Surpass Hosting Sucks, or the problem with shared hosting

May 24, 2006

Darren writes over at Problogger about the experience of the owner of a blog by the title of idolbloglive with the hosting company Surpass Hosting, who cut the blog off with no warning because of a spike in traffic, and who now demand $110 a month to reinstate the site and give the blogger access to his files again.

Surpass claimed 500 visitors to the site in an hour crashed their server, and hence they had no choice in the matter. Of course, it’s rubbish, but that’s the line.

Unfortunately, this response is typical of an industry that is full of crooks and scam artists who care nothing about your online business or hobby, and who are only interested in making a quick buck.

Im my time online I’d say I’ve probably gone through roughly about 10 web hosts, and say 7 in the last 2-3 years, mostly when I was writing The Blog Herald.

Nearly all of my experiences can be rated between bad and criminal.

The shared hosting scam

Shared hosting is nearly always a scam, no matter who you host with, because it’s marketed with big figures that are really irrelevant in the delivery of your content, particularly from a blog, to the marketplace.

Let’s take Surpass Hosting for an example, from their main page for their basic shared package at $6 per month :

5 GB Space
200 GB Monthly Bandwidth
Unlimited Email
Unlimited Databases
Includes cPanel and Fantastic

Sounds good doesn’t it. And when you dig deeper, all the stats that are presented sound great, 10 domains can be hosted, unlimited ftp accounts and sub-domains….great stuff.

One problem though, there is no way you are going to be able to serve 200GB of bandwidth from just about any blog package (WP and MT in particular) because to serve that sort of traffic, the calls to the database are going to be heavy, and if they are heavy they will crash the server. Not you alone of course, but there may be 50 or 100 other people hosted on your same box (note some companies actually promise lower numbers per shared box, it’s always worth looking into) and they have all been promised the same thing. You see, shared hosting providers gamble on the fact that you’ll never use this sort of bandwidth….it’s a marketing gimmick.

Now why do I know this? because it’s happened to me time and time again with shared hosting. I’ve never, ever, ever once gotten to even 10% of my bandwidth on any of the shared hosts I’ve used, and I’ve ALWAYS run into trouble. Of course, I didn’t understand why at the time, and hence I’d seek out a new hosting company, but I’d nearly always end up having the same problem.

At the end of the day, you do get what you pay for, and if you intend of maintaining or hosting more than a blog or two, don’t use shared hosting. If you find your blog going gangbusters and it’s traffic climbing, assuming the revenue is keeping up, seek out better hosting before you run into problems.

Why they don’t care

Most hosting companies don’t care because the market for hosting is so large, that losing a couple of customers doesn’t make the slightest bit difference to them, there are always millions of other suckers out there who know no better, and lets face it, the majority of sites will never see much traffic, so it’s a gamble that they normally win at.

They never tell you why

Without fail, if you are signed up to a shared hosting package, your host will never tell you why you have problems, usually due to some minor clause buried in the TOS that reads that you can’t use to much server stuff, and if you do, it’s your problem. The amount of times I’ve emailed customer help lines over the years begging for them to explain to me what the problem is. The response has always been: you’re taking up too many resources, you’ve got access to stats, fix it. Of course, if you look at it from what they offer, you never come close to taking up too many resources in terms of the “public” figures, but it’s the hidden stuff that always catches people out.

Site5 sucks

My single worst experience with any hosting provider was with Site5. They were a step up for me in the hosting provider space at the time, because the package was something like $22 (USD) per month. Sure, it doesn’t sound like much, but I’d lived for years off of $6-$10 shared hosting accounts. I honestly thought that by spending the extra money I could pay for a better experience. I was totally wrong. Sure, the customer service was quick, the control panel excellent, and unlike most hosting providers I couldn’t find a bad word spoken about them (at the time) anywhere online. They appeared to be the ideal host. I was launching the Weblog Empire blog network at the time, and these guys were offering everything I thought I could ever need. It took all of about 3 months to go bad. First they claimed the box was subject to a denial of service attack….which apparently went on for nearly 2 weeks, with my sites offline for at least half the time. Then they turned around and said it was my sites causing the problem, I was taking up too many resources. I checked all the stats I could, I was way, way below any of the thresholds they’d set. The shared hosting scam had raised its head again, because the host can decided you are using “too many resources” without explaining who, what, when, where and why. And Site5 gave the standard response: it’s your responsibility, fix it. So I did, I took the business elsewhere. I left some comments on a few sites explaining my experience and the CEO basically called me a liar and said I’d made it all up. If there is one thing I can recommend, NEVER, EVER, EVER USE SITE5.

