So, after considerable thought and considerable annoyance, I have finally moved to hosting a site with an Australian company. I had a few to many issues with my previous hosts and I thought moving over here will not only address these issues but also mean better understanding of legalities, and non-fluctuating prices, that is to say previously the exchange rate meant a great deal to how much my hosting would cost.
Onto the more pressing issue, I thought that in this, the first new entry of my blog I could address why I moved host including, why I think that using the commercially available cPanel is much preferable to using a self-built one. Also, discuss hosting administrators blaming customers for what are clearly server side issues. I would also like to address my concern regarding shared hosting services overloading servers, and hosting administrators not notifying customers of lengthy downtime. In advance, I will warn this is biased, as it is essentially my personal opinion after dealing with my old webhost, unlimitedmb.com. Also note that many of the issues have been brought up in their forum by me and other customers of theirs, it is available at forum.unlimitedmb.com.
cPanel is well built, it allows customers to know what they should expect and that the functions of the administrator interface will work optimally for the customer. cPanel works, this is the primary reason hosting companies use it and why it is preferred by a large customer base. The fact that they are selling their product to the hosting provider means that the host is using it due to quality and not just because it is cheap. A self-built control panel, on the other hand, can leave a lot to be desired. Usually the intention is to reduce costs for the hosting company, instead of trying to please the customer. Unlike commercial panels updates are not necessarily made frequently, if at all. This is because from the host’s perspective it is more efficient to simply manage a usable panel without upgrading functionality or performance. Commercial panels alternatively provide upgrades and gradual implementation of greater feature sets because if they did not their customer, the web host, would go elsewhere as there is competition.
Overloading servers is a common issue with shared hosting (I am given to understand) as hosts attempt to increase profits, by hosting increasing numbers of customers on the same server. This can be done as the amount of bandwidth promised is rarely entirely used by the customers. An example of this is my old site, which in any given month used about 300 MB of bandwidth whilst the maximum usage was 500 GB. This does not only apply to bandwidth but hosts can promise a large amount of hard drive space. Take the example of my previous site it used up about 60 MB of data whilst the maximum usage was 5 GB. Hosts can offer large amounts of service at unreasonably low prices often engage in these practices.
E-mail, in my opinion, is an important part of a hosting service. It is confusing then to my why unlimtedmb.com allows access to e-mail account though an insecure POP3 connexion. POP itself is not the issue the issue is that the connexion has no encryption, no security certificate. This means anyone on my local network or anywhere between me and the host could potentially use a packet sniffer to intercept the e-mails sent to me and the data would be clear and interpretable. Many hosts, including the one I have moved too include secure IMAP and POP along with a secure webmail service, some that unlimitedmb.com neglects completely. I remember a forum topic on the possibility of the creating a webmail service but this is yet too and probably will never come to fruition.
This is a replacement for my apparently factually incorrect paragraph, which has been struck-through above.
E-mail is key to any web-hosting situation, in my opinion. Why then does unlimtedmb.com seem unwilling to strive for excellence in this key aspect of its service? The only obvious option, for accessing e-mail, with their hosting is an insecure POP3 connexion. They also provide access to this a secure POP connexion but this is not shown within their help or anywhere obvious on their forum, meaning essentially it is not seen as an option. I would say the provision of IMAP would be well appreciated by customers allowing easy access to e-mail across multiple devices, POP is only really only useful for situations where e-mail is accessed from a single computer, or other device, a situation that has essentially been relegated to the past. Lastly, many hosts provide access to e-mail via a secure webmail. Unlimitedmb.com provides no such service, there was discussion of implementing it back in 2008 but those have clearly now been abandoned.
“The customer comes first” or so the saying goes but apparently, this does not apply to money hungry hosts. In dealing with my previous host I have experienced an array of issues. I must admit here that they did help me with issues that where my own fault, but when something had no, or no obvious, client related causes they consistently denied any fault on their part. The example I will cite here is when dealing with hidden files not being visible in either of my FTP clients. Being of a technologically capable mind, I had tried all methods on my end to resolve the issue. When I brought it up with the hosts, they stated the issue could only be client side and when I presented them with evidence, they flatly denied any fault on their side and ceased to comment further on the issue. This kind of attitude toward customers seems the norm on my previous hosts forum (I should note also that the forum was the only method of support), this attitude fosters resentment in long term customers ultimately culminating in them withdrawing from the hosts services.
Dishonesty is the last issue I would like to comment on, this ties in neatly with my opinion on how hosts should handle complaints. Until recently, that is after I made comment; my previous host listed their server location as in a data centre in Texas. This though true when originally published, had long since been a fallacy. They had at a point moved to New Jersey, in the United States, and now to Bayern, Germany. This though it seems insignificant is an issue. There are matters of legal significance; I have barely any understanding of laws in Texas and even less of those in Germany. Privacy laws, security laws, other pertinent laws may differ, leading to confusion of about what rights and obligations I may have with regard to my data. The over matter is one of lag. Having one’s site move from one continent to another means inconsistency, all of a sudden those in Germany have little lag, and Texans, well if any one there visits my site, have significantly longer load times. This is why now my site is hosted out of a data centre in Melbourne, Australia between the two major links out and close to me so I am nearly guaranteed to have minimal lag uploading to the network. It also means less confusion for me I now know the obligations of my hosting company, that they have to work under the laws of our federation and of the state which they reside, which are similar across board.
Rounding up, essentially web hosts should be customer orientated. Using a paid service people expect quality and hosts need to work on retaining customers for the long term rather than the short term goal of numerous new sign ups.
UnlimitedMB has provided this response (in a forum topic where I linked to this argument) that in the interest of objectivity I duplicated below, you’ll note he seems to skip some of my more important points.
We do have encrypted POP3.
Its on port 995 which is standard pop3 ssl port.
Offering large space/bandwidth limits and overloading the server are not the same thing.
At no point were you unable to use the space/bandwidth we provided you, so by definition it is not overloaded.
Its funny you even said that, since your new host offers the same large limits.
I’m sorry that your see our upgrade to a server 5x more powerful then the one we had as an inconvenience for you.
cPanel sucks, I manage several servers with it, its unstable, buggy, its backend is still the same as it was 10 years ago, flat file databases etc…
It restarts apache (leading to 1-5 seconds downtime or lag) every time someone adds/deletes a domain.
It does not properly lock the apache config file when modifying it, two customers add/delete a domain at the exact same second and that file becomes corrupted and apache crashes, you might think two people modify a domain exact second is unlikely, it still happens a few times a year.
Apache is the http server BTW.
These are my personal experiences as a cpanel server admin.
You know why so many hosts have it? its cusomer end is pretty and people like it.
Those hosts have cpanel because it attracts customers, not because its reliable.
We could have done the same thing, but we decided to make ours more reliable.
I encourage any further responses for or against my own arguments in the comments section.