Quantcast Namecheap hosting review - Beware hidden limits in ToS/AUP [UPDATED!] - digitalFAQ Forum
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12-12-2011, 08:26 AM
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UPDATE:

As of Novmeber 2013, Namecheap and it's subsidiary web-hosting.com -- as well as the separate brand WebhostingBuzz -- have all been cleared of any concerns.

Additionally, we've tested/reviewed (and will continue to test/review) both Namecheap and WebhostingBuzz hosting services, and found both to be excellent. Namecheap especially was given exhaustive testing, as it's primarily known as a registrar -- not a host. As many know, it's not wise to host your sites at a registrar. However, Namecheap is the exception to the rule, as they're not skimped. Everything from the servers, to the network/bandwidth, to the choices of datacenters (PhoenixNAP, AtlantaNAP) is truly premium grade.

The AUP of Namecheap.com has been corrected for at least a year now. And although the AUP of WebhostingBuzz and web-hosting.com is currently still there, it's scheduled to be changed, and is not being enforced at this time. (Why isn't it removed now, you ask? As a site admin, I can relate to it taking time to implement changes. Updates are rarely simple deletions.)

The now-outdated warning below is being left for historical reasons, as well as to educate others on ToS/AUP verbiage to watch out for.

And while something like this may have always been in their plans -- it may also have never happened if The Digital FAQ Site Staff had not taken action, and issued a warning (and worked with the company to resolve it). We may not be as large as Consumer Reports, but consumer advocacy is one of the core principles of this site.

-kpmedia


_____________

Previous Update:

Since this initial review, I've been in contact with Matt from Namecheap, a.k.a. web-hosting.com, who's also part owner of Webhostingbuzz. At The Digital FAQ, we'd like Namecheap to be a good host, really we would. It has the potential to dethrone the once-great HostGator -- now owned by EIG, yuck! -- and be an outstanding host. It's already one of the best companies out there for domains, SSL, email, etc. So we're going to re-review it in 2013, and I'm hoping for a good outcome!.

Additionally, I willing to set aside the attitudes issues of the past, and just chalk it up to misunderstanding. Again, for now, let's give them a clean slate and see how they are as a host. I've has ample chance to see the flip side of Matt, and he cares a lot about this industry.

That said, the review below still applies to web-hosting.com, as they've not changed their ToS/AUP to reflect asinine things like WordPress "modules" and 500kb files in the year 2013. That needs to change, and hopefu;;y we can makeit happen. In the meantime, I'd advise you to avoid such antiquated and innacrate hosts.



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  #2  
12-13-2011, 02:13 PM
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Preface

As somebody that's been using web hosts since the mid 1990s, I'm quite familiar with the web hosting industry -- including the ugly side of hosting where some web hosts choose to operate. Rather than be honest and transparent with customers, some hosts prefer to advertise what appear to be disingenuous offers.

For example, they'll offer high resources (lots of storage, bandwidth, RAM, etc), or offer so-called "unlimited" resources, and then hide dozens of limits in the "fine print" of documents written in jargon, legalese and semi-gibberish. Said limits can range from reasonable to draconian. These Terms of Service (ToS) and Acceptable Usage Policies (AUP) documents can make you powerless as a customer, watering down the service you bought to near uselessness. After all the limits are enforced by the host, your account may be too slow or entirely unfit to run the kind of website you need/want. As it happens most of the time, you'll likely find out about these rules after your account is suspended for violating them.

In an upcoming guide, I'll dig more in depth on hidden limits. (I'll also distinguish reasonable limits from draconian ones.)


Do all hosts have hidden limits?

Not at all. Good hosts like EuroVPS and Stablehost have purposely chosen to write clear and concise policies that their users can understand. (In fact, both of them take quite a bit of pride in their ability to communicate honestly and transparently with their customer base.)

