WHY THIS PAGE?
We get quite a bit of e-mail from people asking who we use for
our hosting services. Many people either are looking to make the
jump from the free services, or to leave their present provider
for whatever reason. Others are just wanting to start a site
and are not familiar with the drill.
Hopefully the information on this page will answer your questions.
Over the past four years I have heard my share of horror stories,
but forget it, I'm not wasting my words speaking badly of companies.
(Especially if I did not experience it myself!)
Conflicts of interest? If you have any concerns, please look at
each listing's Cards on the Table statement.
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
There are basically three options available to you depending on your
needs and of course- budget.
Dedicated High Speed Connection: This is the most expensive
option available. You can have your server right in your office,
or even your home. Not only do you have to pay the ISP, you also
have to pay the circuit charges of the phone company. Besides having
your own server, you will also need special networking equipment.
You also have to manage your server. For all practical means and
purposes, you are an ISP. If your business already has a dedicated
connection to the Internet, this can be an inexpensive way to put
up your own server.
Server Co-location (Web Hotel): If your needs require that
you have complete control over your server, but do not need to have
it physically located at your location, then co-location could be
just the ticket for you. Sticking your system (or renting/buying
from the provider) in a web hotel gives you a direct connection
to the Internet, at a fraction of the cost of having your own dedicated
connection. The idea is that you share bandwidth with other servers
connected directly (hopefully) to the ISP's backbone(s).
ISP's provide various levels of support, but you get the honor if
you choose of being not only the webmaster, but the system administrator
as well. ;-) You can of course have more than one domain on your
server and you are an instant virtual hosting company. (yeah, right!)
Virtual Hosting: If you do not need your own dedicated connection
or dedicated server, then this is the option for you. With virtual
hosting you not only share a connection to the Internet with other
servers, but you also share the server you are on with other sites.
It is the most economical and your choices are rather unlimited
as far as vendors are concerned. You will also find the greatest
swings in quality here. A lot of hosting companies are either
resellers for other hosting companies, or renting out some space
on their own dedicated server to make some pocket money.
WHAT MATTERS MOST?
I have found the following factors to be the most important
in choosing a either a web hotel or virtual hosting solution.
Not every point applies to web hotel.
Bandwidth: This is the amount of bytes (usually
expressed in GB (giga or billion bytes) per month. There
is no such thing as unlimited bandwidth. Someplace
buried in your agreement if not disclosed outright is a
clause to either chuck you or charge you extra for clogging
Connection Speed: Just how fast is their connection
to the Internet? Just because somebody claims to have T3
service doesn't mean much if they have to pass through a
series of balky routers. Use the Windows TRACERT
command to count and time those hops. Do it several times
during the course of the day and night. Ask your friends
far away to try it for you as well.
Reliablity: Nothing and nobody is perfect. How
reliable do they claim to be. Remember, 99% can mean being
down for 3-1/2 days a year! Do they backup their servers?
Support: Is there any on-line documentation? Can
you contact support staff by phone or e-mail?
Do not expect free help when it comes to setting up CGI scripts
and other work from hosting companies. But do make sure they
can answer ALL of the questions you might have to get those
Unix Server: My preference. Unix can do everything
that NT can do- and much more. If you pick NT and try to install
a script, all I can say is, "I told you so."
Telnet or SSH Access: I cannot stress this enough. I am
tired of hearing virtual hosting companies denying or charging
extra for telnet or SSH (terminal) access to their
accounts for reasons of security. Telnet allows you to compile
programs, work directly on your files- from anyplace in the
world. This makes debugging scripts a snap.
Telnet running on a properly configured server is not
really a bigger risk than FTP. Denying telnet access causes
smart people to set up CGI scripts to run command line
programs. That, is a much bigger security risk!
SMTP Service: Can you originate e-mail from their servers
under your domain name?
Does Your Domain Operate as You? Simply put, does
the server operate under your server user id, or as a
special user id such as nobody. If not as you,
then you will have
to allow write permission to your files that are modified by
scripts. This is a security compromise that will allow anyone
with access to the server to read and modify your files.
Are They the Real Hosting Company? Check to be sure
that the hosting company is in fact really the provider and
not a reseller for another company! Look, there is nothing
wrong per se with getting service through a reseller- provided
they allow you to contact support at the provider directly
in an emergency.
Server Side Includes. Gotta have SSI!
.HTACCESS Access. There should be a mechanism for
both password protecting directories and adding MIME types.
Enough Already! Who Do You Use Or Recommend?
Without further ado, here is the list.
VIRTUAL HOSTING: NOVAHOSTING.COM
NOVAHOSTING.COM operates Linux based servers located at Alabanza (a high quality
connectivity provider). The rates are very reasonable, especially considering
the services and features that they provide.
NOVAHOSTING meets all the criteria specified above.
The server I tested had an uptime loading of under .15, this means the box
was enjoying a quiet day in the country. Security on the server is excellent,
and when working on the site using SSH (a secure form of telnet), you first
have to go to the Administrative Menu and enter your Public-Key and domain.
Regular telnet is forbidden. (must be a typo in the features list!)
I would recommend that you go with their NovaStar (high end) package at
$19.95 a month with $25.00 set-up fee. This package gives you MSQL database
access, Frontpage extensions and 25MB space. They also provide SSL for
a $10 set-up charge. They have a generous bandwidth policy- unlimited unless
your site consumes 20% of server resources, or more than 20% of your
bandwidth is download files.
As a test, I installed the BNBSURVEY script and had it working in less than
two minutes- with no errors. I also found that SSI (server side includes)
worked just fine, and that a index.shtml file will be read as the
DirectoryIndex before index.html.
