Written 31 December 2011
A couple of days ago I wrote about how I've decided not to move Springfrog and my other sites to VPS.net, but to stay with Westhost, the current webhosting company where Springfrog is hosted. I've been hosting my sites at Westhost for about 11 years now, so I thought it may be helpful and and of interest to visitors to do a review of Westhost and their services.
My initial intention to move from Westhost to VPS.net was not because of any dissatisfaction with Westhost - far from it, I've been a very happy Westhost customer throughout nearly all my time with the company. Rather, the aim in the aborted VPS.net move was mostly a cost-cutting one. However, as can be gleaned from my Second VPS.net review, I think the VPS.net platform needs a bit more stability before I would risk moving my sites there.
Seriously though, apart from two major outages over the years, from my experience Westhost has been rock-solid stable and reliable throughout the time I've been with them. The company currently offers a range of hosting for most needs, from personal hosting starting at $4 per month, to scalable cloud vps hosting, and through to both managed or unmanaged dedicated servers.
Initially I started out with a relativly small VPS package of theirs. After a few years my sites were starting to take up more resources than the small VPS package was designed for, and I received a polite email from them suggesting that I consider moving up to a dedicated server. Initially I decided that the cost of a managed server at Westhost was a bit too expensive, so I used a cheaper unmanaged server at another company called easyspeedy, which was very good. However, after a hacking attempt whereby someone tried to access that server via a free control panel that I was using called Webmin, I decided that the managed solution back at Westhost, with their own nicely secure control panel and solid setup, was the best option.
I had left the original copies all of my files on the original small VPS when I had moved to easyspeedy, so gave Westhost's support a telephone call to discuss how to go about moving to a Westhost managed dedicated server. Not only did they transfer all of my sites over to the new Westhos server without a glitch, but I didn't have to pay any setup costs either. Everything was very simple and virtually effortless on my part...very nice!
Until recently, Westhost has included its own Site Manager control panel with its hosting packages. This is a breeze to operate, making it very easy to set up extra domains, configure email aliases and manage IP blacklisting. It also allows automatic installation of scripts and packages like spamassassin and webite statistics packages like awstats and webalizer, plus much more. The company has provided very good help documents and a clear user manual on their site, and an extensive Members Area giving step by-step details as well as videos on how to set up all aspects of your server or hosting plan. As far as I'm aware, for new accounts, at least certainly in their cloud hosting plans, cpanel with WHM (Webhost Manager) is now included rather than westhost's own Site Manager.
If you ever do get lost on your journey in setting up your website hosting, or have problems, Westhost's customer service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - something you won't necessarly get with many other hosting providers. Their preferred method of contact is by email, but phone support is also available, which is toll-free if you're in the USA. They have live-chat help too. I've tried all of these methods ar one stage or another, and I can attest that each time, Westhost staff have been fast, very knowledgeable and friendly. According to their statistics average response times for support during august 2011 were:
The company boasts a 99.9% uptime guarantee, and I'd guess that they may well achieve this. I mentioned earlier about two major outages though . The first of these was a few years ago whilst the company was upgrading its hosting platform. Unfortunately something seemed to go very wrong and huge numbers of people, myself included, found that ther sites were down. As far as I remember this downtime lasted for a good few days. Eventually everything came back up with the new platform though, and I had no loss of data.
The second outage was on 20th February 2010 and again affected huge numbers of members. By then, twitter had arrived in the online scene. As news filtered through, it became apparent that during a routine check by a fire suppression system vendor at the datacenter used by Westhost, the fire suppression system was inadvertently triggered, releasing a compound gas called Inergen into the datacenter. Subsequently hard drive failure and possibly failure to other components occurred, crashing mine and many/most of Westhost customers' servers. Controversy abounded as to whether Inergen on its own could cause such damage, but whatever the matter, Westhost members sites were down for considerable periods. I was one of the lucky ones, and my server was restarted after about a day or two without any data loss. Westhost reported that all machines except 6 dedicated and 12 shared servers were back up and running by 23rd February (3 days after the incident). Reports from members trickled in over the next 3 days or so about servers finally restarting.
Although both of these incidents were pretty severe and in hosting terms lengthy, they are more the kind of extremely rare one-off type of incident rather than anything that is likely to happen over again. Disasters and long downtimes are more the exception than the rule as far as I've experienced during the 11 years that I have been with them.
Westhost has won numerous awards and accolades during its existence, including being in the Netcraft Top 10 Most Reliable Hosting Companies, a CNET Platinum Performer, and HostReview's Top 10 Dedicated Hosting Winner. Springfrog would like to add to that by giving a hop of approval too.
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