Category: Blogging

Moving Time Again!

Well, it’s time to move my website to a new host. I think that I have been the longest with Hostgator, and it was a good experience, but it is time to move. My main reason for moving is trying to get SSL. I wanted to add security to my website, but it was going to cost way too much to do it through Hostgator.

Read More

Pardon the Dust: Transition in Progress

Things might look a little different on the blog if you haven’t been back in a while.  And, things might not be working quite up to par for a bit.  Please pardon the dust.  I’m trying to get things back in order as quickly as my schedule allows.

So, here’s what’s going on: I am moving my website to a VPS.  My term at Hostgator expired, and I decided that this next year, I want to include SSL on my site and take it to the next level.  Doing so at Hostgator was not cost effective in the least.

So, I am rebuilding everything on my own VPS.  It’s exciting but things may be a bit rough for a few weeks.  I hoping to pull together a new theme on the blog, SSL for securit/SEO, and tie it all together on a multi-site WordPress installation.

Please keep checking back and see how it goes!

Switching Hosts Again!

So, if you noticed the downtime this past weekend, I have to explain.  I had to switch hosts!

My Website Hosts

 

The Problem

I received a call from Web Hosting Hub on Friday to tell me that my site was suspended.  The reason that they gave was that my site was using too much CPU.  I am not sure exactly what part of my site was the problem, but the tech indicated that it was the Ajax portion of WordPress.  The tech further suggested that maybe it was one of the plugins such as the SourceCode plugin which would be “SyntaxHighlighter Evolved”.

To make matters worse, I had just renewed for year of hosting with Web Hosting Hub.  It seemed like just after the renewal, I noticed an increased number of pingdom reports that the website was down.  Very rarely did it seem to impact me.  I mean when I would visit the site, the pages loaded fine. It just caused me to wonder if something was wrong, and I guess that it was.

Web Hosting Hub‘s answer was to switch to to VPS hosting.  They could move me over to a plan at InMotion for $50 a month.  Now, I had just renewed for just over $100, which breaks down to less than $10 a month.  Going from $10 to $50 is quite a jump.

So, that’s what switched me from Web Hosting Hub.

My Host History

Let me reminisce just a little.  I started blogging after my sister’s influence at Blogger.com.  After doing that for a while, I switched to WordPress.com with the hopes that it would support sourcecode better.  It didn’t, but it was still a good switch for me.  Next, I took the plunge and jumped to my own website: digitaleagle.net.  Lunarpages was the first host.  They were good at first, but I had some downtime that coincided with my AdSense earnings dropping.  So, when I came up for renewal, I did my research, and picked Web Hosting Hub.  The change was tremendous.  I did some speed tests and the site was much, much faster.  Now, I went back to my research from last year, and I chose to switch to Host Gator.

So, in summary:

My complaint

Web Hosting Hub has been great for me.  Like I said, when I switched from Lunarpages, the site ran much faster.  My traffic increased.  So, I had planned to continue with them a second year.

My biggest question is how could I have prevented the problem.  Web Hosting Hub doesn’t have any tools where I can even see what the CPU usage is.  I can view stats for hits and lots of great specs from Google Analytics, but that doesn’t include CPU usage.  So, how could I have seen this trouble coming?  How can I troubleshoot it to figure out which part of my site was causing the problem.

On the flip side, I noticed that the CPanel tool at Host Gator has a CPU statistic on the left side.  And, there is a link to a graph.  Amazingly enough, I have the majority of my stuff transferred over, and the stats look good:

CPU Stats

 

So, the big question is: was something going on at Web Hosting Hub besides my website?  Or, did the downtime disrupt some traffic that was causing the CPU spikes?

 

Renewal Game

One of my other complaints about the whole hosting setup is that they entice you in with big discounts.  Then, when it comes time to renew, they don’t offer any discounts.  For example, I paid about $60 for my first year at Web Hosting Hub.  To renew, I paid over $100.  To rub it in, I saw ads on my own website (via AdSense) for hosting at Web Hosting Hub for %50 off.  The catch is that it was only for new customers.

So, it benefits to switch hosts every time!  I understand the reasoning — they are trying to get people to switch to them.  I wish there were a way to reward a customer for being loyal.

Web Hosting Hub Fair

To be fair, Web Hosting Hub did treat me right.  They did give me every opportunity to export my website.  They re-enabled the account and put a .htaccess on it to block outside traffic.  That allowed me to use CPanel to do one last back up of everything.

In addition, once I put in the cancel, they refunded the full renewal amount that I had just paid.  So, I did get my money back.

