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abundantliving 08-04-2013 03:17 PM

Hostgator Alternative? Life after HG - dedicated or cloud hosting?
kpmedia, first of all, thank you so much for your input at WF, and for your offer to assist me in determining the best situation for my business now that I'm forced to move from the new and "improved" hostgator since EIG has taken over.

Here's my situation...

I am at the beginning of a service launch. Users of the service would access the service via my website. I expect the service to be available globally, and hope it will grow exponentially very quickly.

After doing online research, I understand the difference between cloud hosting and dedicated, but I'm very unsure which would be best for my situation.

I like the fact that, with cloud hosting, server resources can instantly be expanded. Supposedly, it also provides more protection against data loss and server crashes. Also, with cloud hosting, it seems I could easily have a presence in more than one country without it costing me an arm and a leg. It was very unclear whether the speed of the cloud servers is equal to that of a dedicated server.

On the other hand, in WF, you suggested the best option for me would be a dedicated server. I'd really like to understand why.

Since you are much more of an expert in this arena, I will wait to make my final decision until after you and I have been able to discuss the options indepth.

Again, thank you SO much for helping me with this.

kpmedia 08-04-2013 09:28 PM

I'm going to reply as I read your post...

Thanks for the compliments. :)

I like Warrior Forum, and have picked up a few good tips there over the years (5-6 maybe, about 1 per year), but it's overrun by folks that fall prey to affiliate lists. You'd think that being a site for affiliate marketers would make them more savvy, but sadly it does not. Trying to give good advice over there is sometimes frustrating because the people always suggest the worst hosts -- 1&1, Network Solutions, Yahoo, and the many (50+!) EIG brands like Hostgator, Bluehost, Justhost, iPage, Fatcow, etc. I try to rescue people from that, but there's a lot of uneducated noise in there.

By "globally" -- pick the primary demographic here -- do you mean
(A) North America and Europe, or
(B) North America and Asia and/or Australia, or
(C) North America and South America
(D) NA isn't a primary. I assumed it is. But I could be wrong here.

Everybody can always access you site anywhere around the world (excluding communist/dictatorial governments), so focus on the majority of who you want to serve. This site, for example, serves USA and Europe as the primary audience. And as such, it's hosted in Amsterdam/ Both it and New York / New Jersey are optimum locations.

Cloud hosting is mostly marketing. There's not much difference between most "clouds" and traditional hosting (shared, VPS, dedicated). In fact, at some hosts, the "cloud" goes down more often. The most popular cloud computing infrastructure is OnApp, and it's cheap. However, OnApp is looking more and more like the Walmart brand of hosting cloud hardware. Several hosts I use were having issues, and they've since stopped using it. Like Hostgator, it has churn -- just as many people are leaving as the ones that sign up because of old advice. And like EIG/Hostgator, they're more interested in sales than support; I seen emails in private. So unless the provider is using something custom, or based on Open Stack, it's not that good. OnApp isn't impressive.

It's no harder to upgrade cloud resources than traditional resources. Not really. At worst, a dedicated server might have downtime if it has to swap hardware (planned maintenance, as decided by you), but most can be upgraded and are hot-swappable.

I suggest a dedicated server because that's what you had before. So let's go over a few things:

- How many sites?
- How many large (10k+ daily), medium (2k+ daily), and small (dozens, hundreds daily).
- If it's large, what are the traffic figures? (uniques and pageviews, NOT hits!)
- What app powers that sites? (ie, WordPress)
- If a CMS (WordPress, Joomla, etc), how many plugins and what are they?
- If a CMS, do you cache it? If not, why not?
- Which server side caches do you run? (xcache, Wincache, APC, memcached, other)

Those are the things that determine where to go, and what to get. :)

abundantliving 08-05-2013 10:34 AM

After working online since 1998, like you, I'm amazed at how gullible a lot of marketers are... even after they are TAUGHT the different mindgames at work behind the scenes. As for myself, although I've used webhosting for years, I always choose managed hosts, so I can focus my time on what I do best (marketing and product development)... so, compared to you, I am ignorant about hosting companies. I've chosen hosts in the past based on recommendations from top marketers. Unfortunately, like a favorite pair of shoes, it seems that hosting services have a limited life... and then it's time to move on to another.