What am I doing now sits with the b5media sites on a number of dedicated servers which share load with a smaller hosting company by the name of Webnx. I hosted some sites with these guys for a while, they are good, but they didn’t provide the sort of support I needed in terms of hands on maintenance of the sites (note b5media has it’s own tech support person who does this sort of stuff for us, so it works well for b5). Personally I use two companies now for hosting. My main provider is a host called Liquidweb. With Liquidweb I pay some $209 USD per month for a full dedicated top of the range box which is all mine. Sure, it’s probably a little excessive for what I’m using it for at the moment, but I can experiment, play with, or flip any number of sites through that box without ever having to worry about capacity. What I particularly liked about Liquidweb is the proactive monitoring and support they provide. They basically check your sites are up every 5 minutes and if theres a problem, they are going to fix it for you 24/7. Their support is second to none on speed and they’ve tweaked things on my box for me that other companies just wouldn’t have done, but as I’ve mentioned previously, you get what you pay for. I went away for a week, and I came back knowing all my sites would be up and running smoothly, which they were.

I also maintain an shared account with Dreamhost. If you must go shared, I’d recommend this guys, but I’d warn like any shared hosting that you can gobble up the resources. Use code “duncan” for a $50 discount off your yearly hosting bill. What I like about Dreamhost is you do get a lot for your money, and they are pretty good as shared hosts go.

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28 responses to Surpass Hosting Sucks, or the problem with shared hosting

  1. That was interesting. But .. How can you tell that Dreamhost is a ‘shared hosting’ service? I couldn’t see that anywhere on their website ..

    I’m using two different host providers .. definately dedicated hosting, but I’m also using a “pro” Reseller Account at .. As far as I believe .. it’s not shared, except among myself and my sites. Even then, I set quite finite packages of bandwidth, space, etc and there is no sharing. I wish it was all under a blanket space and bandwidth package. My renewal comes up this 28th and I’m extending it for a year in advance though .. I’ve been month to month since January testing them out.

  2. Three hosts that I have seen universaly recommended and have yet to see a single valid complaint against are Media Temple, Bluehost, and A Small Orange.

    Dreamhost is good as long as you don’t plan on running a massive dynamic site like wordpress where it starts to crash the database that they cram with customers

  3. Well, I use Site5, as you know Duncan. In six months I’ve never had a serious problem. In fact, this week they’re reducing the number of sites on each box by a half, which is quite a number. They’ve also brought in technical people to monitor the farm round the clock.

    I know I’m going to need my own operation at some time, but I want to set my experiences alongside yours. Maybe they learned from your case. It happens. 🙂

  4. I am on Dreamhost with a number of low traffic sites, and they seem to be fine. I understand what you are saying about shared hosting being a scam, but if you think how little it costs and how much money you can make off your sites, it is all fairly cheap. Also think how much money it must cost to cover a techies wages for a month.

  5. 500 Visitors in an hour crashed their servers??? Good lord…… What would happen if they hosted sites like Techcrunch..

    I think today’s hosting scenario frankly sucks. The dot com boom is as strong as ever and unfortunately a good marketeer should take advantage of this and give top class hosting with good servers.

    But sadly :(((/ I think 2 very reliable hosts I’ve seen are and

    Dreamhost has too many websites on teh same box. The above hosts are rich in bandwidth and their servers are blazing.

  6. @ Duncan: Have you started moderating all comments over here?