Other hosts, however, don't seem to share the same desire to be as transparent with what customers can (or should) do with the hosting plans being offered. Again, it comes back to how something is advertised, versus how it can actually be used. In some industries, claims made in advertising (but further limited and/or hidden in fine print) could be considered fraud. At very least, many seem to suffer from public outcry (think of the Netflix "throttling" snafu from recent years, with regard to the way they limited "unlimited" rentals). For whatever reason, the web hosting industry seems to be unaffected by either legal enforcement or dissatisfaction by the general public.


Warning: Significant limits from Namecheap a.k.a. web-hosting.com

There's several things in the web-hosting.com ToS and AUP that should concern certain types of users, such as those wanting to run WordPress sites (sites based on PHP and MySQL databases). It would be such a concern, in fact, that I would advise WordPress users to avoid them at all costs.

For example, look at the suggested plan offered by web-hosting.com, the "Professional" plan from $5.95 per month:

Quote:
Powerful hosting features
o 100 GB Disk Space
o Unlimited Bandwidth
o cPanel Control Panel
o 25 Addon (Hosted) Domains
o Unlimited Parked Domains
o 100 Email Accounts
o 100 MySQL/Postgre Databases
o 100 FTP Accounts/ Users
o PHP, CGI, Perl, JavaScript, SSI, MySQL & PostgreSQL Support
o 99.9% Uptime Guarantee
Each item bolded in red represents an advertised concept that can be limiting in a significant way to users, due to draconian clauses in the ToS or AUP. Each of these will be explained below, beneath the ToS/AUP clause that creates the limits.

Worth Noting: Even the top-billed price of $5.95 is the price for paying 24 months in advance. It's $7.45 for monthly payments. Granted, many hosts do this (as do many businesses in general), but it's still not really transparent and consumer friendly. Some of the better hosts, like SpeedySparrow advertise the monthly prices, and then given further discounts for pre-paying. Most consumers get irritated by low-ball pricing, only to find out it requires a long commitment.

A common metric used amongst savvy website owners (and thus web hosting customers) is to pay a fair rate for reasonable resources. Right now, in Q4 2011, that's about $1 per 1GB-2GB of space. A standard plan is about $6 for 5GB (Stablehost, MDDHosting, etc), or $6 for 10GB for a company with a generous plan (Stream101). That Namecheap offers 100GB of space for $6 is almost ridiculous, and an immediate red flag that the servers may be oversold and thus slow. Granted, most users will never use much space, but the point of this post is advertising vs fine print. And the fine print significantly limits the ability to actually use the promised space.

web-hosting.com ToS and AUP contain three areas of worrisome language:
Quote:
not to make any inappropriate communication to any Newsgroup, Mailing List, Chat Facility, or another Internet Forum.
Quote:
We do not allow any WordPress caching modules on our shared hosting services. WordPress caching modules continually cause server overload problems and are only allowed on VPS or dedicated hosting.
Quote:
Your website consists of web pages of a standard design, essentially HTML based text and graphics.


Clause #1

This appears under both section 8 ("Prohibited Activities") of the AUP, and section 4 ("Accepted Use Policy") of the ToS:

not to make any inappropriate communication to any Newsgroup, Mailing List, Chat Facility, or another Internet Forum


If you're not quite sure what this phrases means, don't worry -- neither do I.

At face value, this could mean you're not allowed to run a site that contains editorial/opinion content about other forums or newsgroups. Technically speaking, that could be considered "communication to" by some definitions. In this context, they would be acting as a content nanny, telling you what you can and cannot have on your site (regardless of the fact that it's legal content; it's not even controversial legal content).

Or does it mean you're not allow to be rude on another forum, where you signed up with an email account that is attached to a domain you have hosted on web-hosting.com servers? Again, a nanny scenario. (Granted, being rude is being a bad netizen, but that's still a stretch of their enforcement rights.) This is another valid interpretation of the rule.

Maybe it means the domains hosted on web-hosting.com servers are not allowed to connect to outside services? (In which case you have to question services like Facebook Connect, which could be considered a "forum" or "chat facility".)

There's quite a few ways to interpret this semi-coherent "rule".

