I have two online hosting systems I routinely use: one is a VPS that I use for things like secure proxy (mostly to secure insecure wireless connections) and otherwise keeping my sysadmin skills fresh. The other is a more typical shared hosting server I use for website and email hosting. This week I migrated them to Linode and HostGator respectively, as described below.
For web/email hosting, I was with Concentric way back when (later bought by XO.com). I decided to leave XO.com when it was clearly unresponsive to the fact that the shared SMTP address was starting to routinely get blacklisted because spammers were hosted on the same machine my sites were unfortunately on. Instead of dealing with the spammers the situation was left as-is and was untenable.
I looked around and found Hosting Matters was recommended by people at the time. You can read about them elsewhere, for better or worse. They tended to be pretty responsive but I got tired of the service interruptions on the hosts I was on. Perhaps I was just unlucky that every server I was on ended up overloaded or DDoSed, but after moving servers two or three times it got old.
I also learned much later that Hosting Matters is also well-known for hosting right-wing / highly conservative websites (apparently this is why they were getting attacked frequently and why they were pretty good at fending off such attacks). This wasn’t a good fit for me either – I prefer my host to be if anything centrist/neutral, not a lightning rod.
After the latest little outage I decided to bite the bullet and migrate to HostGator. It’s also CPanel-based and has most of the same features I was used to (I’m happy to be able to custom configure SpamAssassin again, and the resource-hogging mailscanner is absent which may also be good). Otherwise the features are almost all identical or slightly better (apparently Hosting Matters had automatic backups I was unaware of, which I’m not seeing on HostGator, but that also might be why my Hosting Matters server kept bogging down late at night).
I’m still getting used to it but already there’s at least two clear differences: the server seems remarkably faster (both in general bandwidth as well as in low load) and I was able to update WordPress and its plugins directly from the WordPress admin panels (something I was never able to do on the previous host). Considering I simply exported and imported the databases and then created/extracted the tarball of the full sites (including the WordPress installations) I was totally shocked that it just worked (I gave it a shot thinking it’d fail and I’d investigate what might be wrong…) The relevant permissions and groups seem the same though.
Note: I didn’t use HostGator’s migration service… instead, I configured and migrated it all by hand (for the experience).
The HostGator bottom line: pleasantly surprised and satisfied so far!
For VPS, I was with Slicehost for over two years with a standard single slice. It was interesting and I liked the interface, but their recent acquisition by Rackspace was followed by an announcement that Rackspace will discontinue the Slicehost VPS offering in favor of their Cloud offering. I may go back to them later just to try out the whole cloud computing paradigm, but that isn’t really suitable for my VPS needs.
Seeing a lot of people migrating to Linode, I looked into it. For the same money I get more space and memory as well as the ability to use StackScripts, which should make deploying or rebuilding a server as easy as clicking a button.
I used my tried-and-true cheat sheet (which I previously used with my Slicehost slice) to create a new Ubuntu 11.04 x64 linode. I had to make a couple of minor changes (I was previously on Ubuntu 10.10) but otherwise my new Linode worked flawlessly!
The Linode bottom line: satisfied with the better value and knowing that it’s not disappearing anytime soon.
** I’ve pondered moving all my hosting to that VPS, but it doesn’t make sense, particularly for the email part. (I’m not thrilled with the idea of outsourcing my email to a third party either.) It’s a ton of maintenance and upkeep which shared hosting avoids. Tradeoff is potential partial or full outages, but hopefully those stay rare.