Fasthosts and Microsoft up a tree, K.I.S.S.I.N.G…

Click image to view ad in PDF formatI was reading a magazine at work this morning when I came across an advert for Microsoft Windows Server 2003. The advert is one in a series of ads that Microsoft has been running which aim to promote companies who have chosen Windows Server over Linux because it is more reliable.

Now, admittedly I am a Mac user and obviously this taints my perspective on all things Microsoft ;) but I have to admit I was a bit irritated by the advert. The headline of the advert is, ‘FASTHOSTS CHOOSES WINDOWS SERVER FOR WEB RELIABILITY‘, with a strap-line of ‘Reliability is key in the "Web Hosting Market"‘ (not quite sure why ‘web hosting market’ is in quotes!??).

Now, I’ve been a Fasthosts customer for over 6 years, and although I did host a few sites on Windows going back a few years, almost everything I have running now is on Linux. I use both a basic reseller package, which allows both Windows and Linux hosting, and also a dedicated server running Fedora Core 5 Linux. My annoyance with the advert is that I thought it gives the impression that all of Fasthosts runs on Windows Server 2003 when in reality they offer both Linux and Windows options for all their hosting packages, it’s just their Control Panel and website that runs on Windows Server 2003.

Not so fast…(hosts)

If I was Fasthosts I would be wary of the impression these adverts give out, it could potentially appear as if Fasthosts were not a very pro-Linux host, or even that Fasthosts don’t do any kind of Linux based hosting at all. Of course Fasthosts are the UK’s largest Microsoft hosting partner (and apparently the world’s largest Windows 2003 Server host) so I guess this kind of promotion is to be expected. But, Fasthosts, don’t forget there are plenty of people who prefer Linux over Windows.

When it comes to developing sites using open source software such as MySQL and PHP then the LAMP platform is undoubtedly the best for the job. Windows Server 2003 may be the best, most reliable way to run Windows technologies such as etc but you need to choose the right tool for the job. I think in this particular case it was that Microsoft technologies made it much easier to create a system for Fasthosts to use to administrate the setup process for their domain registrations and web hosting. That’s not quite the same thing as saying the Windows Server is more reliable than Linux though.

Ok, rant over. I guess my main points are:

  1. Fasthosts don’t just provide Windows hosting.
  2. Linux is very, very reliable, despite what Microsofts marketing campaign might say.
  3. I prefer Linux to Windows.
  4. Don’t believe everything you read in adverts.
  5. I am, in fact, a fairly happy Fasthosts customer, despite this here rant.


Part Two – Why does UK hosting suck compared to the US?

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted the first part of this series of articles comparing the UK and US web hosting scenes. There was a quick flurry of activity in the comments of the last post. A few commenters seemed to get the wrong idea that I was primarily focused on the price of US hosting compared to the UK, that I thought hosting was cheaper in the US, Whilst I do think hosting is cheaper in the US there are still plenty of cheap options over here if you want to get hosted on a budget 1 and 1 Internet, Fasthosts, Webfusion etc etc all offer very cheap webhosting packages. However, the focus of my comparison is more to do with overall quality of hosting, the unique and specialised hosting options available in the US at a more competitive price than would be found in the UK.

In my last post I complained about the fact that I have 3 different hosting setups to provide what I need, a Fasthost Reseller account, a couple of WebFusion VPS accounts and a Fasthosts Dedicated server (read the previous article for more on why I have this setup currently). Well, to add to that mix I have since signed up for a hosting account with I am basically planning on moving everything that currently runs on the VPS accounts over to Mosso. Why did I choose Mosso? Well, here’s the basic feature set / price point:

  • 80 GB of disk space
  • 2000 GB of bandwidth
  • Online control panel
  • Full System Administration
  • Managed Backup & Security
  • Includes 24 x 7 Support
  • Based on Rackspace’s 100% Uptime network SLA
  • $100 per month

Basically for less than the cost of the two VPS accounts I get all that capacity, now, you need to go and read all the tech spec on the Mosso site to fully understand the setup but it’s basically a load-balanced cluster setup, they describe it on their own site like this:

Put succinctly, The Hosting System is advanced, enterprise-level hosting technology and easy-to-use software that beats the pants off of running your own server?and costs less, too.