It's language like this that creates loopholes which some shady hosts have been known to exploit as an excuse to cancel a customer without refund. Would web-hosting.com exploit this? I don't know, but I would not want to risk my time/funds on a host that uses meaningless open-ended phrases to describe "prohibited" activities, which carry this as a consequence:

Quote:
You agree that We have the sole right to decide what constitutes a violation of the acceptable policy use described above as well as what is the appropriate severity of any corrective action to be applied. In the event that a violation of Our Acceptable Use Policy is found, web-hosting.com will take corrective action upon our own discretion and will notify You. web-hosting.com decision in such case is binding and final, and cannot be a subject of a further change. web-hosting.com cannot and shall not be liable for any loss or damage arising from Our measures against actions causing harm to web-hosting.com or any other third party.
Granted, most hosts (any business, really) have termination clauses, but this is easily one of the most hamfisted clauses I've ever seen. It's essentially an omnipotence clause. In layman language: "We have rules, but even if you don't break them, we can still do what we want. Oh, and you're not allow to sue us, either! Nanny, nanny, boo-boo!" In fact, quite a few sentences of the ToS are also dedicated to telling customers about the rights they DO NOT have, as opposed to what their rights are.

It also makes for an excellent example of hosts who write silly unenforceable language into their ToS. You can write whatever you want, and even have customers "agree" to it by signing up, but a judge is going to decide what is and is not valid. To suggest that a customer has no legal recourse is a crock when the hosting company is located in the United States. Most hosts (even lousy ones) tend to have one of two clauses (1) stating the agreed-upon jurisdiction, or (2) agreeing upon arbitration as a means of non-court dispute resolution. Even a lousy host like Godaddy understands this, and uses the first policy. As does a large unlimited host like HostGator, or a smaller well-run host like Stablehost, both of whom use the second policy.


Clause #2

This appears under section 10.1 ("Server Resourse Provision") of the AUP:
We do not allow any WordPress caching modules on our shared hosting services. WordPress caching modules continually cause server overload problems and are only allowed on VPS or dedicated hosting.


Of all the clauses used by web-hosting.com, this one is the most limiting and the strangest. In its most basic form, a cache is a way to store frequently accessed content in an effort to unhinder resources. Sometimes it uses RAM, sometimes it uses disk space -- sometimes both. WordPress is driven by PHP and MySQL, so any time an uncached page is requested, PHP has to render the page, while calls are made to MySQL database. Both of these processes use quite a bit of RAM. WordPress caches store the rendered page and called db data as static files on the disk, thus offloading some CPU and quite a bit of RAM. At most, disk I/O may increase, but not really.

Caching WordPress is a win-win-win scenario:
  • Pages load faster for viewers
  • Server resources are kept low, which is good for the host.
  • For the site owners, traffic bounce rate is kept down (due to faster site), and your SEO improves (based on current search engine algorithms).
An uncached Wordpress site is a WordPress site you don't want to host, run or visit. It's slow. That Namecheap would prohibit that ability is nonsensical. It's a lose-lose-lose scenario, and I can't think of a single scenario that would "cause server overload problems" from merely use static page caching.

The language of this clause is also what I consider to be an example of incompetence. WordPress uses plugins -- not "modules" -- and even first-day novice users know this. I have a hard time taking "experts" seriously when they can't even grasp the basic jargon of the subject.

Trivia: Search Google for "WordPress caching modules" and you'll find all the hosts who have "ripped" (plagiarized) the ToS language from Namecheap. And I'm assuming Namecheap was NOT the one to plagiarize others hosts.


Clause #3

This appears under section 10.2 ("Disk Usage Provision") of the AUP:
Your website consists of web pages of a standard design, essentially HTML based text and graphics.


Now, in the interest of transparency, this quote is pulled from a much longer section discussing the many limits on how disk space can be used.

However, the quote should be read not literally, but with an interpretation of the spirit of the message. What does it "mean" as opposed to what it reads directly. Between this statement, and the odd WordPress caching issue, it really suggests that their hosting may not be intended for running anything that involves databases -- no blogs, no forums, no CMS, etc. Other language in the same paragraph basically poo-poos streaming media, file downloads, etc. Out of 100GB of space available in the Professional plan, only 5GB can be used for storing any "type" of content (using their definitions of what a content type is).

