What gotchas to watch out for when choosing a hosting provider?

You decided to start a website.  Maybe it is a toy site or maybe it is a blog talking about Jackpot Capital Bonus and other casino related stuff.  In either case, you are going to need to choose a Webhosting company to store your data.

Can I host on my own computer and skip paying hosting charges?

Yes and No.  Most internet service providers (Verizon, AT&T, etc) do not provide a dedicated IP address to residential customers.  In order to get a static IP address, you would need to purchase a business account.  It is also against Verizon’s TOS (Terms of Service) to run a server on a residential account.   But generally, they give you a warning, so you either stop what you are doing, change to a business account, or get your service shut down.  Most internet providers have the same general terms of service.

Also, many internet service providers change the residential customers’ IP addresses randomly, sometimes even several times a day.  This makes setting up a server to connect outside of your house almost impossible.  For the record, you can set up one internally (localhost, within your home network), so any computer within your own physical network (for example within your house or local business location) can access the website.

Residential:

  • 200 Mbps – $39.99
  • 400 Mbps – $64.99
  • Gigabit – $89.99

Business:

  • 3 Mbps/768 Kbps – $52.99
  • 100/100 Mbps – $69
  • 300/300 Mbps – $129
  • 940/880 Mbps – $249

The main difference between a business and a residential account is the uploading speed.  Residential internet often has restricted upload speeds.  That is why no upload speeds are listed for residential customer plans.  Since most residential customers do a lot of downloading and very little uploading, that is usually not a problem.

Also, even with a business account, a static IP costs $20/month extra.

Linux or Windows?

The answer to this question depends on what you want to do.  If your online work involves a Microsoft Server or Microsoft SQL Database or Azure or software that runs on DotNet, the best choice is Microsoft.  If you want to run software on the Apache, MySQL, PHP setup (or something similar), then the best choice is Linux.  In terms of the customer or end-user-facing stuff, the end-user is not going to know or care which operating system you are using on the backend.

A lot of software like WordPress, MediaWiki, Joomla, Drupal, etc. were originally designed to work on a Linux system.  So although they can technically run on Windows computers, a majority of users, run and test the software on a Linux system.

Check the version of PHP with the host and the software being installed.

Arvixe is an example of a company that was a top notch company 15 years ago, but since then has not kept its systems up to date.  Actually, as of 31-Oct-21, they may have actually addressed this issue.

  • php5.6 – Default version
  • php7.3
  • php7.4

Wow, and it only took a year of customer complaints to actually fix the problem.  Good for Arvixe in finally fixing this problem.

Check the version of MySQL with the host and the software being installed.

This is what Arvixe is using.

  • MySQL 5.6.41-84.1

What do the most common applications require for PHP and MySQL?

  • WordPress PHP 7.4 and MySQL 5.6
  • MediaWiki PHP 7.4 and MySQL 5.5.8
  • Moodle 3.10 PHP 7.3.x and 7.4 and MySQL 5.7  (not work on Arvixe, need Moodle 3.8)
  • Mahara PHP 7.2 and MySQL 5.1
  • Magento 2.4.5 PHP 8.1 and MySQL 8.0 (not work on Arvixe, need Magento 2.3.7 or 2.4.0

I checked out 5 applications.  Most of the major ones including WordPress, MediaWiki, and Joomla are fine.

But Drupal 9 and 10 is planning to require PHP 8 and the database is MySQL 5.7, so it will not work on Arvixe.  Drupal is a Content Management System and it is similar in functionality to Joomla (multiple users with different security levels for different articles).

If Moodle is your core software and you are dealing with children, you probably want to stay up to date.  Plus, with COVID and a lot of schools going online during 2020 and parts of 2021, there may be features, bug fixes, and enhancements in the current version that may be important.  If you are homeschooling or working in a small tutorial business, that might not be an issue.  WordPress has plugins that can handle courses and MediaWiki has plugins that can create questions, but you have to decide if it will meet your needs.  The same is true with other tutoring and e-learning software.

Magento is an e-commerce software.  Again, e-commerce involves money exchange and for a lot of people, the guts of their business.  If it does not work, it does not work.  If I was trying to learn Magento, it may not make a difference.  But if I was seriously going to start an e-commerce business and planned on using Magento as the software, I would seriously reconsider using Arvixe as my hosting provider.  WordPress has WooCommerce extension, but you will have to decide if that meets your needs.  For me, Magento has the feature of having two language descriptions for the same product with being able to set the default language.  So a product will still display even if the product has not been translated to the second language.  But if that is not a feature that you need, than WooCommerce may meet your needs.

