Our Approach to Hosting
First and foremost we do not, cannot and do not wish to compete with companies such as Bluehost, A Small Orange, AppMachine, Hostmonster, Constant Contact, Domain.com, Dotster, DomainHost, FastDomain, FatCow, HostGator, HostMonster, Intuit Websites, iPage, JustHost, MyDomain, PureHost, ReaduHosting.com, SEO Gears, SEO Web Hosting, Site5, Typepad, USANetHosting, Verio, Webhosting4Life, webhosting.info and YourWebHosting.
Why did we list all of those competitors? Because they are all owned by the same company: Endurance International Group or EIG. And the list above only contains the publicly known companies; this is not a complete listing.
EIG is in the business of sales, mergers and acquisitions. They are not in the business of quality web hosting nor development.
Here are some considerations that other hosting providers will sell as well as our approach:
To be honest we are still astounded that companies count page views toward monthly pricing. We do not put a limit on the number of page views per month. This isn't 2002.
Hard Drives and Drive Space
Let's get the simplest out of the way first. They types of hard drives use and the amount of space are critical for hosting a site or application. There are two types of storage: Solid State Drives (SSDs) and old-school plate-based hard drives.
Old-school drives allow for more space at a cheaper price. However they are slower, contain moving parts and are physically limited in size. You need to add additional hard drives to increase space.
Solid State Drives cost more as they are much faster, contain no moving parts reducing the risk of data loss and capacity can be increased.
How others sell it: You have 50GB of drive space. If you need 51GB you have to pay for 100GB.
Why we are different: We appropriate hard drive space based on your need, factoring in required space for local backup caches in addition to your site's needs which keeps, on average, 25% of your drive volume free. And we can and will justify any and all drive space increases. All drive space increases are in 5 gigabyte increments at $1 per gigabyte. Please note that hard drive space is a one-way street! We can only increase the size - we cannot decrease it!
What they won't tell you: "Unlimited" disk space is not unlimited. It is unlimited within their definition of the hosts' terms of service and their definition can be quite vague. Christopher Heng at thesitewizard.com wrote a great piece on this verbal shell game which also touches on "unlimited bandwidth".
The second-best known component is RAM, or memory.
How others sell it: You need as much RAM as you can afford. And more. And if you need more drive space you will take more RAM (and cores).
Why we are different: First, keep in mind that your operating system is going to use approximately 500MB of RAM. That is unavoidable. It's just how it is.
We provide as much RAM as you need. We have seen enough WordPress and Drupal installations to know that WordPress can run fine on 2GB and Drupal on 4GB but if you are going to have high traffic we need to take a few things into consideration: we check the memory footprint for each PHP process (how much memory each process consumes). We can then estimate the amount of RAM you will need for normal operations and for minor traffic surges.
What they won't tell you: There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to RAM. Yes, more is better. But by having a properly-configured server where the number of cores (discussed below) and RAM are configured to your needs you will not be overpaying for resources you never use.
Number of Cores
The number of cores within a server limit the number of processes that can be executed simultaneously. The more cores you have, the more processes your server can handle at once.
How do you determine the number of cores needed?
We use a server-side program called "top" (some of prefer the more colorful "htop") which shows all of the processes running on the server, how much RAM is being used, which processors are busy, how much CPU and RAM each process is using, how long the process has been running and the Load Average. Load Average is the first thing we look at when determining if a processor increase is necessary.
What makes up the Load Average?
The load average indicates the core utilization over 1, 5 and 15 minutes. On single core servers a load average of 1.00 means that the single processor is at 100% utilization. If the load average is at 2.00 it tells us that the single core is at capacity and has queued processes to run after it is finished processing other requests. On a dual core system a load average of 2.00 indicates the system is running at 100% capacity (1.00 load average per processor). So if you consider the load average of a single core server is 2.00, by adding an additional core you divide the processor load in half so each processor runs at 100%. Expand this to a quad-core system (4 cores) and then each core processes at 50% capacity so no requests get queued up.
We are going to super-simplify a web request on a typical server. Let's assume we are using a WordPress site without caching set up on a standard server. A single web request would be handled by the web server (nginx - 1 process) and if a PHP file is requested (not a stylesheet or image) nginx passes the request along to PHP (2nd process). PHP will likely do several queries in the database which spawns the database process (3rd process).
All of these processes are handle by the CPU. There is a popular analogy to think of CPU cores as a bridge. A single core is a one-lane span which can handle 10 cars at a time. What happens when there are 20 cars wanting to cross the bridge? There's a backup. Add another lane and now you can handle 20 cars at once.
