Just while I’m in the middle of the (too lengthy) process of deciding whether to stay with VPS.net or change hosting provider again and even go to a dedicated WordPress hosting outfit, I see a pre-battle tweet by Brian Clark AKA Copyblogger that nobody has done it right so far. When someone asks him whether he had looked into WPEngine he answered:
Yes, we decided to roll out our own Websyntesis. Apart from WordPress itself, this is the third dedicated WordPress only hoster after Page.ly and WPEngine I’m aware of.
Oh Irony 2: Copyblogger is a former Thesis partner – hence the name?
Last year there was much ado about Matt Mullenweg threatening to sue Chris Pearson of Thesis with respect to the theme’s GPL compliance. I started my post with:
Yesterday I opened my dashboard and noticed syn-thesis-1 by Matt Mullenweg in a window
While this was going on Chris Pearon and Brian Clark split up their partnership and Brian gave an interview to Technosailer about this split up. Guess what? Technosailor is one of the guys behind WPEngine.[Oh Irony update: I found out Technosailor stepped down first and left WP Engine entirely later]
Afterward Copyblogger teamed up with Genesis od Studiopress, a WordPress theme framework developping community.
Oh Irony 3: Chris Pearson is on VPS.net
He seems decently served by VPS.net. However I’m not sure anymore he’s still there.
Oh Irony 4: Woothemes is also on VPS.net
Next to Genesis and Thesis Woothemes is the third big WordPress theme developper and also they are seemingly served well by VPS.net..
You can only host at Websyntesis if you use the Genesis theme. Not for me for the moment.
Theme wars just one step further…As Chris has promised his version 2.0 for over a year now without delivering…this might be an inducement to step away from Thesis.
Brian claims the cemetery of WordPress blogs with hosting issues is only due to wrong theme coding..I really doubt this, because I’ve experienced strange things with later versions of WordPress after 2.8. It could be in the WordPress core coding as well IMHO.
It’s about time for a European counter intitiative in dedicated WordPress hosting.
And I just discovered another US based WordPress only hosting party: Zippykid
Some readers may remember that a year ago Happy Hotelier and its significant sister blog Chair Blog were kicked from its then shared hosting plan by a Dutch Hosting Company without any pre warning. I was Furious!, to say the least. After the dust had settled it appeared (and they admitted) they had been overselling.
Hasty move to a US based shared hosting plan
All of a sudden I had to find another hosting company. I found and moved to Westhost through a post by Yoast.
I was very impressed with Westhost’s outfit and client service…I felt I was back to “normal”
However, shared hosting proved too slow
I found my sites loading too slow. As Yoast’s article also mentioned VPS.net and I respected Yoast’s expertise I followed his advice to try and use VPS.net……So in December 2010 I moved to VPS.net, which, with the benefit of hindsight I regret:
These snippets from my pingdom report show A measly uptime of 97,23 % – Total Downtime since December 8, 2010: 8 days 15 hrs and 49 minutes with 190 instances!!!!
It is noteworthy to see that the numerous comments to this original post of Yoast seem having disappeared completely. In a Twitter conversation Yoast admitted the comments dissappeared though his own fault through a sloppy MySQL dump. [update] However with the number trimmed down they can now be found on a Separate Page.
Yoast’s Second Post
A couple of weeks ago Yoast published a second post about VPS.Net Cloud Hosting, Cloud Servers, what’s the difference? It featured an interview with one of the guys at VPS.NET. I just read it when my sites were down for 5 hours on September 4/5 and made a comment in a series what turned out to be many comments, mostly of people who had issues with VPS.Net.
Some VPS net clients reported about their dissatisfaction
Through the posts of Yoast and via Twitter I found som blog posts from other (former) clients of VPS.net:
VPS.Net Cloud Hosting – Why I canceled my account after 2 days – Sangat Pedas.
Reelseo was another VPS client who was not amused.
N0on3 posted very extensively about his experience mainly the lack of backups
However, My situation even deteriorated afterward:
Click the image for the full downtime report according to Pingdom: Uptime 93.08 % Downtime over three days in hardly two months at 93 instances with September 5 with 5 hours and September 15 with 10 hours and September 16/17 with 29 hours downtime the most frustrating days…
You have to be a Geek bigtime to be able to manage a VPS!