Is Softaculous worth it?

12 years ago, Softaculous was awesome.  It made installing applications like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Moodle, Mahara, Magento, etc. super easy.  Then around PHP version 7.2, the whole Softaculous system was broken.  It took several years for Softaculous to fix this problem.  This leads to less expensive hosting companies not keeping PHP up to date.

For a while, a user could just install the applications manually.  So although Softaculous was technically installed, it was useless – except as a quick directory of what open source applications were available.  Then even that no longer worked.

Fortunately, during the last month, companies like Arvixe finally upgraded their PHP versions that were available to include the most recent versions of PHP 7.3 and PHP 7.4.  They also upgrade to the current version of Softaculous, so everything is again working as one would expect it to work.

The bottom line is that Softaculous is a great feature of an internet hosting company, but you have to make sure that it is a current version that actually works.

Arvixe is using 5.8.1 as of 31-Oct-2021, and it works as it should work.

The free version of Softaculous supports 46 scripts (application installs), and the premium version supports 436 scripts and 1115 php classes.

Is Cpanel worth it?

CPanel is a control panel that allows you to manage your web hosting.  From it you can get access to all of your services:

  • Domains and subdomains
  • MySQL databases
  • PHP settings
  • Files
  • Softaculous and other app installers
  • Cron jobs
  • Email
  • Billing and support
  • Security
  • Metrics

I have been using CPanel for 12 years and I have never had any problems or complaints about it.  It works as it is supposed to work.

What about company growth, moving to virtual hosting or dedicated hosting?

For myself personally, when I was first looking at hosting services, I was not really having my sights set on starting an online business.  I just wanted to be familiar with the different software products and what was involved in getting them up and running.  In other words, I was looking at things from a developer’s and site administrator’s perspective, and not from the business owner’s perspective.

In other words, cheap shared hosting was fine.

But, once a person has a website up and running, nobody, even us tech people, want to deal with moving the website to another hosting company.  Even if we want to change from shared hosting and virtual hosting or dedicated hosting, we still do not want to deal with transferring the website ourselves.

So even if you are not ready for virtual hosting or dedicated hosting, you should still look into what is available and what the cost is.  Sometimes companies sell shared hosting for a very cheap price because the hosting company knows that when it comes time to change to a virtual hosting or a dedicated hosting model, most people will not bother changing hosting companies.

Understand how the billing interface works

This is a major gotcha.  I do not know if what Arvixe is using is standard or they created it specifically for their customers.

Invoices not sorted by date.  Sort by type.

The invoices are NOT sorted by date with the most recent at the top.  They are also not sorted by date with the most recent at the bottom.  They are sorted by type, and if you ended up with a domain purchase request tagged as fraud, that is what is shown on the bottom.  So unless you click on the top of the date column to sort your invoices by date, you will miss important invoices.

Domains default to auto-renew

Domains are set to auto renew by default.  If you do not want this, you need to specifically click on the “active” button to see the user interface to change it so it does not auto-renew or to just cancel a domain.

Hosting services or services

Hosting services or services for short is also auto renewed.  Even if tell Arvixe to not auto-renew (or cancel) the domain that is the main domain (free domain) connected with the hosting service, the hosting service is not canceled and it is not set to not auto renew.  You have to specifically select the services and tell Arvixe that want to cancel or not review your hosting.

Arvixe does not allow you to cancel hosting mid-contract.  And 45 day grace period to cancel your order only applies to new customers.

The end result is that you can end up with a hosting account that has zero domain names associated with it. Although the user interface still says you have one domain, you cannot access that domain.

Summary

Web hosting companies are a changing world.  The top players 12 years ago are not the top players today.  What looks like a great deal on the surface may not be such a great deal when it comes time to actually do real work.

Get an idea of what applications you want run.  Check PHP versions.  Check MySQL version.  Check bandwidth restrictions.  Check database size restrictions.  Check the number of database installs allowed.  And then there is email size requirements, FTP accounts, and other stuff.

And most of all, think ahead.  What might not be important today, may then be important down the line.  It may not be a game changer, but you should at least be aware of the whole picture.

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