New Features

The switch did have a number benefits so far.  First, Host Gator has a free transfer service.  You can give them your passwords to get into the old CPanel, and they will transfer everything over to their site.  I didn’t really get to use the service, because I canceled Web Hosting Hub too soon.  Still, I don’t remember Web Hosting Hub offering anything like that,but maybe I am wrong.

Second, SSH access was included even with the lowest level plan.  I can SSH into the website to run commands.  I was able to use PHPShell with Web Hosting Hub, so it wasn’t a big difference, but it is still convenient.

Third, Host Gator has git pre-installed.  I use Git to track the changes to my website.  On Web Hosting Hub, I had to use PHPShell to compile it on their side.  Again, it worked for me, but having it already is much more convenient!

Speed Test Results

One of the things I wanted when switching to a new host was for my site to load faster.  The hosts all claimed they were faster, and I think I even had one of the Sales people tell me that my site would speed up after I switched.  So, I decided to run some tests and compare …

I tested using WebPageTest.org.  I ran the test before my site moved.  And, I ran the test again today on the new host.  Here are the results…

On the digitaleagle.net homepage:

  • Lunarpages (before): 2.174s
  • Web Hosting Hub (after): 1.229s

On http://psst0101.digitaleagle.net/2011/02/21/step-by-step-peopletools-8-51-upgrade-part-4/

  • Lunarpages: 8.940s
  • Web Hosting Hub: 5.594s

On http://psst0101.digitaleagle.net/2011/12/19/running-jasper-reports-from-java/

  • Lunarpages: 7.589s
  • Web Hosting Hub: 3.804s

So, it looks like my site sped up by a decent amount.  I wish that I could get these kind of stats before I signed up for a web site.

Website Move Complete

Ok, switching Internet Hosting has been a bigger deal than I thought it would be.  Here are a few thoughts that I learned through the process.  Please feel free to add any comments or things you have learned.

Here’s what happened.  I had had a good experience with Lunarpages in the past.  The sales people spoke English well and were very helpful.  So, when I wanted to host my own website, they just made the most sense.  I did the math, it seemed like it would work out, and I went for it.

Now, it’s been a year, and my “contract” is up.  I had an incident with the technical support that left me wondering.  It was probably my fault.  I had used the website to transfer some pictures, and I left both the pictures and some site backups on the site wasting drive space.  The backups were generated using the backup tool on their CPanel, but they sent kind of a threatening email about my using the account for something that I was not allowed to use it for.  When it was all said and done, instead of them simply asking me to delete the files, I began to question how well they knew their system.  They didn’t seem to know about the backup tool and then they said it included database backups when it didn’t!  I ended up writing my own backup tool that included everything instead of relying on their’s.

Couple that experience with finding my admin tool not responding a couple of times, and I decided it was time to move.  We’ll see if that was a good decision, but that brings me to where I am today.

Lesson #1: Choosing a host is hard

I found that there are tons of hosting options out there.  For the most part, they have the same features, but there are slight variations.  Aside from a few expensive ones, most of them were somewhat closely priced.  Sometimes, it was hard to tell that an option was closely priced because everyone had different discounts through different channels.

What I finally did was create a Google Spreadsheet with the different options.  I tried to figure out as much information as I could from each host’s website.  Then, for the ones that looked promising, I went back and chatted with a Salesperson to clarify and ask questions on items that I couldn’t find.  I had one row for each option, and these are the columns that I used:

  • Host name + link to site
  • Sign up link (when I talked to a rep, I wanted to capture their information so that if I signed up they would get credit.  Some had a special link that would give them credit, others just said to mention them in chat or when signing up)
  • Monthly price
  • Total price (my target time frame was a year), including setup fees if applicable
  • Price including SSL (I was unsure if I wanted to pay for private SSL)
  • Promotion link (As you research, you will probably come across links or special codes that give you discounts)
  • Features:
    • Private SSL
    • Script installer (Sure makes installing new applications like WordPress much easier; they come in different names: Fantastico, Softaculous, Script Barn, 1-click installs, etc.)
    • PHP (version 4 or 5, etc.)
    • MySQL database support (version 4 or 5, also watch for quotas in either the number of databases allow or storage limit)
    • Disk space (most were unlimited but not all)
    • Email (quota on email addresses, web interface)
    • Transfer (fee in transferring the domain name?)
    • Java support (usually pretty expensive, and most apps work on PHP)
    • Git support (not many had this, but one did.  Git is handy if you do any development.  You can always compile a binary and upload it to the site, but already having it installed saves some headache.)
    • SSH access (You can always use PHP Shell instead)

Note: You can link to information from a Google Spreadsheet with the hyperink() function.  The format looks something like this:
=hyperlink(“<link URL>”, “<Text to Display>”)

Lesson #2: Reviews are hard to evaluate

I found tons of reviews for hosting all over the web.  The question is which ones can I believe?

