When people cut the cord, most just look at TV, internet and home phone. Some add in cellular. For me, there was a fifth area — internet hosting of my websites. Yes, you read that correctly. Plural.
After a redesign about two years ago, I had PolyWogg.ca set up as my “personal” site. ThePolyBlog.ca was my more “professional” site, writing and musings about more formal topics. I also host AstroPontiac.ca for a board I sit on. And within polywogg.ca, I also had sub-sites for photos, calendars, to do lists, etc. Most of the sites were fully integrated with my photo site cross-linked to my personal and professional sites so that I can post my media there without duplicating it in WordPress. I’ve messed around with my site design going back to 1998, seventeen years of tweaking etc. The latest tweak was creating a new subsite for astrophotography blogging and pics.
I have had various hosts over the years. One big one I had was a small company in the Prairies that a friend was using. Small, decent support for tweaks, not a lot of bells and whistles but definitely personal support. I mentioned in an earlier post that I considered running my own server, partly because of the cheap hosting costs and partly to have my own private cloud available to me easily. In the end, I decided not to run my own server, but I was ambitious with my web design and the small company wasn’t going to meet my long-term storage needs. I went big.
Mostly the company here in Ottawa worked well for me for a long time. I was paying for a business account to give me more email addresses, more storage, etc. and a LOT of room to grow, but mostly to get the higher level of support if and when something went wrong. When they were bought by Netfirms in the U.S., and everything was merged, there were definite growing pains. It took a lot of work and some complete redesign in the end to get me where I wanted to be, with multiple subsites running and everything separate by function. It worked, but the overhead to keep it all up to date was killing me. Too many updates, plugins, etc. The separated design helped immensely though to figure out what one set of subdesigns would look like, and then the other. In the end, they were similar but just slightly different enough that previous single-site solutions had been confused. Then disaster struck. Kind of.
Netfirms had a DNS attack, and it took down a bunch of their servers. My site has some plugins that monitor the site being “up” or “down” through regular monitoring from the plugin’s websites, and my inbox filled up with notifications. Site A is down. Site B is down. Site C is down. Site D is down. Site A is up again. Site B is up again. Site A is down again, etc. 36 hours of notifications of sites being up and down. Then I got the message from Netfirms that was the all-clear signal. Everything had been resolved, all was working. Except my sites weren’t back up yet. They were still down. I contacted support who assured me everything was fixed; I assured them it wasn’t since I couldn’t log in to my site. They refused to help, basically arguing with me that the problem was fixed. When I finally convinced them, no, it was still not fixed, they said, “Oh, yeah, they’re still working on it.” Really? That’s what I’m getting for business level support? $180 a year to host all my sites, minimal load on their servers, and outright lies. “It’s fixed” and then “they’re working on it” when the first lie didn’t take. I escalated to Tier 2 and got the same run around. I waited a day, still not fixed, tried again, same run around. First they told me it was completely fixed, and then when I showed them my site was down, they said the technicians were still working on it. Really? Again with two completely opposite stories? Sorry, I called it quits right then and there. I needed a new webhost, and why not look for one a bit cheaper while I was at it.
There are lists out there of the top five webhosts and some of the deals are awesome. But I liked the personal side of the first host, not thrilled about being the little number in the big cog again. I canvassed some friends, and one of them suggested GreenGeeks.com. I fell in love with them just from the name. Ignore the fact that I called them GreenGreeks about a dozen times when I was accessing their site, I checked the specs and price. I basically need unlimited subdomains and full domain hosting. Not really, probably 10 would suffice, but more than most small companies offering 1-2. This often runs into a problem not with the subdomains but with the number of databases it will let you create — some stop at 5-8, and if you count 1 for PolyWogg, 1 for ThePolyBlog, 1 for astropontiac, 1 for a calendar, 3 for separate to do lists, 1 for a photo site, 1 for a cloud/file manager, etc., I’m at 9 and I’m not even maxing out my plans yet. I can get by without a lot of upload/download bandwidth for the sites (I don’t get a lot of traffic), but I like having lots of storage space to have an easy-to-access personal cloud. Mail servers are a must, but almost everyone has those. A few other bells and whistles, and I’d be good to go. What did I get?
GreenGeeks gives me unlimited storage. Sweet. Unlimited bandwidth. Double sweet. Three different choices for email server. I’m in love. Simple user interface for the control panel, personalized support that is decent, subdomains, addon domains, DNS management and registration (which I don’t need, but nice to know it’s there), some SEO and marketing tools (not as extensive as Netfirms, but decent), access to my logs (what? really? would have had to ask at some other sites), and perhaps most important, the Softaculous Apps Installer as their default install program (not the only way to do it, just the default). I’ve installed another app that does ToDo lists well, had to do it manually as not available in Softaculous, and it was a relative breeze. The help files could be a little more up to date, but I got it to work first time, just a little tweaking of the instructions.
So Netfirms was charging me $180 for the year. GreenGeeks? Also $180. For three years. $5 a month instead of $15. For better support, more options, and a personalized experience. Tailored more to my needs. An easy trigger to pull.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Moving my old site over has been a pain in the patootie. WordPress went relatively easily, but I ended up with a config issue the first time and even though they fixed it, I wasn’t 100% confident it would stay “patched” and not self-destruct later on. Kind of a background hack that solved the immediate problem, but I wasn’t sure it didn’t have others lurking in the shadows. So I blew everything off and reinstalled manually from scratch. Then imported as much as I could of the existing base.
There is one thing missing from GreenGeeks but it was missing from Netfirms too. None of the sites will let you stream video directly. They make you upload and store it at Youtube or its clones. Video just kills them and like most hosts, they just don’t support it without a lot more cash outlay. My videos are only personal videos and I was crossposting with DailyMotion. But the wife wasn’t happy with the ads that went with DailyMotion, so I’ve moved the video files over to Google Drive. Which necessitated re-adding the links to the photo site, but that wasn’t about cutting the cord, or the new host, just something that happened coincidentally at the same time as I made the other change. I only mention it as it is a factor for a lot of people when they make a change — the cost and structure change, but how complicated do you make it to take advantage of the window of opportunity to implement other changes at the same time? As an aside, I had to threaten Netfirms with legal action to get a partial refund of the remaining year’s worth of prepaid service (I basically asked for a refund because they had not provided the contracted service). It’s only $30 back, but better than nothing.
Overall, I love the new host. At a third of the price and better service, what’s not to love?