Again, I truly appreciate the input from someone who has made webhosting an area of study. Right now, my business is in flux. I recently developed a service (delivered at my website) that has 3 phases (just finished development of phase 2 and am gearing up to begin development of phase 3). So my needs at the moment are small, but I expect - by December at the very latest - the demands on my resources to be much larger... so I need to plan ahead to avoid getting caught with my pants down.

My primary markets seem to be North America and the U.K. (mostly England and Australia). However, there are many other countries in the mix beyond those two. It was suggested to me that it is better to have servers in the users' country as it takes longer for someone in Australia (for ex) to access a server in Texas. Although, I don't know for certain that this is true.

Honestly, sticking with what I know sounds good to me. As long as it has whm/cpanel, I can run most of it by myself... only needing assistance if something goes wrong. Plus, I am familiar with scheduling remote backups. You confirm what some have said about the cloud not being as reliable as a dedicated server... and reliability is my main priority.

Just a quick question... By "hot-swappable" I assume you mean that parts can be swapped out without any downtime? (just checking I understand as this is a new term for me).

I have 15 different websites:
- 5 medium
- 10 small

I expect 2 of those sites to grow very quickly now that I've launched phase 2 (and even faster once phase 3 is launched):
- average 500k daily would be realistic

- one of those sites is a wordpress network
- the other site is currently html (however, I am considering switching to a wordpress network before phase 3 launches)

Yikes! I have NO idea about which serverside cache is used (never even heard of it before). How would I figure that out?

As you can see, I have much to learn about servers.

P.S. Is there a software/service you'd recommend for automating server/account backups (something compatible with a mac)?

kpmedia 08-05-2013 11:25 AM

For me, tech has always been a means to an end. I'm a former print journalist turned PR/marketing. My advantage is that I was an early adopter of computers and the web, and I've stayed current with the tech curve. I can do it all myself -- security, programming, admin tasks, etc -- but sometimes I want to be "lazy" and used managed services. I want to focus on the project, not the computer (server) running it.

Don't fall into the trap of overestimating your traffic. Almost all people do that, but maybe 1% of 1% actually achieve those numbers. 500k daily seems really high. Even 50k per day is rather high, but that one can happen. It's more realistic.

Shared server can handle a few thousand per day, but the processes usually slow it down and make the experience miserable. A VPS is better when it has several thousand daily, especially if a CMS is involved, because of the RAM, MySQL queries and CPU. A VPS can handle quite a few thousand visitors if it's cached and tweaked. The exact numbers depend on the power of the VPS and the dedicated, but when you start hit get into 6-figure daily traffic, you'll need the dedicated server.

If I were you, I'd pick a managed VPS host with an upgrade path to managed dedicated. Start with the VPS. The downside of a VPS is that it needs to be proactively managed. Many hosts are reactive to issues -- not proactive. (Reactive: "It broke. Help me!" ... Proactive: "We did xyz to prevent a new exploit.")

The other alternative is a semi-dedicated host -- also called enterprise hosting, and essentially a low-density shared server for approximately a dozen clients. And the upgrade path to either high-end managed VPS, or managed dedicated. The only downside to semi-dedicated is the inability to install your own server-side cache.

Yes, hot-swappable means the hardware can be changed while the server is still on and running. It may or may not need a reboot, but those are rarely more than 5 minutes.

I'm going to stop there for the moment. I'm tired, up for many hours, and need a nap...

When I get back online again:
- Yes, I have a great backup plan. I'll share it with you.
- And I have several hosts that I think may be right for this. Each one is recommended for a certain thing, however, not general "use this hosts" advice. Right now, I'm looking at Stablehost, Namecheap, Futurehosting and Knownhost. There's probably some more, but again, I'm tired.