Domain registration management. Do keep it separate from your hosting provider in case you want to move away from your hosting provider. Rather than moving a domain from one hosting outfit to another which can take up to 5 working days, you can easily change the url to where your site is hosted and depending on the TTL you’ve set the propagation can be as fast as a couple of hours.
You must always keep a separate e-mail, because if you don’t and your VPS goes down, there is no other way of communicating with the support other than a slow web based ticket system
Server management. Anybody know how to login into and manage an Apache server from a command line? I don’t. It is very specific linux stuff.
How to secure or harden your server against outside intrusions? I’m not technical enough to give you guidance.
How to manage a CDN (a Content Delivery Network)?
Control panels for the VPS (the server itself)?
Control pannels for the programs you want to be run by your VPS?
Updating the stuff.
Preparing for calamities with backups and so on.
I can assure you it is a steep learning curve and actually much too time consuming to be bothered with. I’m sure Yoast is well versed in all these matters, but I am not and I don’t want to be. I simply want to be able to run my business and occasionally post here and on my other blog, without all this hassle.
Alternatives for VPS Hosting
I came across two companies who do dedicated WordPress hosting: Page-Ly and WPEngine. Both take away the hassle from you.
If you are interested here are some reads about them:
Kevin Leary who discusses various possibilities
Marketing Tech blog WordPress Running Slow featured WPengine.
Page-Ly relies on Firehosting. WPEngine relies on its own servers (and not on Amazon as I assumed earlier).
I’m very much inclined to make the step to WPEngine despite the following consideration:
In Which Country do I want to host?
Basically I don’t want to host my site outside The Netherlands. The reason is that I am not familiar with the ins and outs of foreign (mostly Anglo Saxon) law and I don’t want to get involved into another legal system by the mere fact my sites are hosted in a foreign jurisdiction. The Netherlands itself has red tape enough.
That’s the reason I’ve tried a VPS plan with XLS hosting in the meantime. XLS hosting is a pure Dutch provider, but has a setback: It’s helpdesk closes after office time. But during the day I’m usually busy with my business and later in the evening I can find some time to go into hosting details so their service level doesn’t work for me.
I’ve also tried JaguarPC as they advertised having Dutch clouds. However after signing on they admitted that they wouldn’t start new Dutch clouds in the foreseable future.
So despite their setbacks I’ve decided to try VPS.net once more with their AMS based cloud servers.The speed of VPS.net is great as well as its support..They promised me a migration….Also, their slogan is 100% uptime, but they do not refund you for downtime…they credit you for future use…..
Or am I being stupid staying with them one more time?
It went very well for 6 weeks…
After an appalling almost 9 hours downtime on December 29, 2011 I’ve decided to move away to Dediserve
After migrating to Westhost, two months ago, I’ve been looking at the performance of this site. Luckily the visitors have been coming back slowly, but gradually. Thank you all!
However I was not content with the load time. In addition, in the future I want to deploy the photos via a CDN (Content Delivery Network) so I’ve decided to migrate to VPS Net Cloud Hosting. I can assure you this is not for the faint hearted. More to follow after the migration has been completed..
I would like to thank the people at Westhost for their patience and support. If your site is not as heavy as this one (in combination with my other projects) Westhost is the hosting provider to be. I’ve left hosting of one project with them anyway.
During the two months hosted there, there were only 12 minutes of downtime. With my former hosting company I have experience hours of downtime…..
A cloud hosted VPS is a Virtual Private server that operates in a cloud. The difference from a normal VPS is that when one data centre goes down another center takes over from it. As VPS says it:
Our VPS cloud architecture is designed from the ground up with redundancy at its core. A traditional server always has a single point of failure; a hard drive, a power supply, a power outage. Our virtual private server cloud uses a RAID 10 SAN system, powered by Cisco network hardware, allowing virtual machines to be quickly moved to new hardware in the event of a failure.
Again it is a matter of a lot of commercial and or technical talk and things they don’t tell you.