Quote:
90% or more of your content on your website must be linked from an HTML or similarly coded web page where all content is freely available to the public. Your website consists of web pages of a standard design, essentially HTML based text and graphics. Downloadable files, media, streaming content or any file which consumes more than 500kb of space must not exceed 10% of your total used disk quota. The following disc space limitations for different file types are also applicable: NO more than 5,000 MB of a shared hosting account can be allocated to music, video or other multimedia files including but not limited to .avi, .mp3, .mpeg, .jpg, .gif files; NO more than 5,000 MB of a shared hosting account can be allocated to any archive files and disk images files containing the complete contents and structure of a data storage medium; NO more than 5,000 MB of a shared hosting account can be allocated to databases dumps including but not limited to .sql files; NO more than 5,000 MB of a shared hosting account can be allocated to Executable files and all other files which are the result of compiling a program.
Any file larger than 500kb -- which is basically anything not HTML or a small highly-compressed image -- is limited to using 10% of the used disk quota. Not 10% of the total account, but 10% of the used quota. If a WordPress site is 15MB -- which is average -- then the total allocation available to attached files is 1.5MB. That makes no sense at all.

If the language is flubbed up (much like the "WordPress modules" mistake), and it's supposed to reflect 10% of total available allocated resources, then that would mean only 10GB of a 100GB account can be used for media. So that other 90GB must be for webpages? Really?

That 500kb even counts as a large file is very antiquated in the current web era -- a time when people routinely host podcasts, or homebrew software and designs/themes. Such files take up several megabytes at maximum compression. The 500kb aspect of this policy almost looks like it was plucked from a ToS written a decade or more ago.

I've read far more hosting horror stories that I care to recount, and many of them involve accounts being suspended from heavy-handed hosts when customers are deemed to be using "too much" space (where numbers were apparently arbitrary). I recall reading the angry review of a popular podcaster, who's site was turned off one day without warning, because the host decided he had too many MP3 files. Nevermind that each audio clip was original material, and attached to webpages with accompanying text/image commentary. No warning, no kindness to an existing customer -- just turned it off. And it's easily policies like this that lead to actions like that.


Parting Thoughts ...

While parent company Namecheap.com is an excellent registrar for domains -- one that I suggest highly -- the hosting side of their business is just not one that I could recommend to anybody in good faith. I believe in consumer advocacy, and in directing good people to good products and services. The policies of this host are just not favorable to you as a customer.

There's also another reason I find this host somewhat unfriendly to customers, which I'll get to in the follow-up post below...


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  #3  
12-17-2011, 12:45 AM
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After reading this, I get the impression an overzealous legal department wrote the ToS. Hopefully someone over at NameCheap comes to their senses and reviews it for changes. Even better, someone from NameCheap should post here and justify why such terms and clauses are in the ToS to begin with. I will admit, I use their domain services and have received great customer support from the company in that department. I didn't even realize they had web hosting until you posted this. Hopefully others will see this and take a closer look at the terms of service of not only NameCheap, but other web hosts as well.
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  #4  
12-17-2011, 10:33 PM
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UPDATE:

This reply has been striked out and grayed out for the time being, as a good will gesture both to Namecheap and Matt personally.
Again, we'd like for Namecheap to be an excellent host, and it's trying. So we'll get another review scheduled in 2013, and see how it goes!

-kpmedia


**************************************************

Quote:
Originally Posted by NJRoadfan View Post
Hopefully someone over at NameCheap comes to their senses and reviews it for changes.
Unlikely. I already brought this to the attention of Namecheap, and was attacked with insults in public.

On one of the IT forums I visit regularly, a newbie was asking for advice on who to use for hosting, and had narrowed down the choice to his/her two registrars: Godaddy and Namecheap. Given that this is a forum used by lots of hosting-savvy people, almost all replies were giving the standard advice: use neither. In addition to suggesting a third choice (Stablehost; an excellent host for novices!), I pointed out the concerns and oddities found in the Namecheap ToS and AUP.

