For the past several years, 1and1 has met all of my web hosting needs. I signed up when they were offering 3 years free hosting, and a promotion for their launch in the U.S. (they were established in Germany before that). Once I tried it out, I was impressed with the generous quotas (tons of disk space and bandwidth – more than I ever came close to using), and low prices for domain registration ($5.99 a year, which enabled my bad domain purchasing habit, which is now costing me 28x$5.99 a year 😉 ).
But alas, starting about 6 months ago, they began to suffer from their own success, and I noticed that performance on a responsiveness on my various WordPress blogs started to decline. MyIPNeighbors showed me that there were well over a hundred other sites being hosted on the same server/IP address. The slow down was most noticeable on this one, TinyScreenfuls.com, which was by far the most trafficked. Page load times were in excess of 15 seconds, and even after stripping the page down to its bare essentials, and debugging with Firebug (I love you Joe Hewitt!), I narrowed it down. WordPress’s index.php file was taking over 5 seconds to load and render, and since most of the rest of the page depended on that being loaded first, it slowed the whole site down.
Add on a series of support mishaps (all of my sites stopped working – turns out they were disabled for “using too much CPU”, but I never got any notice, and support had no clue, so they just reenabled the sites for me ), and I was ready to move to another host. To step up to a more performance-oriented web host. I was only paying $9.99 a month with 1and1, and was looking for something similar.
I queried my friends in my various networks, and got recommendations (and horror stories) for BlueHost, DreamHost, Rackspace, and others. I waffled back and forth about making the change, not wanting to get stuck with another hosting company that would have the same problems I was suffering with 1and1. And moving more than a dozen sites to a new host is no small task. I wanted to be sure I was making a good decision.
In the end, I decided to go with mediatemple (their lowercase-ization, not mine). It’s a little more expensive than 1and1, BlueHost, or Dreamhost ($20/month for shared hosting, instead of $10). But their GridServer technology impressed me, and they had some pretty glowing reviews from the likes of Mike Arrington of TechCrunch. GridServer, as I understand it, basically puts all shared hosting users in a pool of virtual servers, instead of being tied to a physical server. This allows things to scale as needed for performance, and “roll around” as physical servers are rebooted for maintenance, etc.
The thing I was most concerned about was performance, and as of tonight, when I finished migrating TinyScreenfuls.com over to mediatemple, speed is blazing. Before, I was averaging 15+ page load times for the front page, according to Firebug. The problem child, index.php, was averaging over 5 seconds. Ugh. Now, I’m seeing index.php load in less than 50 milliseconds. A hundred times faster. The whole front page loads in 2 to 3 seconds. Daddy like.
So far, I’m a happy mediatemple customer. The fact that they have an iPhone version of their Account Center control panel is nice, but in reality, it doesn’t let you do much more than pay your bill, buy a new domain, restart services, etc. But hey, it looks cool, right? If you’re looking for hosting, and you need a little more performance than 1and1 or someone similar can offer, check out mediatemple. They’re not paying me anything to say that – in fact, I don’t even know if they have a referral/affiliate program. I should look into that, because I have the feeling I’m going to be talking a few people into signing up with them…
She’s still on her shakedown cruise, and I expect a few glitches over the next few days, so if you notice something weird, or get an error or unexpected behavior, please do let me know!