Depending on how much server control you want, I may have some more options for you. For example, we actually host select clients on our servers, and have several powerful options available. I'm not quite sure if you fit that description just yet. (We also give advice to our customers, both for tech and marketing. That's something most hosts either won't or can't do.)

I need to stop here before I start rambling...

abundantliving 08-05-2013 11:36 AM

Thanks for the input! I'll look forward to reading more after you've slept.


admin 08-05-2013 08:06 PM

As far as backups methods are concerned, I'm going to add that to the guide list. :)

There's several ways to do this, and it depends on how often you update your own content. Here's four:
  • WHM has an automated backup system. You need another storage VPS or cheap dedicated server to hold the file backup. Honestly, I don't much care for this one.
  • If your own account are in a reseller account (which can be useful for admin'ing them!), there's WHMEasyBackup. It stores locally, but an external server is suggested. This works well.
  • There are some plugins to email yourself the WordPress database, though I do not suggest there -- too resource hungry. It may be better on a high-RAM VPS or dedicated, but it's often a beast on shared hosts or low-RAM VPS.
  • You can pull -- not push! -- daily MySQL backups to either home on Windows computer, or another Windows VPS/dedi. This is highly suggested! (If using a Mac, you can leave Parallels, VirtualBox or VMware open.)
Depending on the file content, you may not need to backup the file system (non-databases) with an automated system. This site, for example, is created locally (dev localhost, HOSTS file trick). By its very nature, we already have a local backup of the files before it's even put online. Furthermore, we manually grab monthly snapshots of the whole server. There's no need for automated file system backups here. It's the databases that matter most, and those are pulled nightly, and stored local for 6 months, remotely for 2 months. Depending on the site frequency, it may just need weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly database backups, depending on how the site is used.

Question: What is the frequency of files, size of files (total), number of MySQL databases, and size of MySQL databases? And I'll assume that there's no thing else. If email is used, and IMAP not POP3, I'll need to know that too.

Each backup method is custom.

That's the job of a good developer, to help you arrive at the best (and most cost effective) method. It's one of the things that I do.

Mac may be good for some visual tasks, but it's not the best for server administration. The tools are either not native (ports, often bad ports) or not very feature-rich. Without home desktop computers being as powerful as they are these days, just use Windows in a VM. Use Windows for what's it's good at, and Mac OS X for what it's good at. No different than you using Linux server, if that's what it's good for, for your needs.

One of the hosting CEOs we know hates Windows, and loves Mac. I need to get with him again in 2013, and see what he likes. It was 2011 last time I got his opinion. Vasili of EuroVPS, for the curious, great guy!

So, as with everything else, it seems we leave you with more questions. :smack:

But to get a perfect backup system, that what it takes! :congrats:

One of the things we offer when we host customers is a backup system that best meets their needs. That's one of those perks we'll start to charge for in 2014 -- new customers only, not existing ones -- as we make a few of our hosting plans public. (Note that we're only offering premium hosting, not that $5-10 nonsense from Hostgator/etc. Business want to succeed, and we want them to succeed, but you can't do that for the price of a sandwich! Think monthly phone bill budget, not Taco Bell budget! Additionally, we are VERY security minded.)

kpmedia 08-06-2013 06:53 AM

I sat down today and wrote a 3-parts editorial on Hostgator. It almost a expose, to be honest, given how many people know nothing about EIG.
I'd appreciate it if you'd post this to some sites, so others can see it.

There's far too many people on WF (and elsewhere online) that are still unaware of how EIG has bought it and changed/ruined it. There's 3 great alternative hosts -- Site5, Arvixe and Namecheap -- for shared, VPS and dedicated servers. (Namecheap is one of the ones I'm thinking would be a good fit for you. Note I give one-on-one personalized advice; the editorial gives generalized advice.)

Anyway, read it, share it. :)


Brent 08-06-2013 02:59 PM


Originally Posted by kpmedia (Post 27239)
I sat down today and wrote a 3-parts editorial on Hostgator. It almost a expose, to be honest, given how many people know nothing about EIG.
I'd appreciate it if you'd post this to some sites, so others can see it.