Rather than addressing the ToS or AUP concerns, the Namecheap VP (Matt Russell) entered the thread like a bull in a China shop, issuing defamatory statements against digitalFAQ.com (some of which are easily proven false), and attacking my personal "character" (yes, quoted). It was about as professional as a 13-year-old girl having a temper tantrum.

In addition to the personal insults...
... his initial response included comments along the lines of "everybody does it" (in response to a ToS/AUP having limitations). The entire response was defensive, and the valid points being made were never addressed. Several of his comments displayed an obvious habit for skimming instead of reading, so what I got in response was a mix of venom and confusing statements.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NJRoadfan View Post
I didn't even realize they had web hosting until you posted this.
Like yourself, I had only become aware of their hosting within the past year -- and they've been offering it for about 4-5 years now. I learned about it because of an interaction I had with the Namecheap hosting VP. I can't seem to find the post anymore, but a person was discussing their hosting, and I innocently commented that it must be new. I was quickly corrected by a somewhat rude reply from the Namecheap VP, which is apparently par for the course.

As mentioned, that level of toxic rudeness was present in our most recent exchange.

Unfortunately, the moderators of that site decided to sanitize the thread, removing the entire conversation, as well as all of the rude replies by Namecheap's representative. While this action has removed some evidence of this host's piss-poor attitude from the public record, the VP has left a trail of snarky comments through the years. So the loss of our interaction has not hidden the evidence that consumers have something to worry about.

For example: In a 2007 post, a person was seeking feedback on a specific host: webhostingbuzz.com. One of the early replies was from the owner of the well-respected Downtownhost (and subsidiary Ninjalion), who posted some links to what appeared to be valid reviews. The Namecheap VP (then as rep for WHB) again enters like a bull in a China shop, attacking the person who posted the links, ranting about how he must be (and I quote) "desperate for clients". Amusingly, and quite correctly, the DTH/NL owner states that they're not competitors. Also worth noting is that other people made comments about the ToS/AUP used at that host, so it appears crappy ToS/AUP documents are this person's modus operandi. (#source)

You'll find a number of interactions like these, if you spend some time searching Google or Bing.

As a hosting customer, you have to ask yourself this: If I have problems, is this how I'll be treated by the company?

It's not just a confusing pair of documents that raise an eyebrow, but the actions and attitudes of those who oversee its operations.

Quote:
Hopefully others will see this and take a closer look at the terms of service of not only NameCheap, but other web hosts as well.
There's several things people really need to watch for when choosing hosts:

Paying for name recognition - High affiliate commissions that spawn fake "review" sites, thus creating a false landscape for brand recognition. It's not achieved by quality of goods, or even of advertising, but of false testimonials. Find out which hosts offer $100/sign-up payouts, and avoid those at all costs. (There are few exceptions to this rule, as is the case with any general rule. HostGator is a good host.)

False promises / hidden limitations - Promises of "unlimited" space, which are always limited in the ToS, by way of content constraints (filetype prohibitions, etc) or inode limits (# of files allowed). "Unlimited bandwidth" is also a farce, because a throttled-down pipeline has a maximum data throughput.

Owned by professionals, kids or scammers? - Find out how old the host is, where the business is registered, and who owns them. Quite a few "hosts" are just kids, and I've seen so-called "hosting companies" registered to college dorm rooms. Never do business with a host that's using privacy protection on their domain, as it almost always means they're operating from some second-world or third-world country, or have already sullied their real name in the industry (there are a number of "serial entrepreneurs" in the hosting world -- repeat offenders that can be classified as scammers).

A host or a "host" - You'll often find teenagers buy a reseller account from a reseller, so you'll have multiple levels of headache when trying to get support. Find out how far away a host is from the datacenter. Ideally you want a host that has their own rack space, not somebody that's renting an account of an account. Sort of like nth generation VHS-to-VHS recordings -- horrible quality is to be expected.