Neither Yoast, nor VPS, tell you the learning curve is so steep that you should not try to set up your own VPS if you only have a scanty knowledge of Cpanel and how DNS work like I had. If for instance, if you are a bit familiar with Cpanel already, be warned that a VPS Cpanel and a User Cpanel are two completely different matters, let it be trying to understand their inter operability.
Somehow I miss an article at VPS that describes what the maintenance of your own setup precisely could entail. In other words VPS should give more insight what managed hosting precisely does.
VPS has a wiki that only gives some scanty information. Be sure, before you head over to VPS, you have read and re read their entire features, their entire wiki their entire faq and their entire blog.
Especially from the blog you should read:
Moving to the Cloud: Creating your first account in cPanel
Moving to the Cloud: Your First ISP Manager
VPS.NET 8/20/2010 Weekly Update Introduction of Jumpbox. An out of the box VPS WordPress installation. May work if you have one Blog, may not work if you have several blogs…
When migrating servers in shared hosting you usually get a temporary name to access your site via a browser. It is not easy to see how to get such access in VPS. The advantage is that you don’t start repairing a migrated WordPress installation using the temporary name and break al the links to your photos….If I would have known 2 months ago that you can buy a month of managed service from VPS including a setup fee and thereafter can cancel the managed hosting and go on with self hosting, then I would not have migrated to Westhost. I would have jumped into the VPS hosting right away. It would have saved me days and nights of work. The trick is that in one way or another you should have your own IP number. With your own IP number you are less likely to install your WordPress blog on a temporary address. If your not savvy with .htaccess and MySQL, you’re likely to end up like me spending days and nights of manually adjusting urls of your photos. The migration of my 2 main sites only cost 2 to 3 hours. After they were migrated they seemed perfectly in order.
All in all the managed migration went reasonably quick and well. However I had chosen to flip the DNS at my registrars after the migration. That cost me another two days and many tickets getting it resolved.
A nifty tool to remember is this What’s My DNS which helps you seeing the propagation of your DNS servers.
I have domains registered at 4 instances: 3 servers of my ex host and 1 server at Westhost. One of my questions is: VPS makes it not clear whether you should transfer the registration of your domains to VPS or not. What are the advantages and what the disadvantages? Another question is. If it is advised to transfer a domain from your current registrar to VPS, where can you do that on VPS’s site?
Things VPS could should clarify in addition to other issues mentioned before:
VPS suggests you can try it out for yourself when you buy a node for one day for $, but it is not clear that if you want to check it out with CPanel, you’ll have to buy a Cpanel licence for a whole month ?…
If you have setup a server with a paid license for for instance Cpanel, you shut it down and you start a new server with Cpanel…you get another bill for Cpanel…
Comparing VPS with Westhost now, I noticed that their online chat response times and ticket response times are slower than Westhost’s. I assume that this is because the VPS peeps are maybe more in the clouds that the down to earth Westhost peeps….
Finally I’m not yet sure the load time has become faster after the migration… [Update: at December 8, 2010 the propagation of the DNS servers seems complete and I measure a nifty 2.5 @ 3 secs as opposed to 8 or more secs, but this is Europe]
During my research into a reliable web hosting alternative I had discovered Wikipopia (formerly Serversiders), but Wikipopia disappeared since and I found similar tools at Whoishostingthis and Whois Domaintools
So I’ve checked a couple of sites randomly to see where they are being hosted:
Matt Mullenweg, of WordPress, interestingly uses a .tt, a Trinidad and Tobago TLD extension to have one of the shortes URL’s available. Funny. According to Wikipopia he hosts at Layered Tech.Com. Off course they host the whole WordPress rigmarole and they do cloud hosting.
The reason I’m sharing this with you is that there are several pitfalls in the hosting trajectory. One of them is Load Time. With firebug I’ve tested the load speed of several sites mentioned above and am not really impressed. Some SEO guru claimed that every 500 miliseconds your site loads faster, your conversion betters 20%. So my focus currently is on load time.
I also found out that my Dutch hosting company is a reseller rather than a dedicated hosting company.
WordPress itself recommends hosting hosting companies. Plus recently it introduced Vip Hosting, only for the happy few.
Mashable and Techcrunch show load times up to 20 seconds! How come they keep being successful?