How others sell it: Good luck finding out any of this information from most hosts. Many will not make this information available to you and if they do it will be in the form of, "you have exceeded your quota, here's a bill for the overage." Others will respond with, "you're at one core but the next package is 2 or 4 or 8 cores which comes with a hard drive size increase . Once those cores are no longer needed you cannot go back. You are stuck at that price point - with a lot of wasted drive space and processor power.
Why we are different: We appropriate cores based on your need. We test your web applications and based on your traffic needs can add or remove cores as needed based on demand.
Standard cores are $30 per core while performance cores are $80 per core.
Standard Cores vs. High Performance Cores
You're probably thinking, "wait a darn minute - it's not as if cores are not complicated enough but now we're talking different types of cores?"
Standard cores are shared among the full server processes. Our virtual private servers (VPSes) are configured on servers which are shared with other VPSes. Each VPS shares a portion of the RAM allocated to that server. Each standard core requires 1 additional gigabyte of RAM so a 10 core server will require 10 GB of RAM.
High Performance cores offer around a 30% increase in speed and performance over standard servers. These are fully dedicated cores to your machine and are not shared with other VPSes. High Performance cores require an additional 4GB of RAM. So a dual-core High Performance server will require 8GB of RAM (and will perform better than a four-core, 4GB RAM standard server).
Before diving in, it helps to understand how server backups are utilized. Unlike Apple's Time Machine backups are not made in real-time. A full backup is made on Sunday with incremental backups made throughout the week until the next Sunday. These incremental backups contain file deltas - only files which have changed or been added since the last backup. This reduces the backup file size.
How others sell it: We do backups. Don't ask specifics.
Why we are different: We custom configure backups to your needs, what needs to be backed up and position the backups so that restoration is quick and easy.
We offer three backup packages:
Standard - backups retained for 1 month with full backups on Sunday and incremental backups throughout the week.
2-tier - includes the standard backups as well as UpDraft Plus for WordPress users.
3-2-1 - the industry standard for true, reliable backups which refer to 3 copies in 2 different formats with 1 of those copies off-site. This solution includes:
- Standard backup to local storage
- R1Soft Enterprise backups (100GB of space)
- UpdraftPlus backups to our local storage as well as to an external source (Google Cloud or Amazon S3)
Backups are priced by package and by space consumed at $1 per gigabyte of drive space. Consider your site is 1.5GB. If you want to keep 2 full backups at once you would be using approximately 3.5 GB on drive space (2 full backups at 1.5GB and an additional 500 MB for deltas).
How others sell it: cPanel lets you configure everything! 200+ tools
What they don't tell you: You won't use even a 1/0th of the stuff. The tools they provide may or may not fully work (timing out on large transfers), are likely outdated (old versions of phpMyAdmin, for example) and watered down editions of modern solutions (such as email). Several applications on a system also offer up more points of entry for nefarious purposes.
Why we are different: We install only the software you need and provide full server management. Our interface is a Unix console and we utilize high-security practices when accessing your server.
Our software of choice:
Web server: nginx
Scripting engine: PHP 7
Database: MariaDB (drop-in MySQL replacement)
Cache: Varnish and WP Rocket (for WordPress installs)
Object Cache: Memcached and Redis
How others sell it: They don't. You are provided with an FTP account with a username and password which are transmitted in plain text.
What they don't tell you: A lot. A whole lot. Cybersecurity is a huge concern and should be at the top of anyone's hosting checklist.
Why we are different: All of our servers are custom-built by us and are run on Enterprise Linux software. We do not allow passwords to be used to access the server; all access is limited to 2048-bit shared-key access.
Our standard servers are also built with the following:
No passwords: Users requiring direct access to the server must use a shared key to log in.
Automatic IP address banning: After 5 failed attempts at guessing the password (which is impossible) malicious visitors are blocked from accessing the server. This prevents attackers from being able to attempt other methods of accessing the server.
Server file-level audits: Detects if any changes are made to server-level files such as configuration files and programs.
Nightly malware scans: Malware definitions are updated nightly and our scans alert if us any questionable files appear on the server.
Rootkit detection: Additional scans are performed to detect rootkits – programs which embed themselves deep within servers and are difficult to remove.
We also encourage our WordPress clients to run the premium version of WordFence.
All sites are monitored through an external monitoring server which alerts us when sites are unreachable. We also offer New Relic and Pingdom monitoring.
Care & Feeding
Many organizations and individuals want to focus on their business and do not have time to worry about server configurations, setting up DNS and other technical responsibilities. That is where we come in.