Webhosts are interesting creatures, I've had several in the 11 years I've had some kind of presence on the web. Most of them follow a similar pattern. You sign up for a plan, the price is good, the performance is awesome, support is quick and helpful. But as months pass, things seem to change. The site slows down, support takes longer to respond and don't seem as competent as they once did. I've always wondered why that happens. My guess is in most cases it is because the webhost is a victim of its own success. They start out with a small dedicated team and do a good job which brings them lots of a business and they grow too fast and the quality suffers as a result. A more sinister idea may be that they purposefully make sure new subscribers get better support and performance during the initial trial period.
Either way, it usually seems at some point it just makes more sense to find a new host than keep using the old one.
I've been with my current host, Dreamhost, for almost six years ago, and for the most part they have been great. Over the last year though things have been a little bumpy. My sites have loaded slow, my email has been overtaken with spam despite their spam filters, and their have been a few other glitches. So I started looking around, trying to decide if it was time to change. I like Dreamhost, their support has been great, they are very up front and honest about problems and do a good job of keeping users informed about issues. They also have customer rewards where much like gmail does, they increase your bandwidth and storage allotments over time. After six years I have more storage and bandwidth than I am ever likely to use.
However the fact that I had finally given up on their email system between its painful slowness and the spam, and the general slowness of my sites I decided to look around. I finally settled on LiquidWeb. I gave it a test drive with a new domain name. It was much faster than dreamhost, and I tried a few basic support requests and had good responses. I did find a couple of issues though.
- Their control panel and email are only accessible through a port other than 80. This can cause problems if you are behind a firewall. This wasn't really acceptable to me. I thrive on webmail, and want to be able to access it from anywhere.
- No IMAP support for email. Not as big of deal as it use to be since I use webmail now more than an email client. But by only offering pop, that means that when I get my email, it is removed from the server to my client computer, making those messages inaccessible from any other connection.
- Domain registration. LiquidWeb offers a couple of free domain registrations with sign-up, which is a nice feature. However, if you cancel your account you have to pay more money and go through quite a hassle to move it somewhere else so you can use it.
At any rate, my overall experience with LiquidWeb was good, but they just didn't work for me. Their Control Panel didn't have near the options that Dreamhost did, and the accessibility options just meant it wasn't really an option.
During this whole process I went to make some changes to one of my Dreamhost domains and found out a few things. For one thing, they now offered options of hosting your email for your domains through gmail. I think it is a free feature that Google offers now anyway, but very nice to have it available straight through Dreamhost. An another one was a long term issue that they have been experiencing with one of their storage clusters which they are in the process of resolving. I've already seen an improvement in performance, though it is still a little on the slow side.
So, the point of this whole thing? None really. Just doing a brain dump of what is going on with the site behind the scenes. In the end I've decided to stay with Dreamhost. Their support is still great (even saving me from myself after deciding I really wanted something out of a database, after I deleted it), and the gmail hosted domain email is great. I would still recommend them to others with a few caveats. Mainly they are not the fastest host I've ever used, I'm seeing improvement, but they are still a bit on the slow side. For a small private blog or family photo site, not a big issue.
The thing that most impresses me is the honest and up front way they deal with things. When they screw up, they tell you. They don't make excuses or cover it up. That is pretty rare nowadays in the tech world.