First, as I was reviewing the companies, several looked very, very similar.  Finally, I found that Endurance International Group owns a number of hosting sites.   On my list, that included Fat Cow, iPage, Just Host, and Blue Host.  This thread on Web Hosting Talk has a small unofficial list.  These companies all may be great, but when you find a top 10 list of hosts, and they are all part of the same parent company, you begin to wonder about the quality of the review.

After signing up for Web Hosting Hub, one of the technicians accidentally sent me a “How-To” link for another company (I think it was Inmotion).  Come to find out, those two companies are sister companies.  The price and sales may be different between all of these companies, but the support is the same.  So, if you switch from one to the other, don’t expect any different technical support.

One reliable way to find out issues is to look up the Better Business Bureau.  You can see the number of complaints against the company there.  I don’t know how many people actually go to the Better Business Bureau or do they complain in forums and such.  So, forums may be a better place to look.

Lesson #3: Plan Ahead

Your current host will probably automatically renew your domain name and your hosting.  Lunarpages sent me a reminder/warning that they were going to renew, but I think you should be at least starting to plan what to do a month before your service is up.  Here’s what you have to allow time for:

  • Give your current host notice that you are not continuing
  • Research time to pick your new host
  • Time for migrating your pages, applications, databases, etc to the new host
  • Transferring the domain name: there are waiting periods for the host to transfer, plus multiple companies and steps involved

All in all, you should probably allow a month of overlap between the two contracts.

Lesson #4: Monitor Better

When on Lunarpages, I had a couple of issues where I visited my site, and the database was unreachable or the site wouldn’t load.  It was intermittant, and I never could nail down any exact problems.

I ran across this service: pingdom.  Please comment if you know of other methods to monitor.  Then, if I have issues, I know how bad they are and have concrete proof.

Lesson #5: SSL is Expensive

I still haven’t found a definite solution to SSL.  The issue is that using any kind of site that requires a password is insecure if you don’t have an https page.  The biggest danger is if you access your site using your password on a public network: restaurant, airport, library, etc.

The issue is that to do SSL, you have to have a dedicated IP address.  Then, you have to pay for a certificate.  Price it out, and I think you will find that this might just double your cost.

The two options that I need to research are shared SSL and Start SSL.  The problem with shared SSL is that you can’t use your domain name to access your site.  So, I have to figure out how to configure WordPress to work with that.  Start SSL claims that they will give you a free certificate, but Web Hosting Hub told me that it would cost $25 to install the certificate.

I have tried looking into different encryption schemes and Open ID to at least prevent sniffing passwords, but I keep coming back to the same thing.  There is no alternative to SSL.

Blog Moving Again

Ok, It is time to move the blog again!  But, this time you shouldn’t have to change your bookmarks!  I am just moving the website to new web host.

The transfer is supposed to be seamless, but I suspect you might see a little downtime over the next week as the domain re-registers and points to the new site.  If it’s not working, please give me some time and check back.

I’ll update you on the other side!

Plus One Tracking

At last!  Google has announce the ability to track the Plus One clicks.  I had added the +1 button a while back, but I was disappointed to find that I really couldn’t find out who likes or recommends which pages.

Now, according to these links, I can:

Now, I just need some data to look at!  Someone recommend me so I can see it work!

Google Plus One Button

Google just realeased the +1 button where you can recommend articles to other people.  So, you should begin to see this button on my blogs.  I think I finally have it turned on everywhere.  If you see an article that helps you, or that you like, please recommended it!  If you don’t see the button, please comment and let me know so I can ad it.

Here’s what your looking for:

Google Plus One Button Highlighted on This Blog

If you want to see a list of posts that you have recommended, you can view it on your profile.  Here’s a shortcut:

Google Profile: +1 Tab

I learned from AG Beat, that you can install an extension to be able to +1 any site regardless of having a button or not.  I am still experimenting to see how it works as to showing you how many likes you have.  What I want is a statistic built into Google Analytics or some other site showing which pages are recommended more.  I found this hack that might do the trick, but I haven’t tried it yet.

If you want my technical details on how I added the button to my site, check out my post on Linux Sagas.

Resources

Amazon.com Widgets