That pretty much sums it up. It’s not cheap hosting, but it is great value for money. The fact that they’re based on the Rackspace network is encouraging. Rackspace have a very good name in hosting, they’re one of the companies that has made the jump ‘across the pond’ and does provide high level managed hosting services in the UK. However, it comes at a price, you probably won’t get a server for anything less than £300 a month from them, but the quality service they provide also serves Mosso so this makes $100 a month seem like a bargain.

(Features + Quality) ÷ Money = Value

As I’ve said, I’m not looking at the lowest price, but more along the lines of the pseudo-equation above. It’s the features offered by a webhost and the quality of them along with the amount they cost that represents the best option. I just think the services offered by US webhosts such as Mosso (The Hosting System), MediaTemple (GridServer) and TextDrive (Accelerator) (and EngineYard if you’re looking for Rails hosting) offer a better answer to the equation than you will find in the UK.

I’ve not really written about what I had planned for Part 2 of this series, mainly because of the point I wanted to clarify since the comments on the last post. However, hopefully in part 3 I’ll get down to doing a bit more of a closer look at the three hosting options provided by Mosso, MediaTemple and TextDrive.


Why does UK hosting suck compared to the US? Part One

This is a bit of a rant really, I’m just wondering when are the US companies going to come and give the UK hosting scene the shake-up it needs?

If you use US based hosting you get the following advantages:

  • Cheaper prices
  • Much bigger bandwidth allocations
  • Much bigger diskspace allocations
  • All inclusive features
  • Great tech support (on the whole!)

My Hosting history

I started using a Fasthosts reseller account which I’ve now had for the last 6 years or so. It’s quite a good service, I can host as many accounts as I want, Windows or Linux, no bandwidth or disk space limitations. It’s a service that has been very useful. The downside to it is that I have to pay extra for features like Spam filtering or virus protection, these features are also enabled on a per mailbox basis so it get’s expensive very quickly for clients who have a lot of mailboxes. MySQL databases, Visitor Statistics, user control panels, password protected folders are all additional costs to have on a site too, so adding all these costs onto a site really mounts up. On the plus side though is that Fasthosts Tech Support is very good, they offer 24/7 support and they do the job very well. I’m always confident they’ll get any problems sorted very quickly. In addition to the Reseller Account I also have a Dedicated Server which I use to provide live audio and video streaming for a client and also to host some additional MySQL databases.

Too much, not enough…

Due to the high price of all the additional features on Fasthosts and also the inability (at that time anyway) to use Apache .htaccess files for mod_rewrite I had no choice but to get an additional hosting account elsewhere. I’ve used two different VPS accounts since then, the first with Designer Servers and the second with Webfusion.

The Designer Servers VPS was reliable but had an unrealistic and unusable diskspace allocation of 300Mb which for a reseller VPS was just way to small. In this age of GMail accounts approaching 3Gb it wasn’t enough. The cost involved in getting a more expensive account just wasn’t worth it.

I then switched to Webfusion as the price was a bit lower and had a much better disk space allocation of 10Gb. The VPS comes with a 100 domain Plesk Control Panel which is quite easy to use and provides a good interface for clients to use to manage their own email etc. It worked quite well until late last year (2006) when it started to run quite slowly, and despite my best efforts to optimise what’s running on it and moving most of the MySQL databases over to my Fasthosts Dedicated Server it’s still not running very well. It kind of feels like a Windows machine does when you know it’s time to reformat and get a clean install and start fresh. Only this is a linux server hosting several of my clients so there’s no way that’s an option.

What’s so good about the US hosts?

So that kind of brings me to where I am now, frustrated with having to deal with three separate hosting setups to get what I want. In the midst of this frustration I noticed a lot sites using US companies like MediaTemple for their hosting so I started to check out the US companies some more, and I was really surprised by what the features were.

I’ve already mentioned some major benefits in my previous bullet points, besides the cheaper prices and bigger diskspace and bandwidth allocations there is the actual technical setup of the hosting itself. There’s just nothing like it available based in the UK, not really for any price at the moment!

In the second part of this series of rants posts I’ll take a closer look at the following US hosting setups:

End of part 1