Hosting Packages: Between Price and Performance

Web hosting. It’s like buying a car, only a lot less expensive. There are so many packages to choose from that after a while they all begin to look the same. How do you distinguish the good from the bad or just what you need from what you don’t need? And perhaps most important, what are your needs and how complicated is it to set up?

I purchased my first domain, manrilla.net, back in 2003. I purchased it through a company called Host For Web. I had little knowledge at this time about domains and hosting packages. For me, it was cheap and relatively easy to set up [this was made easier by going with HFW for both domain and hosting]. The initial cost was around $5 a month for a basic hosting package. Over the years, through advents in virtualization, hosting companies have been able to offer attractive packages with unlimited email, databases, and storage for very inexpensive prices [usually under $10]. What I found however, was that as my web site became more popular and more complicated on the backend, I began to see what I was paying for.

Around 2007/2008, I switched my web site from a static-driven site to a dynamically-driven one by installing WordPress to control the backend. As you know, this involves something a bit more complex than just serving up static pages. Now, all of the content [sans images, media] were being housed in a MySQL database which was accessed through PHP. Not that this is overly complex but if the hosting company’s infrastructure is not up-to-date or is not well maintained or top-notch, this can begin to affect service as it did in my case. Keep in mind, I was using their low- and mid-priced virtual services for around $10 a month. I liked that I had unlimited bandwidth and storage, but this did come with a trade off. Several times a month I would have issues with my site going down due to a back-end issue, such as a backup running. I also had problems with the site’s performance and how slow it would parse the data from the MySQL database causing the site to load and render slowly. My e-mail would often go down during these times as well. And most important was the speed with which media, such as audio or video files, could be delivered. I decided that I would like to look into some other options.

Having spent the last several years of my life in another reality [i.e, in technology and web design] I would often peruse other designer’s site and would occasionally see who they were using for the own hosting providers. Quite often I would see Media Temple as a popular choice. Initially, I was reluctant to switch: the process is a hassle [backups, etc.] and there was a change in pricing. Not much, but about double what I was paying. The service I was looking at was Media Temple’s (gs) Grid-Service. It’s another virtual package. I thought, “what’s going to be the difference? If one virtual package is slow, maybe they all are.” I decided to take a chance and see if there was any improvement. In short: yes. There’s been a distinct performance upgrade in terms of how fast the site loads, both front end and back, how much faster the WordPress Dashboard runs and how much faster large media files are accessed. All in all, I have been very pleased with the improvement and I consider the $20-a-month fee worthwhile. I don’t have unlimited storage with this package but it is still robust [100GB] and 1TB of network transfer. They also offer easy, 1-click installations for popular apps such as Drupal and WordPress. If you’re looking for a good hosting package, I recommend Media Temple.