Booking.com, the online OTA (=On Line Travel Agent) has an amazingly short load time, less than 3 seconds. Moreover It feels slick. Same with Tripadvisor, the online review company about 2 seconds…
I prefer my blogs to be photo rich. Problem that causes is long load times. Since Happy Hotelier is now hosted in the US, while it used to be hosted in The Netherlands I all of a sudden see my page load time doubled or tripped. Probably because each tiny little file has to cross the Atlantic Exchange.
I’m considering upgrading my hosting package to virtual cloud hosting, but that may be too expensive.. Another way is deploying images over a free or paid CDN (Content Delivery Network). But you could also consider to trim your blog in other ways. I’ve found some great posts in that respect:
I was panic stricken when I discovered Happy Hotelier was suspended by my Dutch Internet Hosting company. Were hours and hours of work possibly put down the drain? What amount of work involved the quick unforeseen move? I really didn’t have that amount of time available…Luckily we’re back to normal now…more or less, because the page loading speed is not what I was used to…
1) The Story they told me
They informed me that due to “They didn’t know what caused the problems” they were not prepared to host me any further on their shared hosting packages. I needed an upgrade to the next deal they offered: an approximately $120.- per months VPS plan…..Not in 120 years!
If I agreed to move the two main blogs over to another host they would block my two blogs permanently and would put my hotel site and other commercial sites back up immediately. Just when I was negotiating with the hosting company I was having several potential guests on another line claiming they couldn’t access the hotel website and wanted to make reservations…
2) The Solution
First question was: How to find a reliable host within a couple of hours and to move over the stuff (two blogs with together over 3,000 posts and approximately 45,000 unique visitors and 65,000 page views per month? I remembered having read a reasonably recent post from Yoast WordPress Hosting. Go VPS cloud hosting! Nice advice, but unless you are willing to pay $ 99,- monthly for a managed plan, you are facing a tremendous steep learning curve in implementing the thing. According to Yoast the second best thing is Westhost shared hosting. So after a live chat with a sales rep of Westhost, which is one of their nice features by the way, who claimed that they could handle the blogs in one shared hosting business plan and reassured me that they would try to help find an amicable solution when the load would prove to be too heavy.
3) What they don’t tell you
Apart from ten obvious things hosting companies don’t tell you (do read this nice summary Ten Things the Web Hosting Company didn’t tell you from Thai devellopers!), I’ve faced the following issues:
4) Do never register your domain names with your hosting company.
Yoast should have had this advice included in one of his two main articles.
There are several dedicated registrars out there who can do that.
I have made this mistake and have paid for that by heavy loss of traffic. When you transfer a domain name from one hosting company (or registrar) to another, it will take time! It takes at least 5 working days, but in practice more days. Also it has a relation with which types of domains are registered by whom. Westhost for instance does not register .nl domains…..and they don’t seem to be able to transfer an .eu domain correctly.
The reason you lose traffic is that when you move your site to a new provider, you can put a simple 301 redirect for your site on the server of your old provider. However chances are huge, that the links of your old site that are in the caches of the search engines point your readers to the wrong pages of your site and cause your readers landing on your site’s homepage only only, not to the page of the image, or keyword they found in their search. Consequently too long Happy Hotelier didn’t show a lot of stuff and was not completely accessible.
If you have a separate registrar for your domains, all you have to do is replace the two references to the DNS (Domain Name Servers) addresses of your old provider to those of your new providers. That also takes time, but is in most cases limited to 24 hours only.
There is another reason not to register domain names with your hosting company: They usually have this info on the same shared server as your hosting package…if that serer is wacky due to old software or being overcrowded, the pointing devices are down as well as I have seen several times happening with my temporary installations
5) Do make sure your provider has competent measuring tools in place!
My old provider apparently did not have top notch measuring software for its server configurations.
I must admit I haven’t discovered them at Westhost yet, but they do have CPanel to manage your account which has a bit of a steep learning curve in itself… and some items I can pinpoint more easily than I could at my own provider: Total traffic and total use of disk space.
6) When you move, preferably do not install a working WordPress installation on a temporary or a subdomain.
