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Rack of web servers

Finding a New Hosting Provider

This is part two of finding a new hosting provider. If you haven’t read part one you should start there.

TLDR: I left Site5 as they were purchased by EIG. I went looking for hosting elsewhere.

Hosted WordPress Solutions?

Hosted WordPress solutions like WP Engine are great at what they do I suggest them when ever possible. But a hosted WordPress solution doesn’t have all the bits and pieces I needed.  I need something more I needed a managed hosting linux box with a control panel style interface.

Dreamhost

I’ve had a couple of clients on Dreamhost in the past and know both Mike Schroder and Mika Epstein (Ipstenu) through the WordPress community. Both are amazing people who I have learnt a lot from.  I knew it was a good company and still think it’s a good company. Sadly Dreamhost didn’t work for me and here is why:

Their managed hosting doesn’t use cPanel, so everything had to be migrated manually. Their free migration department would only include a single WordPress install. The MySQL setup was problematic, and the documentation was different the actual process when I did it myself.

A email error that couldn't get into the system.
A email error that didn’t allow me to get my email into their system.

I host my email, and It’s something I have always done and continue to do. I like the fact I Google / Microsoft / Yahoo isn’t reading my email even though I have email accounts with all three, but most of my correspondence is via my personal email address. I also had to manually migrate each email address via pop3 to Dreamhost, which became problematic when it wouldn’t accept some sent emails. Also, their unlimited email inbox wasn’t, all email would be transferred to a folder called archive after once a 600 limit had been reached.

I spent the most of a Saturday afternoon and evening moving three subsites and email single domain to Dreamhost and five more domains to go. Nothing was easy about the migration. I should have done more research before trying.

If I was a completely new customer and didn’t have all of this “digital” baggage I think I would have fit into Dreamhost’s set up better. It was just everything didn’t flow smoothly and after a very frustrating day fighting with their control panel and MYSQL setup I decided to leave. I don’t really hold anything against Dreamhost, I just felt I was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole the entire time.

You have to find the hosting that is right for you and your needs…

SiteGround

I next tried SiteGround again it came highly recommended by a number of people in the WordPress community. I didn’t like their sales and marketing tactics and a conversation I had with sales were somewhat different than their marketing materials. The IMAP hosting page is somewhat misleading because they suggest that 30GB Web Space and unlimited email addresses but fail to mention that each email account is only 2GB in size.

Also, everything is always on sale which I feel is kinda odd (much like a local furniture dealer The Brick). The promo price applicable for the first invoice. Once your initial term is

Screenshot of SiteGround IMAP page
IMAP landing page, that wasn’t exactly telling the entire truth IMHO. Screenshot November 25, 2016

over, regular renewal prices apply, Which is only half the regular price. Confusing yet? You’ll never actually pay the regular price.  So the promo price is in my opinion the regular price.

If everything is always on sale then maybe you should call that the actual retail price?

I decided that even with my marketing reservations I would try out Siteground. The proof will be in the pudding so to speak.

Migration of the site seemed to go well. But emails kept going into the spam folder. Siteground uses both Spam Experts & Spam Assasin. One tech said they worked together another said they worked independently. No one or documentation seemed to be able to tell me why both were actually installed and how they worked together. The question of why was never answered, it was more just trust us you need both of them.

Turns out Spam Experts is an external spam detection and filtering service, but Siteground changed my MX Records to use Spam Experts which caused a lot of pain when left Siteground a week later. I don’t believe I was informed about these mx changes or why they were needed at that time.

But emails continued to go into the spam folder.  5 – 10 emails out of 20 were seen as spam. But with the duplicated services also meant I had to whitelist the address in both services, and the whitelisting still didn’t seem to help.

I’d call into support spell my last name Dall, Yet their always have trouble finding my account, Dawl, Doll, Dahl. Nope, can’t find my account even though I spelt my last name for them. This happened almost every time I called in. Maybe they weren’t really listening?

Then I asked for a second website migration to find out that they only moved the small website and not the email addresses or redirects or anything. Not what I had paid $40 US for. I would have done it myself but the clients work always come first.

Then when I tried to login into my cPanel and my home IP Address was randomly blocked.

We got that fixed, and then I submitted a request for a proper migration. Then a support tech asked which email account. There was only email address and he could have checked that, but wouldn’t a site migration mean all of them? Then they requested the password they already had in previous message in the ticket, then they needed permission to do something I already gave them permission to do.

