Web Hosting

by samantha copeland on November 1, 2006

In the long-long ago, I had my web hosting on the VUSE UNIX servers. It came as part of my School of Engineering server space on the network. After graduation, I moved on to EarthLink and the free web space (I think it was in the 5MB-8MB range) that went with having a dial-up account with them. Wasn't much, but it took care of keeping me web-ified.

Shortly before moving on to my second job, I moved on to Llama Communications hosting. At the time, their packages were pretty good, however, their pricing and space allocation stayed the same (as of October 2006 their prices appear the same as they were in 2000), whilst other folks got more competitive. For example With Llama Communications, you can be on-line for as little as $6.95 a month. And, unlike most other web hosting services, $6.95 a month gets you 10MB of space and many more features!. Today that $7/month will get you at least 1GB, not 10MB, at most hosting companies, if not 5GB. I had their "Plan 3" which was $19.95 a month and got me 150MB of space on a Linux server, not bad for 1999, but in 2002, it just didn't cut it for me any more.

Moving on, I discovered NPSIS - a dual Windows & Linux hosting company. I was moving away from Linux anyway as I worked with Windows-based programming in ye olde day job. In 2002, the $8/month package got you 100MB space & 1GB of traffic. They adjusted the space & bandwidth included every few years - today you'd get 400MB & 4GB respectively (they were good about giving you the same disk space as everyone else paying the same rate for the package of the same name). One of the cool things they did was host all mail servers on Linux, rather than Windows. At the time Windows mail servers were pricey & Linux, being first cousin to UNIX, handles robust & feature-laden mail servers pretty well.

However, in recent months, their level of service has fallen with frequent site outages and slow response time from customer support. They also don't seem to be too interested in keeping their older customers up-to-date (new accounts get Win2003 & .Net 2.0, at the time I left them I was still on the same Win2K server as from Day 1 - even after the hardware failure in August 2006).

I've also been subject to many hacks (DAV requests that inject new pages into my webspace. I used to be able to tell them about the hack and they would apply a patch or re-deactivate Front Page. The last time I informed them (and provided logfile entries that clearly showed anonymous non-authenticated access) they said my password must have been compromised - Hello!!! and I should change my password - no response after I specifically pointed out the lack of an authenticated userID in the log file - just the usual - for anonymous. I've also gotten sick of their multiple control panels with multiple logons that are cryptically named so you have to contact support and wait for them to decide you're worthy of reply.

They have also had a change in management (some outfit named ABriYah out of NC rather than UT) that I found out about accidentally (by looking at their WHOIS entry & by calling them up about an issue).

Today, I've grown ambitious - I've gone VPS. This means someone is running a server at their location with several virtual PCs running Windows 2003, one of which I have complete and total control over (well, more or less). No more dealing with poor code from other sites on the same box trashing my site, no more asking when is component X going to be loaded - I just Remote Desktop to the server, drop the files on there and install - happy-happy. Plus, the hosting company, Host My Site, has 24x7x365 support. I've actually gotten someone at 1AM!

I'm able to run some pretty effective spam blocking on my email as I'm also running a dedicated-to-my-box POP3 server SmarterMail in conjunction with the web hosting - in the first 48 hours of turning on spam filtering, I blocked over 200 pieces of spam from the 2 POP3 accounts on the server from getting to the Inbox (dumped into a junk folder for review). NPSIS just flagged the mail and I had to still download the message & filter from the mail client. Now, if the junk box gets too big, it clears half its space to make room for more. I've even go so far as to link in RBLs to block at the SMTP level - meaning the spammer can't even get the message onto the server to be filtered to the junk box, pretty cool, huh?

I've had to do a little bit of care & feeding as the box has only just gone on-line, however, once I get everything loaded up I should be able to just log on once in a while to monitor.

A buddy of mine @ work has also decided to leave NPSIS for similar reasons I outline above. While HostMySite was on his short list, he ultimately decided to change to Parcom Internet Services. They have some really nifty looking packages & offer something most providers don't offer: ability to host multiple webroots off of a single billing account (You can have more than one domain account sharing resources. Great to have a second or third personal site along side your primary business site for example.). Ted's got 2 domains and he is now able to host the webroots separately rather than being forced to have each of the sites share the same root files.