I had the idea to move the sites as fast as possible, apply a 301 at my old providers site. Wrong. I should have known this because I had to change server when hosted by my old provider. The temporary name I used then affected many image urls. They are still haunting me now after the second move and I have still manually change them in many posts (while I had been doing that already during a cou[ple of months this year).
Actually I didn’t realise when you upload your stuff to the server of another provider, you virally don’t move your site when your DNS details are pointing to the new server…..I tried to give Google notice of a move from my domain name to a temp domain name (a socalled subdomain which in this case read as happyhoteliertest.westhostsite.com…guess what? Google does not accept subdomains in their webmasters tools program…
7) I now use Pingdom, but they are not clear how to use their free measuring tool
Yoast somewhere claims that whenever your ISP takes your site down, you will lose SEO advantages. Even a 5 minutes down might cause you loss of Google traffic. I’ve seen several downs in my pindom screen the last couple of days. Even a blogging friend told me he wanted to have a look at my site, but found it down…However, Pingdom itself is not clear itself how many tests you may run under it’s free schedule.
8) Have several FTP clients in place.
Some do see hidden files, others don’t see hidden files. Some do permit grouped resetting of file permissions, others don’t. Part of the problem of non visibility of photos here had to do with the fact that the file permissions were too low. Being ale to reset file permissions by the map is far less time consuming than doing that by the file.
9) Be aware on the sequence the server in questions resolves
When the site was down, I quickly put up an apologizing static html page. However it took me some time and help from Westhost to realize that one server has a preference for index.php notwithstanding there being an index.html in your root directory and other servers don’t read the index.php file if there is an index.html file in place…..
10) Definitely delete W3 Cache from your installation prior to moving or reinstalling WordPress!
It has cost me a lot of time to figure out that several files belonging to the W3 Cache plugin could be interfering with the way WordPress operates….Sometimes it helps to download and reinstall a “clean” WordPress version…sometimes it helps to set permalinks to default, delete the .htaccess file in your WP root and then reset the permalinks to your usual settings.
11) Long live Firebug
Going through these moves, you should use Firefox and it’s Firebug addon, with firebug you clearly can debug WordPress installations because you can see clearly which elements of your site don’t load in the browser.
12)I’ve now ditched and replaced the professional multi language plugin here
I did this already at Chair Blog but now I’ve done it here as well.
This plugin caused so many errors and was taking much load time. You have the choice of putting translated pages into your WordPress database, which then you cannot handle anymore, because it inflates up to 50 @ 60 MB. Very inconvenient if you want to make a daily backup, as is my practice and as has saved me now in these unplanned moves….
The alternative is much lighter, albeit it only translates on a post by post basis and not on a page by page basis and maybe the SEO advantages pro claims are lost. So be it.
14) How the F** does WordPress handle photos and videos?
A long time ago there was a promise that version 3.0 of WordPress would solve all problems with photos….What I see is that be it WordPress itself or Thesis, the theme I use for this and other sites, causes photos I upload to replicate (and use server HD space) like F***ing rabbits. For each and every photo you get 2 or 3 in return…do we need this waste?
15) Provisional conclusions
Westhost has impressed me with their quick service (24/7!) and their chat functionality and price/performance ratio. Less impressed I am with their explanations on their site. I believe they need a hosting wiki. They have a forum, but forums are soo slow and soo nineties…They have hidden fees, because they charge extra for spam filters, that is like Hotels charging for WiFi access. Also they want to charge extra if you want your Whois id’s hidden….same category. Unclear is what their exact relationship with VPS.Net is, because I’m considering to go one step further and plunge into VPS.net cloud hosting. Chris Pearson of DIYthemes (thesis) also seems to be on a virtual cloud somewhere, but experimenting away has also made me wondering whether Thesis is the right theme for me, whether it is slow by itself….
I’ll publish this rambling first as it is. I may flesh it out later with links and so.
And: I’m really happy I found Nerd’s Eye View about bad blogging habits which enlightened the past dark days..
And: The photo features Yoast. It was taken at the first ever WordCamp in NL last November. It was one of my UFO’s (Unfinished Objects) to post here about the speakers at that fabulous venue. I’m geared up for the second edition, but am almost sure it will never beat the first edition. It also reminds me of posting here about the use of avatars which I have in my sleeve for a long time now.