We all remember the first website we built; or if you’re building your first website now then you won’t forget it. I wish someone would have shared their hosting experience with me long ago so that we could have avoided some of the challenges we’ve had trying to find the right hosting for Event Espresso and Event Smart. In light of sharing what we’ve learned, here is our website hosting journey. We hope you will share your hosting story too so other people can learn and have a better experience.
The success of my business is largely dependent upon my websites remaining operational and performing well. If a site doesn’t perform well, it brings in less revenue, revenue that is used to pay the hosting bill, the team salaries, and more. With so much riding on the performance and reliability of the sites, it only makes sense that the platform I choose to host my sites on is one of the most important decisions I can make for my business. If the sites consistently have troubles due to the hosting infrastructure, the business will suffer.
Pippin on You should love your hosting company.
Our Hosting Journey
Everyone seems to have a story about their website hosting company. Either you love them, hate them, or have dated them all. This is our brief hosting story.
Chomping at the bit with HostGator
We began our hosting with HostGator because Seth had a reseller account that he used for his freelance clients. Event Espresso began like any other new project (boot strapped) so we didn’t spend a lot on hosting. We wanted to prove we had a good idea and that we could pay our bills before investing in unnecessary infrastructure. Over time, we needed additional processing power so we grew from a virtual machine to a dedicated server. The power of a dedicated server was sufficient for a time. However, HostGator eventually had a lot of service interruptions (sometimes for nearly a full day). I think we were paying less than $200 per month for a dedicated server with the technical specifications we needed, but the service up-time was falling. The interrupted service cost us far more in lost revenue than it cost in hosting fees. We knew we needed to find a better, more reliable host…
Trial and Error by FireHost
At the same time that we started looking for a new host for Event Espresso, we knew we wanted to choose a host with the infrastructure that could support Event Smart. We knew we would need firewall protection, scalability options, redundancy options, etc.
We knew of a specialized “WordPress hosting” company that used the FireHost infrastructure as their core service, so we thought it would be a good fit for our needs. We signed for two servers with FireHost: one for EventEspresso.com and one for EventSmart.com. For both servers, our hosting fees went from $200 per month to about $900 per month. We kind of expected those fees for a more scalable infrastructure, but we also expected things to work better than they did. For the most part, EventEspresso.com worked alright with FireHost. But we had a LOT of problems with the FireHost WAP (web application firewall) and WordPress multisite while trying to build EventSmart.com. We even tried their Advanced WAF but it didn’t work well enough either. In order to give us the service level we needed, FireHost was going to have to buy a new WAF appliance and charge us an additional $1,500 per month. So our hosting fees were going to go from $200 with HostGator to $2,500 with FireHost, and that’s even before we started scaling servers and building in redundancies. FireHost clearly was not going to work for us.
Learning to Swim in the DigitalOcean
Our experience with FireHost taught us a lot. We better understood our needs (especially for Event Smart), and we better understood the server management side of hosting (not the hardware). At this same time, a more simple cloud hosting service began called DigitalOcean. DigitalOcean is designed for developers who want or can manage their own servers. They keep things simple in that they limit most of their responsibility to keeping the server on and the datacenter secure. Users (we) are responsible for server configuration, WAF security, server updates, etc. (and I have to say Darren has done a great job at learning and handling this transition). They also use SSD disks which are usually faster than standard disks. This means that we can spin up a new server for as little as $5 – $640 per month. This gave us the option to control the server configuration, firewall protection, etc. for as little as $5 per month. And, if we wanted the top-rated plan it would still be less than it cost with FireHost!
This became a win-win for us. We now have more autonomy, higher up-time, built-in redundancies (especially for Event Smart) and more scaling options than we ever thought we would. We now run 10 VPS servers for less than $200 per month! We have individual servers for testing sites, EventEspresso.com, internal blogs, several servers forEventSmart.com (redundant databases with Hyperdb, etc.), servers just to collect and store backups, etc.
Needless to say, we love Digital Ocean! There have been small hiccups here and there (a few internal network interruptions), but these interruptions have been only momentary inconveniences. We HAPPILY use DigitalOcean to host EventEspresso.com and EventSmart.com (our cloud-based SaaS event registration and ticketing platform). We don’t claim to be server experts, but for the most part we don’t have to worry about the interruptions or cost that existed with our prior hosts.
Note: HostGator and FireHost may have improved their services since we were customers. You are welcome to try (or continue to use) their services.
Share your hosting story
Using a host you LOVE or HATE? Want to share your website hosting story with others? Please fill out this survey and we’ll share the results in a future blog post OR use the comments section below to go into detail.
My hosting company is not listed, I spent many years with BlueHost for low cost reselling. It was great and had it’s place in life but as time goes on and the more you learn and the more you need to do it right, you need better. I spent almost two years trying VPS’s at various different companies. Most are mentioned above in your drop down list. I set up each Linux VPS from scratch and most importantly, tested out their support while doing so. From Host Gator and Rack Space to DotBlock and even the most evil of them all … WebHostingPad. All were ok companies, except WebHostingPad (no VPS there, just helping a client proved a miserable experience which you can read more about at my website) BUT NONE COMPARED TO LIQUIDWEB.COM! Their support is awesome, each one of them I have spoken to since building my infrastructure with them is easily a tier 3 level support technician and I have always had help solving whatever issue by speaking to the first one that answered. They don’t hire low level techs. I absolutely love My CentOS VPS Storm server with 6GB of RAM, Dual Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E31220 @ 3.10GHz, with 4096 KB of cache on each processors, and all SSDs for the hard drives and is security hardened to Linux best practices for about $200/month. It was the first time that I felt confident taking a VPS into the wild.
Thanks Tommy. I added Liquidweb to the list of options and I added a “Not Listed” option.
I use Liquidweb as well – after frustrating experiences with Hostgator etc. over the years. Liquidweb’s support is fantastic. Like you, I get top-tier support staff every time I open a ticket. For the past 2 years I’ve had a dedicated server with them, I haven’t experienced a blink in service. Highly recommended.
Thanks! I added Liquidweb to the list.
To tell you the truth, since I’m an MCSE/MCSA/C|EH and know my way around windows servers, i would just leverage Amazon Web Services for windows servers. AWS is awesome as well and I was quite surprised at the level of help I received from their techs. I, personally, would not put a Linux server in the wild without good support behind it like I have at Liquid Web as i am not a Linux guru, but I wouldn’t hesitate to drop a windows server in the wild via AWS. You can even host static websites using their S3 storage which I thought was pretty cool if you do static sites. It’s free to setup an AWS account and you only pay for what is live so you can spin up a server and shut it down at will with very little charges.