Speaking of "who owns it" (or in this case, who runs it), I found this public bio of Namecheap's VP of hosting:

-- I setup my first web hosting business while still at school, aged just 16. 10 years later it is still very much my way of life
-- I now sit as CEO for WebHostingBuzz and Vice President, Hosting at Namecheap.com.
-- University of Manchester - A university drop out - concentrated on business instead

Sorry, but I'm not impressed by that resume (CV). That's not who I want in charge of ensuring the smooth operation of my web presence.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NJRoadfan View Post
someone from NameCheap should post here and justify why such terms and clauses are in the ToS to begin with.
I suggest they change their business practices, not come here and try to defend it in public yet again. Because to be quite frank, these policies and attitudes are wholly indefensible.

The only response I'm interested in hearing is
- "I'm sorry for the rude remarks." and
- "We've reviewed our plans and policies, and have made some consumer-friendly changes that provide better transparency to our customers."

At the same time, I've said my peace. So this issue is over for me.

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  #5  
01-26-2013, 01:17 AM
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I've updated the post, as of January 2013.
Quite a bit has happened in the past year, including some frank and candid discussions with Matt at Namecheap.
We want to give them another chance, now that our new formal review process is completed.

Here's hoping all goes well.

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  #6  
01-31-2013, 11:48 AM
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Looking forward to your followup review of Namecheap hosting. Do you have an idea of when you may post that?
Thanks!
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  #7  
01-31-2013, 11:55 AM
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We're going to start the first one sometime in February, beginning with shared hosting.

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  #8  
06-07-2013, 04:01 PM
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So what's the news on Namecheap? I've been thinking of trying their business hosting, especially since they have a 50% off coupon going on right now.

Is it still shite? Is the VP still being belligerent?
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  #9  
07-15-2013, 02:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fiockthis View Post
So what's the news on Namecheap? I've been thinking of trying their business hosting, especially since they have a 50% off coupon going on right now. Is it still shite? Is the VP still being belligerent?
Sorry for the delayed response on this.

Over the past 6-12 months, I've had several discussions with Matt, the VP of hosting there at Namecheap. At this time, I think Namecheap itself is fine to use, as the terms of service (when I last looked) were no longer nonsense. So I'd use that host without any worries.

Because of family illness, the digitalFAQ.com tests were delayed by 6+ months, but we should be on track again soon. Hopefully we can test the host, and give it a good long-term review.

We use Namecheap for domains, DNS, and SSL certificates, and it's quite excellent at that stuff!

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  #10  
07-22-2013, 01:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kpmedia View Post
Sorry for the delayed response on this.

Over the past 6-12 months, I've had several discussions with Matt, the VP of hosting there at Namecheap. At this time, I think Namecheap itself is fine to use, as the terms of service (when I last looked) were no longer nonsense. So I'd use that host without any worries.

Because of family illness, the digitalFAQ.com tests were delayed by 6+ months, but we should be on track again soon. Hopefully we can test the host, and give it a good long-term review.

We use Namecheap for domains, DNS, and SSL certificates, and it's quite excellent at that stuff!
Thanks. I decided to go with stablehost, and they're working well. They have a 50% off coupon going on right now too.

I use namecheap for my domains and have never had a problem with them in that department.
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  #11  
07-22-2013, 03:58 PM
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We use two registrars -- Namecheap and DirectNIC.
And then our most important hosting is at one of two places -- EuroVPS (VPS and dedicated) and Stablehost (VPS and shared).

So your combo is definitely a solid one.

Glad to hear you've got it working.

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  #12  
11-23-2013, 08:25 AM
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kpmedia kpmedia is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fiockthis View Post
So what's the news on Namecheap? I've been thinking of trying their business hosting, especially since they have a 50% off coupon going on right now.
As of November 2013, all issues and concerned have been resolved.

For most of 2013, we've also been testing this host, and it's easily one of the best ones I've ever used in my ~15 years of buying hosting online.
  • The servers are outstanding -- no slow sites, no overloaded servers.
  • The network is outstanding -- no congestion, premium facilities.
  • The support is good -- faster than budget hosts or the $4 "unlimited" hosts.
A full review is forthcoming, but that's the quickie.

We can let this topic fade away now.

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