  7. Incredible. You’ve just summed up my experience with Site 5 completely. Down to the last detail. My most recent letter from them accused me of breaking TOS, calling me an ‘offender’ and ‘a threat’ to their other websites.

    My crime? Having a popular website. And by popular I mean that it has 3000 visitors a day. Not exactly a major player. I’d put my web address on here, but I don’t think these guys are above being petty, so I’m going to make sure I have my site moved before I get vocal.

    I will definitely be contacting Liquid Web. Thank you!

  8. Hi,

    I noticed this post in a Google search of course. 🙂

    My name is Kayla, from Surpass Hosting. The owner of that site (DJ Slim) actually now has a private server with us and understands how the site created such a problem on the shared server it previously resided on. It was the final night of American Idol afterall and why it happened is completely understandable. The surge in activity happened 24 hours previous to that night and it was obvious that it would be difficult to keep the site up. I monitored that site throughout the next night and even unsuspended it a few times to see if it was possible to allow back online – and it wasn’t. The server started to crash within minutes. The site was basically overtaking the machine. Had the site been in a private environment without the processes of other users contributing to the overall load, yes it would have been fine.

    It is to my understanding that visitors to the site started a rumor that we were not releasing a backup? We began to get threats that we “suck” and the like. At no point did the owner treat us in this way. DJ Slim was cooperating with us and we worked out the issue, it was actually a pleasant and polite experience. That very short sentence he was quoted on was misunderstood by many people. In no way was the site being “held hostage,” it was just temporarily suspended because even if it had been active- the server would have been rendered useless due to all of the activity, so the site wouldn’t have been online at any rate. It’s a simple fact that not every site can remain in a shared enviroment forever. 🙂 Sites grow and evolve.

    Thank you for reading. Hope you don’t mind that I posted here but you did say that we suck.. and I really don’t think it’s true. =)


  9. I’ve got my hosting directly from surpass for a month or two, but indirectly for over two years and I must say that I’ve found no problems with them, as I have had with others. They are always ready and helpfull with your site. Even if it was my own fault I got help from them, mostly within the hour.

  10. Well I have to say I have my site on surpass and their tech support is nothing but great… quick to solve problems and if something comes up they can answer it without a problem, some questions will take longer in some cases, but I have read so many people that have had a bad experiance with surpass hosting all over the net. Many times Kayla comes up to speak about that issue because, most people that post about this instances, do not give the whole story.


  11. Kayla,
    I can only say follow the link to Problogger and read the interview with this guy, it was pretty clear what you guys did. That you’ve since worked with him is a positive, however you didn’t initially, you just cut him off, and this is poor form.

    happy to know I wasn’t alone on this one. Site5 are a disgrace, the worst thing for me is that I made the mistake of recommending them at the time (when things were going well)…indeed, I actually for memory referred some decent business there way as well, and yet the shared hosting curse struck again…and I guess at the end of the day, although it’s happened to me time and time again, I’m the most bitter about Site5, because Site5 promised so much more, so the expectations were so much higher, therefore the crash even bigger.

  12. I generally share your sentiments about Site5 and Dreamhost. The problem with Site5 is they don’t know how to monitor individual usage. Plus they run the databases on the same box. So when someone starts overloading the server they just don’t have the tools to isolate the problem. Instead they make some claim about ‘investigating the problem’ (probably logfile analysis of some sort) to try to figure out what’s going on.

    Dreamhost is better because they have stats on individual CPU usage and they will work with the customer to solve their utilization issues. They also keep the database servers separate from the web servers which helps isolate problems, and means your static pages won’t go down just because someone is running 1000 queries per page on your server.

    All that said: shared hosting is rough. Given the proliferation of blog packages, plugins, and tons of inefficient open source code that anyone can install and run, it’s remarkably easy for one person to bring down a shared host. When told they are using too many resources, they get mad because they think it’s the hosts problem. But the host can’t be your private programmer. If you host static files you can absolutely hit these huge bandwidth limits, so it’s just about efficiency. That’s why MovableType is a better option than WordPress or even TextPattern for popular blogs. The best you can do with a shared host is get one with the technical chops to properly monitor usage and deal with problems efficiently. Right now I think Dreamhost and TextDrive have the best technical skills. However, if you are hosting serious websites then it’s probably worth looking into dedicated or VPS solutions.

