Web Hosts Ain’t Web Hosts

Over the last few months, I became disappointed with my web host, Lunarpages. I’ve been with them for just under six years so this was by no means a “fly by night” arrangement.

As someone who lives, breathes and works in IT, I know it would be a perfect world if everything ran at 100% efficiency with zero downtime but realistically this can be difficult and/or expensive to achieve. To keep tabs on my web host, I use an external monitoring service called Mon.itor.us which checks the web server for both web and email responsiveness and provides an alert when something stops working. Also, once a week I get a nice report giving me a performance summary.

I know I can expect the occasional blip on the radar and that the interwebs can have a bout of indigestion but in recent months these blips have become far too frequent on top of a three day outage affecting five domain names that I look after. Their quality of their customer support has also declined in my opinion. Perhaps I was spoilt by their live support with real technicians back in 2004 which then gave way to a queued ticketing system. After that, the knowledgeable technicians were hidden behind a wall of first level support (with whom on many occasions I have had disagreements about the way my cases should have been handled). Things have never been the same since “the good old days”.

On paper, things may seem to have changed quite a bit in the webhosting business over half a decade. Bandwidth and storage on offer has increased from tens of gigabytes to unlimited* (yes, there is that dreaded asterisk). Realistically, these increases are a marketing ploy to keep up with the Joneses plus you are restricted by an acceptable usage policy on shared servers which pretty much makes these limits worth little more than the pixels comprising the text on your screen.

Prices have also plummeted for entry level plans but only if you lock in for increasingly longer contracts. Now, at least in Australia, 12 or 24 months contracts seems to be the norm for deals on mobile phones and broadband. Personally, I prefer shorter contracts for products or vendors with whom I am not very familiar or otherwise I give them a very wide berth.

As an example, Lunarpages (my soon to be former web host) sell the Basic Plan for US$4.95 a month on a 60(!) month contract and gradually increases in price from there as the contract length decreases. Here is a screenshot of their Basic Plan pricing:

On a financial basis, of course the 60 month contract wins hands down but I don’t know many people that would ever sign up to something for that length of time. Maybe it’s a cultural thing given that I’ve used a US based web host instead of an Australian web host but certainly within Australia, the longest consumer contract I have seen within the telecommunications arena was 36 months long.

I guess the other thing that has disappointed me is the “land rush” when the masses want affordable (i.e. dirt cheap) web hosting and a web host oversubscribes their servers to maximise their profit whilst using their policies to punish those that may remotely attempt to use what they had signed up for in the first place. Service performance suffers as does the customer experience.

Anyway, I have select InMotion Hosting as my new web host after extensive research and have appreciated the availability of their live online support on two occasions so far as well as the responsiveness of their telephone support. I guess time will tell if I have chosen wisely. Purely on a numbers basis, it could be argued that InMotion is providing less for the same price (at least in the first year as I receive a $1 discount per month) rather than promising the earth and then under-delivering.

So people, don’t settle for mediocrity. If you’re not happy with the service, vote with your feet.

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