There's far too many people on WF (and elsewhere online) that are still unaware of how EIG has bought it and changed/ruined it. There's 3 great alternative hosts -- Site5, Arvixe and Namecheap -- for shared, VPS and dedicated servers. (Namecheap is one of the ones I'm thinking would be a good fit for you. Note I give one-on-one personalized advice; the editorial gives generalized advice.)

Anyway, read it, share it. :)


Read these articles today - great articles & they should be easy for most to understand, even those who aren't up to speed in the industry. Great job!

mcowen64 08-07-2013 08:07 AM

kpmedia, thanks for your help! I do a lot of tech stuff with Abundantliving, and was asked to join in here.

The estimates on traffic are potentially accurate. Phase 3 could be massive, and while we're not there today, we might be before the end of the year - and that level could surge overnight. With that in mind, we don't want to overbuy a solution, nor do we want to be confined without a -simple- yet quick upgrade path.

For backups, what are your thoughts on using WHMEasyBackup with storage VPS or a cheap dedicated server to hold the file backup? I'll have to get back to you with file sizes, but email will be 100% outbound. We also wondered about configuring that storage server as an emergency email server, as an option.

Managed dedicated is the category where Abundantliving is most comfortable so long as WHM & CPanel are present. That gives us a pretty capable starting point. However, I've noticed many of the hosts you suggested don't really say much about what you're getting for the premium of "management". I saw things like setting up backups and working -with us- to do some configs, but not too much other detail for that extra ~$100/mo. As it is, most managed offerings are starting about $50/mo. higher than our current dedicated managed HG server (already well into your "phone bill" category). Of course, that's also why we're having this discussion. :-) What would you consider the basic, or minimum services that should be included in "management"?

Our primary traffic will be US based, but with a high potential for substantial UK/Australia traffic. At this point, I don't know which of those regions will bring the highest loads. Latency is a major concern for dragging data around the globe. If we used a 3 server arrangement with 2 mirrored content servers and a 3rd storage/alternate email server, where would you suggest placing the server handling the UK/AUS traffic for best performance? Also, do you have any suggestions on mirroring? As I'm writing this, I just realized at first the content might be 100% mirrored, but in time, parts of the content could likely become regionalized.

One huge concern in selecting a host is company stability. Not just in terms of being swallowed by EIG, but also in -not- being a "one man band" where incapacitation of one key individual could cripple the company. That happened to Abundantliving with DataWebPro when Steve Hetrick suddenly died. You hint at having your own solution. I'd like to know more about what hosting you offer.

In a different direction, let me ask you about DNS. I'm in the process of migrating from HG's DNS servers to to registrar-based servers (GoDaddy). Something I noticed is CNAMEs are not present in DNS queries despite being in the zone file. I've tested this against several servers, using various tools, and the result is consistent. I do not recall seeing this behavior in the past. The CNAMEs DO resolve, but you can't query them. The folks at GoDaddy were unable to explain this behavior. I don't recall ever -not- seeing CNAMEs when using a query tool. Do you have any insight to this?

Sorry, my thoughts are all over the place today. I hope I'm being clear enough.

Thanks again for the guidance.

abundantliving 08-07-2013 08:21 AM

KP, as you can see, I've invited my technical services manager to join the dialogue. It should be pretty obvious that he is much more knowledgeable about the technology involved, as well as my current and future hosting needs, than I. For that reason, unless either one of you specifically asks for my 2 cents, I'm going to keep quiet and let the 2 of you take this discussion forward (I'll be reading everything, for sure!).

As for your articles... they were amazingly well written. I posted them to the WF thread as well as my two private facebook groups (and other business FB groups I'm involved with). I know my technical services manager posted them to a couple of places as well. We'll continue to post them in various places as we both believe this is a situation that others should be warned about. Thanks for taking the time to write such comprehensive pieces.

kpmedia 08-07-2013 05:14 PM


Most people would have said "Use XYZ, they're great!" from the start, and then gone away. The advice may not have been any good.