  13. Site5 has the worst technical support. They recently made some upgrades which have caused my sites to go down. I hope someone sues them.

  14. I totally agree SURPASS HOSTING SUCKS!!! We were not finished deploying our campaign while the server just blew up when advertising appeared on the TV. They suspended our domain and notified after an hour that. They even blocked the DNS Change option and so we couldn’t migrate our domain to another host until 5 hours later and then they went to sleep. We had no response neither next morning 24 hours later the problem was not solved. They seriously suck really bad.

  15. I had the same experience with and (Just for the record: “JKAHosting sucks and Routhost sucks!”) They offer a lot of disk space and bandwidth, but, if you use a CMS (WordPress and Joomla, for instance), your site always goes down. Now, Routhost has suspended my account. They claim my website is “causing load issues”. And I believe all the companies will claim the same. They don’t want so many visitors. Your success means trouble for them.

  16. Silverlight developers can get pretty sweet deal from Live assuming they write their own blogging software from the scratch, not too hard with SL though.

    “1 million minutes of free video streaming at 700 Kbps per site per month. Unlimited streaming will also be available for free with advertising, or with payment of a nominal fee for the service for use without advertising.”

    Unless I’m reading this wrong it’s 420 GB of free traffic w/o paying a penny and w/o advertising. That’s for video only. There doesn’t seem to be a hard restriction on tiny content such as images. Actually it could be 4.2TB – I’m not good with numbers 🙂

  17. Key thing to make it possible of course is the limited API to do that. You need to have the database pretty much on the client side so it doesn’t load their servers with a flood of queries. But that’s no issue for a blogging soft.

  18. LiquidWeb sucks to be honest. We had a client site sit on a server with them, the server kept on crashing from small bursted loads, at the time I wasn’t in-charge of the server so we submitted a ticket to have them adjust the child processes and they said they would “optimize” the server and it still kept on crashing out. Eventually we go so pissed off from all the money being lost by their administrators lack of ability that we moved to Serverbeach (I’ve used them before plenty of times), haven’t had a problem since, even during heavy advertising campaigns. I’ll never use LiquidWeb again and I’m sure my client won’t either because she had a way worse time before I came around to help her.

  19. Yes, I agree with the Surpass rant. They are horrible to work with and aren’t reliable. I’ve been over changed a $100 USD for just changing a domain name, then I had everything setup on two websites and lost everything on both. I can keep going on….

  20. We left LW for the same reasons. We are now doing what you are doing with a dedicated server at Server Intellect. Having your own server is great NEVER get turned off for using up all the resources.

  21. I never actually got a chance to experience the hell that is Site5; I didn’t even make it that far.

    I registered, they sent an email saying phone verification was voluntary, I was in no hurry so I let it be, days and days go by, I email them and they tell me they screen people and require verification.

    Uh, thanks for telling me? No email, nothing!

    Basically, my order was pending the entire time so I was like, you know what, I’m outta here and within the next 15 minutes (yes that fast) I had a domain up and running on and saved 20% in the process!

    Site5 gets 2 thumbs down!

  22. Thanks for sharing

    free image hosting

  23. That sucks bigtime. A company who is just merely concerned about earning money should go down.

  24. lunarpages is the one you should consider, they are good at customer support

  25. lunarpages is the one you should consider, they are good at customer support

  26. lunarpages is the one you should consider, they are good at customer support

  27. Hey Duncan,
    What hosting service do you recommend then? I'm looking for a good one.. if you know any , let me know

  28. I'm using Disqus comments as well.. I'm not liking it really that much because the avatars aren't working out like they normally do with Gravatar. Any comment on that? Send me an email on how Disqus comments has been workin out for ya.. thanks!