 2006 and have had almost zero problems with them over the two years I just found that Lunarpages offered some better features and the initial cost was cheaper than renewing.

During my time with Webhost4life I was signed up under the Advanced Windows Plan which gave me some pretty good options especially being a developer I liked the idea of being able to do more with my account.  Here are some of the features that I liked and the things I didn’t like about my experience.

The Good

  • You can connect to your SQL Server using Enterprise Manager (2000) or Management Studio (2005/2008)
  • No SQL Express (this is a good thing)
  • Browser based SFTP Java applet for uploading to your account
  • Allows you to manage your DNS zone (including adding a SPF record)
  • They utilize DNS effectively; SQL Servers have a DNS entry rather than an IP address as well your resolves to a mail server and your web mail
  • Simple DB tools for MS SQL Server (backup/restore/etc.)
  • You have an FTP site for your Database (to do backup/restore from)
  • You can override your websites physical root folder anywhere in your hosting folder.  This is good if you want to create a subdomain and not put it in a folder under your primary domain
  • They use two SMTP ports for your mail (the reason for the alternate port is some ISPs block all outgoing on port 25 unless it’s to their own servers)
  • Add-on services are pretty cheap like extra domains and such
  • Support is better than average for responding in a timely manner.  You can set the priority on your ticket from 1 (high) to 5 (low).  I usually used 3 and averaged about a 4 hour response time and they addressed my problems without having to give more info or respond.  It seems that they have only one level of support and each support person can take care of the issue whatever it is.
  • Your sites run under full trust (your own app pool)
  • They use awstats for basic web metrics
  • They have an FTP site for your raw IIS logs (they don’t include cookies in the log)

 The Bad

  • They dropped free WSS (Windows Sharepoint Services) you now have to pay $19 a year for WSS 3.0
  • They dropped the MS SQL Server limit to one DB per domain (adv. plan) (it used to be unlimited when I first signed up, then they went to two only and finally one)
  • Your app pool for ASP.NET recycles often (every 5 min) so your site (if big) will seem like it is constantly reloading/recompiling (this might be the norm for most hosting companies since there are probably a lot of crappy coders out there)
  • A high website/server ratio something like 300 sites on one server, I am not sure if this is the norm or not which explains the 5min app pool recycling
  • Like most hosting providers they never tell you when something is wrong, the server where my SQL DB was scheduled to be replaced (do to hardware issues it was having), I tried to do a backup and it kept failing.  I sent a ticket and only then they told me why the issues
  • They have a support forum but it is pretty unutilized by the users of Webhost4life
  • They rolled their own control panel which looks really unprofessional but it does do what it’s supposed to

All in all I have no real issues with Webhost4life; I found the service to be pretty much what I expected from a shared hosting provider but it was time to try something new and give another company a try.

So far with Lunarpages I had a couple of issues (one almost made me cancel my account over).  When my second domain was setup ( right from the start the DNS settings for my MX record (mail) was configured wrong, it was pointing to two separate IP addresses (the web server and mail server) and since the order of the records was web server first I would often not be able to check my mail (using Outlook) since it would try to access the web server (which would not work duh, it’s a web server).  It took me 2 full days to have the problem fixed, mostly because the ticket had to be escalated from a tier one tech support to tier two.  They second issue had to do with the hosting environment and some permissions which took less time to fix probably because the tier one could do that kind of stuff.  Here are some of my initial thoughts for the service so far.

The Good

  • Web mail is SmarterMail (same as Webhost4life)
  • The control panel is Plesk (pretty cool control panel for Windows hosting)
  • There is a backup solution for your domain that you can configure and schedule
  • Windows Hosting allows for 2 unique domains under your account for your initial price
  • Account information (disk space used/bandwidth used/etc.) is all visible from the "home" control panel)
  • Unlimited SQL Server DB’s per account (probably limited by the actual amount of hosting space you get)
  • Their forum support is pretty impressive and the community actually uses it
  • Lots of reports that can be emailed to you on a schedule (part of Plesk)

 The Bad

  • They don’t inform you that they use DNS for databases rather than IP address and no to web mail (no big deal but it looks cooler)
  • Support is a level system, level ones are pretty much useless and the higher you go the longer it takes to get anything fixed
  • No DNS zone edits under Windows hosting
  • The help files seem to be out of date in the control panel and reference Linux Hosting items more than Windows so the info might not be valid
  • Some services you log into are not SSL (I even checked the form post action)
  • No SQL Server Ent. / Management Studio support; they use MyLittleAdmin (which is pretty much the same interface)
  • I am not sure about this one but it would seem that both domains (under your account if setup) run under the same app pool.  That means that one site could bring down your other site if it gets out of control
  • There is a 1% CPU cap on your app pool.  Reading through the forums it seems that if you go over the 1% CPU usage you account can be disabled.  So if your app pool continuously used 1% of the CPU on that server over an undeterminate time they can axe your site(s).  I guess as long as it just does the burst usage then that is ok (not that my sites will chew up that much CPU)

For the ongoing story of my DNS issues with Lunarpages see New Year and New Hosting Part Deux