I jumped on live chat and didn’t know what they were asking for permission for. They had everything they needed. The chat support said she couldn’t help she didn’t know. So there is a big button that said “chat with manager” I pressed it. Then I was connected with an another support tech she said, “I am not a manager there aren’t any managers on the right now” my reply why is there a button to contact a manager when there isn’t one available? She replied by just cancelling the chat. Great customer service Siteground.

I phoned support and said I am not hanging up till I get to the bottom of this. We found a resolution but it was now passed midnight. Seven interactions with support for something I had paid them to handle? ( When I left Siteground I got my money back for the botched migration)

I felt a complete lack a trust with Siteground. I didn’t know if I was overly cautious or accusatory, change is hard, but it was a rough start to say the least. After talking through these problems with my friend Rebecca Coleman, I knew I wasn’t happy and didn’t know if I could trust SiteGround. Providing uptime isn’t the only important thing to a customer.

Then I couldn’t access a folder on my account, checked the error logs, nothing, got onto the support and they couldn’t find the resolution, I had the exact path in the server. I had two FTP clients. Nope, Nothing.

It was the last straw, I couldn’t continue like this. It was one error after another.

Where to go next? A number of hosting providers who I have never heard of were contacting me on twitter trying to get my business after I mentioned site5. There are so many hosting companies that look great on the outside and mediocre on the inside, I look at the little things, the attention to detail even in the web design of the companies own web design.

Also, the large majority of hosting review websites are based on referrals. When you see a list of hosting reviews three out of the five providers are EIG owned and all hosts have 4 star review how accurate are these reviews? What is behind their endorsement? A referral pay cheque. This is nothing new. It’s been happening for years. (Except for Kevin Ohashi’s Review Signal which is very transparent in how he reviews.)

While half my sites were on site5 I had two on siteground and yet I was going try a third host to find something better then what I had.

InMotion Hosting

Logo InMotion HostingLike the previous two InMotion was recommended, but they were quite foreign to me. I had a long live chat with sales agent named Patrick at InMotion Hosting. We talked about:

• Where their data center was located?  Los Angeles & DC.
• Who owned the company? Employee Owned
Where is support located? Virginia Beach, USA
Secure SSL IMAP Email? Yes, truly unlimited email and SSL
Security Certificates? Let Encrypt is not support on shared hosting, but is on VPS and dedicated plans, You can get you own and you’ll but you’ll need a Dedicated IP.

I also asked some pretty basic questions just to see if there any I was missing and nope nothing.

At the end of the chat the Patrick gave me he direct contact information if I had anymore questions. That was pretty legit of him. It’s really all the little things that go into making a really great hosting relationship.

I moved the two sites that were at siteground to InMotion via a Tarball and was very happy with my migration it was pretty painless. Except for:

Apple Mail strikes again…

InMotion uses a self signed security certificates for their shared ssl and while it didn’t matter to me that they did this. Apple Mail both on the laptop and iPhone have a huge problem with self signing security certificates. It thinks your doing something wrong. You have to over ride on the laptop. But  as of November 28th, 2016 I still don’t have email on my phone as I can’t find the override. I have yet to figure out this problem. But it’s not the fault of InMotion. I should be able to tell Apple, Yes I understand the risk, yes I know who the host is, Yes the certificate is valid, I an the owner of this computer you know. But I digress…

I had to manually migrate three email addresses to merge them into one c-panel InMotion hosting suggested I use Thunderbird for the migration. I didn’t have any problems. Actually Thunderbird doesn’t have an issue with self signing security certificates.

What really sealed the deal was just this weekend when I contact Benjamin a support rep while I’ve had good support with everyone I have contacted at InMotion he really took my level of knowledge and provided just enough info not to overwhelm but still educated as to why and not that “It’s just done that” Now I know more about how my needs fit with InMotions server set up.

I did purchase my own SSL for Robertdall.com and I had to purchase a Dedicated IP address for that. I hope that InMotion decided to get on board with Let’s Encrypt. But for now that is my only suggestion.

Conclusion

In the end you need to find your own hosting company that works for you that you’re comfortable with. Dreamhost is a great company and a good provider yet, not for me. Siteground came highly recommend yet I wasn’t comfortable with them.  I wasn’t looking the lowest price and I wasn’t looking for 100% uptime without great customer service. Hopefully I will have a long successful hosting relationship with InMotion and I won’t have to moving hosting again for a long long time.

(Disclaimer: I have referrals to InMotion and WP Engine on this web page but I only recommend what I use myself.)

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