Over the years I’ve handled a number of different websites for a range of organisations and advised a number of friends on designing and implementing websites, however there are three main things that you need for a website to work:
1 – A domain name registered with a trustworthy registrar
2 – Somewhere to host the content and possibly email
3 – Sensible content to go on it
I’m not going to touch on item 3 – I always struggle with content. I’ve found over the years that I’m much better at design and implementation of anything than actually having to keep it running. I get bored with the steady state running, so I fit better in the role of designer and administrator than actually having to worry about the minor detail of content.
So looking at item 1 a registrar….. I got introduced to websites back when I was at university and when the realisation dawned that .co.uk domain names were not that expensive then there was a flurry of us all registering our own sites. At that point I registered the shortly to be defunct jumbodesign.co.uk with the idea of it being my “design company” name, biltcliffe.co.uk as it gave fantastic email address options and this domain for my own site. Once having the biltcliffe.co.uk address then came the question of what to do with it, and the obvious answer was to share the genealogy work done by my father so that other people could see it. Probably more in depth about how that site works another time.
So back to the question about registrars – one of the advantage of being at somewhere like university is that there are enough other people around to get advice off. And it turned out this was one of those times and the recommendation was for freeparking.co.uk. If you can get past the Monopoly links and the impression the service should be free, then they are a very good registrar that I’ve used over the years without a problem.
Which brings me onto hosting which has been my fun over the last couple of months. Before I get to that, I ought to point out that while freeparking do offer hosting, at the time I started with them they were nothing more than a registrar and so I went my own way and have continued to do so.
In previous years I’ve only used 2 hosting companies. The first was a recommendation from a friend who knew what they were talking about. I continued with them until they got bought out by a much larger company and the prices when up and the features down. Since then and for many many years I’ve been hosting with orchardhosting.com, a small British based firm with servers in the UK, a good level of customer service and a price point with the features I needed at a price I couldn’t argue with. The small company mentality and helpfulness of the people involved (I’m looking at you Tom particularly) couldn’t be beaten.
The problems came earlier in the year when having moved to their new “cloud” hosting platform then Orchard experienced a major SAN failure on their system. Apparently the resilience didn’t work as designed and in the end the SAN was abandoned by the data centre and another commissioned in it’s place. All in all it was about 24 hours from going down to backups being restored and the servers back up to full strength.
As someone who has to design systems with very high uptimes and expectations (work out the downtime allowed a year on something that has to be up 99.999% of the time – it’s scary!), so they have my sympathies with things going wrong. Thankfully I don’t any more look after any critical websites, so the main inconvienance for me was my email being down for 24 hours. However the result was that Orchard have chosen to withdraw from hosting and gave everyone 3 months to find a new host.
My first port of call was the hosting company that Orchard were now recommending, however in order to get the features I required it would have meant paying 3 times what I had previously. So the hunt started for a new host. My requirements on the face of it were very simple
– PHP/MySQL based hosting, ideally Linux based
– About 5 websites
– Multiple MySQL databases. Ideally about 10
– Ideally CPanel based in order to make my life easier
– Not paying significantly more than what I was paying previously
On the face of it that’s not to difficult, however the main challenge was finding someone that I think I can trust to host the websites and email. There are a lot of hosts out there at £1.99 at month, however once you start looking into the reviews the support was appearing very poor.
To make life more difficult, rather than having people to turn to for advice, I was now the one being asked for it, and I’d not had to find a new hosting company for many years. In fact, I’ve moved house more times that I’ve changed hosting company!
Cutting a long story short (you’re probably all bored by now) – after many attempted starts to look around and getting close to a decision only to find an issue and give up, I’ve finally done it and moved hosts. The new host I’ve gone with is vidahost.com. Like Orchard they are UK based, they meet my requirements, and I’ve taken the leap and gone with their 3 years for the for the price of 2! Add into that a nice hidden discount code page that gave me an additional 20% off I’m now actually paying slightly less than I was previously.
Only time is going to tell how it will pan out, but what I can say is that the hosting was up and running smoothly. Moving from one CPanel based host to another has been very easy – all the sites, databases, and even existing emails have transferred across. I’m not into snagging and deciding what of my development/play projects are actually worth moving.
So watch this space and see if I made the right decision. It’s probably going to be a case of no news is good news as that’s something I like in a host!