Cards on the table: We have no financial interest in NOVAHOSTING.COM.
VIRTUAL HOSTING: TVCNET.COM
TVCNET.COM offers excellent hosting at very reasonable prices. All of
their servers are upper-end Pentium boxes running the most recent
release of RedHat Linux. Their servers are located within the premises
of two high speed and very available connectivity providers. On line
documentation is excellent, as are the user tools.
TVCNET.COM meets all of the criteria listed above, with the exception
of the server process running as "you". They do however, have the
server properly configured. I was unable to breach or gain access to
any user files on the system other than my own.
There are no unpleasant surprises in the server configuration. I was
able to install and operate the BNB Virtual Card Script in less than
five minutes (without reading their documentation)! By default, the
server will recognize files ending with htm, html, or shtml as a
directory index. The .htaccess file handles security functions, mime
type additions, and error redirects with no problem. MySQL is available
as well. Server response was perky, even at high load hours.
Cards on the table: We have no financial interest in TVCNET.COM.
VIRTUAL HOSTING: Maximum Service Internet (Prowebsite)
Update: Jan. 21, 1999. I have received a couple of e-mails
recently complaining about server performance, and time to resolve
I had been using Prowebsite for a variety of sites over the past
few years, and was very satisfied with them. Then I ended up buying
my own servers. Such is the natural progression of things.
I have about 16 years experience working with Unix
systems. Reads: I can be a major pain in the butt. They
were still nice to me ;-)
nice fast Silicon Graphics systems using the IRIX OS (unix), and
Apache HTTP Server.
Support is excellent and responsive. The sales staff knows their
stuff and can help you with the ins and outs of getting your site
On their smaller packages, you must pay for the full year in
advance, but they are very flexible on proration if you need to
upgrade. They also have a 60 day satisfaction provision in their
contract. So far, I haven't been yelled at for recommending them.
Their servers meet all the criteria listed above, and they offer what I feel
to be an excellent collection of features and services.
The BigNoseBird.Com site was hosted there for over a year and a half.
The only reason I moved the site to a co-located server is so that I
can have full administrative control of the system. If I decide that
maintaining this server is a hassle, I will back there in a flash!!!
Cards on the table: We have no financial interest in MSI.
VIRTUAL HOSTING: QWK.NET
Just in case we should need it, we have a back-up server located
in Nevada. Why not? This is a well run hosting company that
features seriously un-loaded, fast, responsive servers.
QWK.NET uses dual CPU Pentium systems running Linux. This ISP
is a bit different than most.
They provide good value for sites that are not bandwidth beasts.
the mid-priced package comes with 5GB of bandwidth, but you do
get a secure server (SSL) with it! That can cost as much as a
years hosting elsewhere. You also get mysql access.
Additional GB are reasonably priced at $8.00.
I can tell you they watch their servers. One day I could not
remember by password. After about 10 failed attempts I got
a quick e-mail from Travis asking, "Bruce, is that really you?"
That was pretty embarrasing!
When I did the initial setup, I was fully operational in less
five minutes after unpacking the files. All that was necessary
was changing some paths in CGI scripts. Everything was flawless.
In fact you can read my thank-you note on-line at their
Their servers meet all the criteria listed above, and they provide
excellent service, support, and overall value. Server Co-Location is
Cards on the table: We have no financial interest in QWK.
Advertises once in a while, but that started in Oct. 2000, long
after this write-up was added back in the summer of 1998.
SERVER CO-LOCATION: VASTNET.NET
A few years ago I was introduced to a bright young guy named John
Ferrari. The point of the meeting was he was thinking of starting
an ISP and a relative of his wanted me to discuss his plans with
him. By complete coincidence, he turned out to be the guy who
ran the ISP I had been using for a while. When I found out he
did in fact start his own firm, well..... His service always was
and has been great so when it came time to hotel a server, it was
a no-brainer on my part. (vastnet is also my dial-up ISP)
Our little toy is used to service some of our clients sites that have
special programming and support needs.
In addition to client
sites, we also use our server as an anonymous FTP site for BigNoseBird.Com,
and we have all those matching image set pages there to help balance
server load and bandwidth.
As of late December, 1998, the BigNoseBird.Com moved into its very
own server co-located at Vastnet.
If you are looking for personal service with attention to detail, this
is the place. I have experienced virtually no downtime (other than
self inflicted) with Vastnet.
Vastnet is not a budget service. You do get what you pay for. Redundant
connections to the Internet with true BGP. For a little more each month you
can even control your power connection to your server. I chose to skip
that so I can drop in and eat pretzels.
They also provide dedicated servers, including that cool little
Cobalt one! Virtual hosting is also available, but is priced to
discourage your using it. ;-) They are in the connectivity business
and are great at it.
I also recommend them to local associates and friends looking for
direct connectivity. (Long Island)
Cards on the table: We have no financial interest in VASNET, but
I live about 10 minutes from there and drop by to munch on pretzels,
and engage in some geek-speak.
*** For more information on finding an ISP, check out
HostIndex.Com. You can search their database on
a variety of criteria to save yourself a lot of time.
ISPs. How to Get Listed
To be perfectly honest with you, checking out your service is a
major chore for me. To make my life easier, please check out the
What Matter Most list above. Please don't write me debating
problems associated with any of them. Those are the criteria. Here is
E-mail me (Bruce) telling me you want
me to check out your service.
Create an account for me.
Assign an IP number.
I will then attempt to set up something there to see how
smoothly things go.
I will bounce traffic off of it to see how it responds.
I will go novice on you and ask a few dumb questions.
I will add it to my network monitor to see how often I
(hopefully not) get text paged.
Don't supply me with references, I can find them on your
The site stays active and monitored as long as it is listed here.