Surpass Hosting Sucks, or the problem with shared hosting

May 24, 2006 — 28 Comments

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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