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Hosting Can Make or Break Your Blog

Posted on October 05, 2007 by Kathleen

By now we all know that blogs that are hosted on your own domain tend to get better readership and rank higher in the search engines. But where to host?

The company that hosts your blogs can make life easy—or miserable. If your blogs are off line, no one can read them. So if your business is based on blogs, you lose income.

Equally important, if your service is set up in a nonstandard way that makes it hard to get important scripts to run, your blog business can be crippled, or you can spend way too much precious blogging time wrestling with things that ought to be simple.

And because the future of the web and of blogging is interactivity, you need to be able to run scripts, especially large sets of PHP scripts. WordPress is one example of a large set of PHP scripts; there are many others that can enhance your blog and your business. A hosting service that doesn’t let you run many scripts or that makes it hard can be a big problem.

Plus, it’s supremely frustrating. Who needs the aggravation?

In early August I moved from one very nonstandard hosting company (nothing but problems) with truly incompetent tech support to a hosting service that was highly touted by most online marketers. We’ll call them the Swamp.

At the Swamp seemed good. (1) They offered cPanel, so all the video tutorials I had purchased were now fully usable. (2) You can always reach someone on the phone. (3)They seemed nice. (4) Almost everyone seemed to recommend them.

Almost immediately there were problems.

Problem #1. The site and database transfers that they promised in 24 to 48 hours took over a week. Then I had a week of work getting my blogs to work again. So my blogs and web sites were down for over two weeks.

Problem #2. Many of the PHP scripts I had been using (and new ones I wanted to use) are not allowed.

Problem #3. Many new scripts won’t work, because domains only appear to be in the root directory. The system treats all but one as subdomains, and many scripts don’t understand that.

Problem #4. The nice “tech support” guys on the phone are not, as far as I can tell, actually tech support. They are sales people, I guess. They don’t help with problems. They don’t even write support tickets. And what they advise you to write on the tickets is often wrong. (They contradict each other, too.)

If you have ever tried to report an intermittent or undefined problem to tech support, you know that having to diagnose the problem yourself and boil it done to a couple of sentences of correct technical language requesting the precise fix is—well, it’s what tech support is supposed to do.

So I’m pretty unhappy with the Swamp, but I figured it was partly me. I try to fix problems myself as much as possible (a) because I like to be independent and (b) because I hate being patronized by tech support, as often happens. So I can get a tad cranky when tech support is not…supportive.

I finally got fed up with spending time explaining a problem on the phone, following their advice as to what to write but having to submit the ticket myself, and then getting back unhelpful email replies from “Level 1 Tech Support.”

(The guys on the phone will not even answer a direct question as to exactly what their function is if they are not Level 1 tech support.)

So I’ve been looking at other hosting services. The few others I’ve seen recommended by blogging gurus are described as being for “very technical people who don’t need support” and that’s not me.

I have spent a lot of time working in IT departments and on commercial software development teams. I’m fairly knowledgeable. I can tweak PHP, CSS and javascript, but I am neither a sys admin (except at home) nor a programmer.

As of this week, at least one blogging guru is no longer recommending the Swamp, because so many of his students are having so many problems with them. (See, it’s not just me!)

Today I got an email from a big name Internet marketing guru, recommending a new hosting service called Hostorix. The great thing about this service is that it has failover server protection. That means your blog (or web site) is actually running on more than one server computer at all times.

I’m familiar with failover from the software and network industries. It’s a very big deal. Failover is one reason that you can trust ATM machines. It means that if the server your blog runs on crashes, your blog or web site is still running on another one (or more). There is no interruption of service.

And at no extra cost, Hostorix backs up your blog for you every day. So no matter what happens, your blog or web site is safe.

They offer cPanel, so all your tutorials will still work. You can run multiple domains on the same account. Lots of bandwidth (50 GB a month). All for $27 a month—about the same price as a domain reseller account on the geeky hosting services or on the Swamp.

I’m pretty excited about Hostorix and wanted to let you know ASAP in case you were looking for reliable hosting. If you sign up, or if you already use them, please let me know what your experience with them has been.

Meanwhile I’ll be investigating more to see exactly what all they offer and whether more of my scripts will run there. I’m just about ready to crawl out of the swamp.

How about you? Who hosts your blogs and web sites? Are you happy with them? What has been your experience with using PHP scripts on your current hosting service? Please comment.

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