Managing My Data: Hosting

Hosting

In order to bring my data under my control, I need a place to store my data and host my selected applications.* Depending on the service, or set of services you choose to implement from this series, you can very likely find service hosts for free in order to accommodate. However, the goal of this is to host all of my data in one location that I manage… so hosting is required.

There are more hosting companies out there than you can shake a stick at these days. Linux based hosting has become so cheap it’s almost silly not to have a plan with a company just as a secure file storage server for backups. Find your favorite hosting company and set up a plan. The most important part of the selection process is to review the host. Learn about their security, their track record, their maintenance plans, outages, etc. The more you know up front, the less chance you’ll be surprised later.

My Personal Choice (Not the best nor the only)

I chose Arvixe for a couple of reasons:

  1. Cheap Pricing – Plans as low as $4/mo.
  2. Top Rated Service – One of the best rated the best rated support (which comes in handy later)
  3. In business since 2003 – Beware of fly-by-night hosting companies and resellers.
  4. Available Microsoft hosting – I have several side projects that require a .Net backend. It’s nice to have all of my hosting through one company. (Not a requirement for this series)

Dollars and Sense

I signed up for the Linux based PersonalClass hosting plan for $6/mo ($36 for 6 months). They have options for monthly, one year, and two year contracts. For my first stretch, I figured 6 months would be more than enough time to get things set up and running long enough to see how I like the setup. Another perk with the plan is one free domain registration FOR LIFE!

If you want to take the plunge and really save some cash here’s what things would look like:

2 year plan

$96

$4.00/mo

2 years waived domain registration

-$20

-$0.83/mo

2 years of hosting

$76

$3.17/mo

The “Chrome Trim”

Another valuable security measure (that will become very useful when I talk about data storage and synchronization) is SSL. An SSL certificate will encrypt data in transmission between your PC and your server. It’s a smart idea if you plan on sending or synchronizing any files that contain sensitive information, or just logging in to sensitive areas of your website.

2 years of hosting     

$76

$3.17/mo

Static Domain

$48

$2.00/mo

SSL Certificate **

$20

-$0.83/mo

2 years of hosting + Extras    

$144

$5.92/mo

 

That’s only slightly higher than your daily mocha-latte-chino-grande-whatever and far more valuable. To be even more precarious… that’s only TWENTY CENTS
($0.20) per day. Less than a quarter a day to make sure your data is completely under your control, your services will always stay running, and no ridiculous EULA lingo that will grant anyone else access. You have to decide your own priorities, but for me, this is a no brainer.

 

Take the time to do the research and pick a reputable company that has a proven track record. Sometimes the biggest name doesn’t always mean the best service or the best support. A few of the big name companies are known to push catchy marketing strategies to pull in volume while offering a minimum level of support. You don’t have to look hard to figure out that some hosting providers aren’t nearly as fatherly
as their name might suggest. Such services have no qualms about taking your money, but trying to fix a problem or terminate services is worse than breaking off that bad relationship we’ve all had. Not only is ending it a pain, but you can expect to be called, emailed and harassed until you give them just one more chance. The other disadvantage to going with the biggest name on the net is that it’s also the most visible target for attack.

However you do your research, remember this: Features should drive you to the hosting solution, quality of support should drive you to sign the contract.

* If I REALLY wanted to take this to an extreme, I could get a service like dyn.org and host everything from home. However, the safety, security, and lack of service violations with my ISP make hosting a cheap and simple solution.

** SSL certificate as listed is for a single domain/subdomain. Wildcard certificates are significantly more costly.

Support

If you have an issue with a Google product, you can try to get through to their tech support. The more reasonable and socially acceptable option is to rely on the kind users of the interwebs to help you with your problems. If you’re savvy enough, you can usually figure out any issue within an hour or less. Not terrible if you have that time to spend on trial and error and you can follow sometimes technical instructions. Of course if you’re not techie or adventurous, you likely stopped reading at the first post.

 

Hosting accounts typically have a support plan built in. Since you don’t have complete control over the server, it’s important to have confidence in those who do. Test out the responsiveness of your tech support with a simple issue. Learn their process and response times BEFORE you purchase a plan to eliminate surprises. The Arvixe plan comes with some of the best customer service I’ve ever worked with. Sales support is immediate and tech support has less than a 24 hour response time in my experience. The staff is all overseas, but every representative I’ve interacted with has been responsive, efficient, and pleasant. They’ll even allocate staff to helping you troubleshoot issues with third party software (which becomes very important later).

 

I’ve noticed (which makes business sense) that if you appeal to the sales support staff, they can usually route you to the technical support staff much more quickly. I purchased an SSL certificate to protect my sync site. The management panel (cPanel) said I needed a static IP, yet I couldn’t find anywhere on their services site to purchase one. Reluctantly, I clicked the “live chat” option. A sales technician popped online after a minute, set me up with everything I needed, walked me through testing it out, and I had everything I needed working in under 10 minutes. I try not to over-use their services, but it’s hard not to when the response time and support is fantastic.

 

I can’t stress how important good tech support is for this type of venture. No matter how savvy you are, or think you are, you don’t control the servers. There’s going to come a time when you need assistance. Best to plan ahead and work with a quality provider with quality service and save yourself a headache.

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