Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Finding a Web Host

I’ve been looking around for a web hosting company for some time. It started off when I got enticed by an advertisement from a certain company that promised unlimited-everything. I’ve been self-hosting all my websites since forever, because I have the infrastructural resources and I have the technical know-how. But I could not do it as cheaply as those unlimited-everything offers.

So, I got interested in outsourcing my website hosting. There is plenty of demand for web hosting. It’s also a very competitive business, with too many companies offering about the same feature-set and roughly the same prices. The margins are not much. The companies are mostly surviving because of sheer volume.

The number of unlimited-everything web hosting plans are also plentiful, and are typically priced at US$6.95 a month. With various offers and promotions, you’ll usually be able to find something at US$4.95. The usual unlimited-everything plans typically offer:

  • Unlimited disk space
  • Unlimited bandwidth transfers
  • Unlimited domains
  • Unlimited email accounts
  • Sometimes unlimited MySQL databases

They are all usually Linux-based hosting systems since they are more scaleable than those that are Windows-based. Some of the litte things where they differ, that matter to me, are:

  • Availability of SSH shell access
  • Type of installer scripts for auto-installing software packages
  • Length of money-back guarantee

I shan’t provide any links, because you can easily Google search all the reviews and comparisons.

I eventually decided to go with Bluehost, because they’ve generally received good reviews. They have a promo offer at US$4.95 per month. They have anytime money-back guarantee, which means even if you sign-up for 36 months, the contract is on them rather than on the customer (i.e. you lock in the price for 36 months, but you are still free to quit any time).

Bluehost provides SSH shell access, but only after verifying your account, which entails sending them an image of your credit card or government issued identity card, depending on the method of payment. I thought this was rather silly and unnecessary, but I subsequently found out that this is not uncommon.

Bluehost uses SimpleScripts in addition to Fantastico that is bundled in cPanel. This is used for auto-installing software like WordPress or Joomla. I’ve been using WordPress and I’m already familiar with its very simply manual installation method (i.e. install from ZIP or tar.gz file). SimpelScripts makes it so much simpler, it’s basically a one-click magic.

I did have an opportunity to try out the live chat support before I signed up with Bluehost. The support is 24×7. I’m happy that they were able to proficiently answer my technical query.

The physical server that I was hosted on was a dual-socket 12-core AMD Opteron 6168 system, with 32GB of RAM. The home disk (presumably shared) was listed as having 688GB. Just for interest, uname says:

Linux box730.bluehost.com 2.6.32-29.1.BHsmp #1 SMP Wed Feb 23 10:03:17 MST 2011 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

I’m curious how disk space is provisioned to grow according to customer demands.

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