I decided the other day that the server in my basement was insufficient for the needs of this site and my other site, Background Exposure (my photography gallery and blog). It’s not that it was too much trouble — I do system administration as part of my day job. No, the problem was unreliability. For one, if the machine had a problem, I might not notice until the next day and might not be able to fix it for several more. Also, though my cable modem has sufficient bandwidth, it is only a semi-static IP and so changes every few months. Lastly, I’m going to be moving to Switzerland and certainly won’t have the same sort of bandwidth there as I have here in Canada. So off I went in search of a web hosting company.

  • 1and1: This company was recommended by a friend of mine for their good service. I registered backgroundexposure.com through them and they were generally quite helpful. Unfortunately, there were two problems with their web hosting, one of them a deal-breaker. First of all, their really inexpensive hosting packages don’t include MySQL database access of which both of my sites require. The $10/mo is the cheapest that does. The big problem, though, is that each database can be a maximum of 100MB in size, even though the space I’m allocated is 100GB. I’d like to think my Linux Wiki will eventually grow larger than 100MB.

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  • AN Hosting: (also knows as “midphase.com”) For $7/mo, I can get an account here that includes all the same stuff as 1and1 and the databases can be any size up to the maximum account size. Sure, the size is limited to only 50GB, but I think that’s plenty for the next little while. They really strive for good support, and achieve it… mostly. Their response time is amazing; I’ll get a reply to an email question within minutes. MINUTES! If only they read my entire email before replying. I get the feeling they’re used to certain questions and as soon as they see my message with something akin to what they’ve seen hundreds of times before, they send me the standard answer without actually reading my questions carefully. Sometimes it took three emails to get all the answers I was looking for.

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  • GlobAt: I originally registered the riverworth.com domain through them because it was the cheapest I could find. Exactly two days after I signed up with AN Hosting, they sent me an offer of pretty much the same package as AN-H but with twice the storage space, the same monthly cost, and a special promotion that would have me paying only 1/2 the total amount for the first year! What a deal! The only thing that really irked me about the package was that I was going to be upgraded to it if I didn’t opt out! The nerve! I pay $3/yr for a domain name registration and then they’re going to up me to $7/mo if I don’t tell them “no”! STRIKE ONE and STRIKE TWO! Still, the offer was really good and, since I don’t make any money off of these sites, very tempting. So I sent some email inquiries. Of the first two, only one got a reply. I asked some more questions. No reply. I asked again. Still no reply. STRIKE THREE! You’re outta here!

So in the end, I went with AN-Hosting/MidPhase. Other than their support staff not really answering all my questions, I’m quite happy with them. Their responses are near instantaneous and they seem happy to help me out. For example, when I asked if I could change my userid to my standard “bcwhite”, they replied they would have to recreate the account which would lose all the data. I said that was fine (I hadn’t put any data on it) and the change was made. The whole thing took less than an hour!

… time passes …

It’s been a little over a month now and my experience with midphase/an-hosting is absolutely terrible!!! Let’s recap:

  • Three days after I move my Background Exposure landscape photography website to this account, their server died. I’m not sure they even noticed until I sent them email. A few hours later I’m told there’s some possibly unrecoverable error and, sorry, there is no backup. Apparently the machine had only been alive three weeks and so they hadn’t bothered to start the backups. It seems they’ve never heard of the Bathtub Curve.
  • About one month after starting and moving the Riverworth Systems pages (including the linux wiki), their server dies again and again I’m not sure they even noticed until I told them via email. I certainly never received any notification.
  • Another five days later, after being off-line on a business trip, I find out that they still haven’t restored the machine. Instead they’ve moved my entire account to a new server and new IP address without telling me. That’s right… not one email. Some things weren’t working because I’d used the IP address in places when DNS was not fully set up. And guess what… They didn’t bother to restore the databases!
  • Another day later and the database is restored. But wait… It’s not up to date. It’s over two weeks old! When I ask them their backup policy, they say it’s weekly. Yeah, sure.
  • Apparently there is a server notification list that announces these problems, etc. Nobody ever told me about it and they didn’t subscribe me to it automatically. I’m told I should sign up for the new server, but guess what… There is no list yet for the new server! Their super-responsive techs don’t even bother to see if the advice they’re dispensing is valid. I think I’m going to cry.

So to recap… They’ve directly caused my websites to be down for 6 days over the course of 1 month and I still had to restore some things by hand. They claim a 99.9% uptime, so I can only assume they’re confident that they won’t have any other problems for at least 20 years! I’m still with them, not because I want to be, but because I’ve already paid for a year and don’t want the trouble of moving. I’m also doing my own daily backups!

If you’re considering MidPhase or AN-Hosting for your sites, run! Don’t walk… Run!

I’d like to hear what other people think of the hosting companies they use.