At this point, you've given a decent number of details, and most would have advised "Use ABC, DEF or XYZ, they should meet your needs" and been done. The advice would maybe maybe 66-33 at best. I could do that now, by mentioning Futurehosting and Namecheap.

But if you don't mind, I'd like more. I like to give 100% accurate advice. :)

- What is the current file size? (file system only, not databases)
- What is the file size of the database? I assume MySQL, but let me know if that's wrong.
- What kind of media files or download do you have: How many, how often are more added, and average file size each?

I ask because that impacts the backup method, and the location between backup servers and primary web servers. That means you need to plan this out some.

Know the email information is good. About what's the monthly volume you send now? And plan to send in 6 months? Have you considered using an external SMTP service like Mandrill, Amazon SES, and CritSend to keep you web server IPs clean, if the is any kind of frequent marketing-based email traffic?

Do you really need redundancy per continent? That gets expensive and complicated. And it may not be needed anyway...

For example, this site is hosted in Europe. Was it fast enough for you? Probably so. When it comes to downloads -- files, videos, audio, etc -- we manually mirror those things, if needed, to both continents, and link to both (the visitor can choose). There's a USA location and a Europe location for the CDNs. You can pay for a actually CDN service, but I just assume manually mirror when needed, using a low-cost VPS to hold the files. Such a server needs no panel, and runs ngnix for static content. For 30GB, we're talking all of $40 per year. Yes, per year!

Australia/NZ hosting is very expensive.

EIG and a few other large hosts are super-crappy indeed. And as you said, most one-person/small hosts are also lousy, agreed. The issue with most small hosts is they're amateurs and use budget-grade servers. That's a recipe for disaster. They're not using premium services like EuroVPS and LiquidWeb, if reselling and using a VPS. Most don't use any kind of dedicated server. When customers need dedicated, they just resell servers with a markup from (again) some other budget shop, which itself may be a budget reseller. Isn't hosting fun? There's all these levels. It's like a ponzi scheme.

Our hosting plans are almost all custom, using high-end hardware from a premium host. We only do what normal hosts don't or can't -- provide advice on tech/SEO/marketing, oversee custom backup methods, server administration, regular security monitoring, advanced security lockdowns, etc. And no, while that may sound fancy, it's not necessarily expensive or cost-prohibitive. Contact Us and send us an email. (I handle this, so I'd be responding to you. We'll keep discussing this in the forum, so just make it a short one that I can reply to regarding price and plan details.)

When you get into dedicated server, think "2x the phone bill". My monthly cell phone bill for 3 people is about $130. That's a good budget to started into dedicated. Dedicated servers are $100-250 on average. The house phone is $40-80, depending on if includes DSL. Those are good VPS budget numbers right there.

Realize the Hostgator's dedicated servers were ... unusual. All dedicated servers were actually a OpenVZ VPS. They claimed is was only 1 OpenVZ session on a bare-metal server, but that's didn't make any sense. Something was VERY fishy about that situation. As recently as May of the years (a few months ago), it was discussed on WHT. There's zero reason to run VPS software on a dedicated server. At best, they're possibly trying to skirt the cPanel licensing, which is about $15 per VPS and $30 per dedicated. At worst, they're outright lying. Either way, their ethics are in the toilet. This has been method for several years now, so that's not an EIG change! In other words, when looking for your next host, you just can't use them as a basis for anything, neither budget or tech specs.

I'll split DNS question into a separate thread and answer that there. :)

kpmedia 08-07-2013 09:30 PM


Another option on the CDN front would be to have a CDN hit against a single domain on either the server, or Amazon S3. Each domain is $$ per month, and that adds up to $$$/monthly very quickly. There's several ways to do this. The only variable is the budget. Lots of domains, lots of money. If that's not an issue, you can certainly do it that way. If you want to save money, you have to get creative on the setup (i.e. single CDN domain, manually mirroring, etc).

I've done all of these before. I used Akamia and Edgecast at the upper end, CloudFlare for smaller CDN, and we just use a manual method here for this site.

kpmedia 08-09-2013 01:55 AM

The DNS question was answered here:

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