Whether it’s because of the recent major outage, their brazen support for SOPA, or their longstanding questionable business practices, there are many reasons one may wish to avoid doing business with GoDaddy. (Archive.org has a mirror of the old NoDaddy site if you’re curious about some of the hijinks they’ve been behind in the past.)
There are countless alternatives for the services GoDaddy offers, but many newbies are not too aware of them. After all, they don’t pour money into TV ads during the Superbowl.
Since I’m frequently asked for suggestions, I figured it would make for a good post.
It is usually prudent to register domain names with a separate company from the one that actually hosts your web site. That way, if you have cause to switch for one reason or other, you can simply edit the DNS to point it to your new host, and you don’t have to worry about transferring the name from one service to another.
There are many domain registrars, but a few that are frequently recommended are:
- Name.com — Name.com recently went above and beyond to help recover a domain that was hijacked from a web development blog. Even though the thief had transferred it away from GoDaddy and only moved it to Name.com temporarily before being shuffled over to 1and1, Name.com was the only company involved to step up and coordinate the recovery of the stolen name.
- Hover — Hover charges a premium, but their goal is simplicity and no BS. They won’t push extra services on you when you buy a domain or clutter your admin panel up with ads.
- Namecheap — A popular option, though I know less about them. A lot of the people moving away from GoDaddy during the SOPA boycotts went with Namecheap.
- 1and1 — I’ve been using 1and1 for my many domains for several years. (Since 2005 or so, maybe.) I haven’t had an issue with them so far, though some people have reported issues with their customer service department. They get a bit of flak, whether it’s warranted or not, but I have been happy with their service for about seven years.
- Gandi — Gandi’s motto is “no bullshit™.” They handle a large selection of TLDs, so they’re a good bet if you’re looking for something exotic, like a
.fmdomain. Their prices do vary depending on the extension, though, since country-level domains vary depending on their home nation’s policies.
- Moniker — I currently have one domain registered with Moniker, as I had acquired it after the previous owner allowed it to expire, and I never moved it away from Moniker. I haven’t had issue with them so far, and they’re an established name in the industry.
There are three major types of web hosting services: shared, VPS and dedicated. Shared hosting is the cheapest option, and is the easiest for beginners to get started with. Basically, you share a server with many other users. Its resources are allocated equally, and everything usually works fine so long as none of the website get too much traffic. Things get a little more complicated then, and the host may suspend the offending web site and ask them to upgrade to a pricier service.
Some hosts advertise “unlimited” bandwidth, but you shouldn’t take that claim too seriously. While they may not meter your bandwidth, they will still cut you off if serving your site takes up too much CPU time. (More traffic means more requests served simultaneously, which means greater processor usage. Obviously they don’t want to impact the other sites on the server, so they suspend the site.)
- A Small Orange — ASO aims to provide affordable and fair web hosting without overselling, a tactic that some hosts use to maximize profits, selling more accounts on a server than the hardware can handle, under the assumption that the majority of users won’t be fully utilizing what they pay for. A Small Orange is upfront about the limitations of each plan they offer. You can get a shared hosting account starting at $35/year ($2.91/month) and move up to higher plans as needed. Their $10/month plan with 5 gigabytes of storage space and 100GB of transfer is a pretty good deal, and more than enough for even a moderately popular blog. They also offer reseller, VPS and dedicated plans if you outgrow shared hosting. [Affiliate Link]
- Nearly Free Speech — What if you didn’t pay a flat monthly fee for basic web hosting? What if you only paid for what you used, and not a penny more? That’s how Nearly Free Speech works. Pricing can get a little complicated, but it can be very cheap as a result. You make a deposit, as little as $0.25, and pay as you go. Serving up static HTML isn’t going to cost much, depending entirely on how popular your site is and how much you’re storing on their servers. Dynamic sites, like WordPress blogs, start with that same baseline, but there is and additional $0.01/day dynamic site fee, and additional usage fees for your MySQL database.
- WP Web Host — This one is well-known in the WordPress community. They specialize in hosting services for WordPress. They’re up front about their policies on the maximum system resources that you can consume under a shared plan, as well. (15% CPU, 512MB of RAM)
- Media Temple — Media Temple’s “Grid Service” offering, though pricier than most shared hosting services, is known for being more reliable. They use redundant server clusters that can “burst” extra resources to handle spikes in traffic. You get a 100GB storage pool and up to one terabyte of monthly network transfer. Media Temple offers a custom control panel, and one-click installs of popular software packages, such as WordPress.
Virtual Private Servers
While a shared host puts many users’ sites in the same server environment, a Virtual Private Server (VPS) is more like having a dedicated server, though it is significantly cheaper. Using a technology known as virtualization, a server is partitioned into several virtual servers. Far less customers are put on one machine, so you have a much greater share of the hardware’s resources, and you also have full control over the server environment. In most cases you’re given remote access to the command line, and you can install your choice of operating system (Linux or Unix distributions, in most cases) and configure things however you want.
There are two varieties of service you’ll find when you purchase a VPS: managed and unmanaged. With a managed server, you give up some control in order to have the provider take care of the technical details for you, and maybe offer a friendly control panel like cPanel. With an unmanaged server, you’re given free reign over your virtual machine and little support (unless you pay extra to be rescued). If you’re familiar with Linux and don’t mind getting your hands dirty in order to retool things for your needs, an unmanaged VPS is awesome.
- A Small Orange — (See the above entry under Shared Hosting.) A Small Orange also offers VPS plans, as well as dedicated servers. Their servers are fully managed, and include a cPanel license. So they’re a good bet if you don’t want to make the leap to managing a server and editing configuration files from the command line.
- VPS.net — My hosting provider of choice. They offer a few different services, their “cloud servers” offering being what I use. You get a scalable VPS (you can add or subtract “nodes” of resources and deploy them with a quick reboot) and unfettered access over SSH. It’s unmanaged unless you purchase optional “managed services” or one-time “do it for me” support tickets. It’s very reliable, and there are datacenters across several continents. A single-node VPS with 376MB of RAM, 10GB of disk space and 1TB of network transfer will run you $20/month. [Affiliate Link]
- Linode — Linode is a well-liked option along similar lines to VPS.net. Their offerings provide good bang for the buck (a 512MB system with 20GB of storage and 200GB of transfer will cost you $19.95/month) and they’re known for their support. They also have a nice collection of tutorials, which I have referred to in the past, even though I’m not a customer.
- Media Temple — MT also offers virtual servers, several variations of that theme in fact. They have their VE, GS and Nitro plans, which all have their different pluses and minuses. I don’t have any personal experience with Media Temple, though they have a good reputation and I had considered them at one point.
- Rackspace — Rackspace is a big player in the cloud server arena. They provide numerous services for varying needs. They host many web apps, like Amazon.
- Amazon Web Services — Few names are more well known in cloud services than Amazon. Their EC2 service powers a lot of big-name web apps and social networking sites, though it is just as viable for smaller sites. They also have S3, which is good for storing and serving static files, CloudFront, their CDN, and others.
Those are just a few suggestions. Whatever your needs are, there are many options out there. Be sure to shop around and look for reviews before comitting to a service.
A good resource for asking for advice is the Web Hosting Talk forum.