Time to Find a New Web Host

I’m probably going to have to find a new web host soon. I was hoping to work on that near the end of the year or early next year, but I’m not sure I can wait that long anymore.

For my web hosting, I’ve been leasing a VPS from ServInt for more than 12 years. They hosted my computer games business during the early 2000s, and I kept using them after I started blogging in 2004. In all the time I’ve been blogging, I’ve never used another web host, and I haven’t regretted that. I’ve paid ServInt tens of thousands of dollars in hosting fees, and for most of those years I’ve been very pleased with their service. Their support has been among the best I’ve experienced in my 21 years of doing business online, with the possible exception of Rackspace. When I had a tech issue with the server, they’d normally respond within an hour or two, and I could expect it to be resolved professionally and skillfully. Most of the time, I’d rate their support 5 out of 5. They aren’t cheap, but I felt the price they charged was fair for the quality support and reliability they provided.

This year I’ve been pretty disappointed with their level of support and service, however. They’ve been much slower to respond to support requests, frequently taking several hours even when I’m reporting a critical problem like the site being offline. When I’ve used their live support to ask if they can please speed things along, they tell me they’ll look into it, but it doesn’t seem like it makes the support ticket get answered any sooner. To their credit they’ve always been polite, but the technical competence I saw in the past seems largely absent this year. They’ve made numerous inaccurate diagnoses and tried repeated quick fixes that didn’t actually work. Meanwhile the original problems I reported continue to occur.

Given how long I’ve hosted with ServInt and how reliable and professional they’ve been in the past, I’ve done my best to be as patient as possible, and I’ve trying to work with them, but for the past several days, it just seems like I’m getting the runaround. I tried contacting other departments there to see if anyone can intervene to help speed along the resolution of recurring technical issues, at least to stop the server from going offline so much, but that hasn’t made any difference so far, and I don’t have good reason to believe the situation will improve. I get the impression that the skill and professionalism they expressed during most of the years I’ve been with them has somehow evaporated. Even if they fix these problem now, it’s going to be difficult to trust them going forward. If there’s ever another problem with the server going offline, I need to know that my host has my back and will get critical issues fixed quickly and accurately. Letting critical problems linger for days unresolved simply isn’t acceptable.

I’m sure I should consider myself extremely lucky to have found such a reliable host for most than a decade, which is pretty rare in web hosting circles. But it’s looking like this lucky streak is coming to an end this year, so I think it’s time to look for a new host. Unfortunately for me, the timing isn’t good since I’ll be on the road for most of the next two months, and even when I’m back at home, I’ll be busy doing the two October workshops. Choosing a host is a decision I like to make carefully. If ServInt can at least stabilize the server for two more months, I can stick with them for that time, but otherwise I can’t go for so long with an unstable server that experiences daily downtime.

In the meantime, I’m well aware that the site has been plagued with slow response times and frequent inaccessibility, and I’m sorry about that. Jetpack Monitor reports that it’s been offline for many hours this week. Traffic levels are normal, and the server should have more than enough capacity to handle the traffic without so much as a hiccup. Twice now ServInt has reported that the problem was caused by an issue with one of their host nodes, which they said they corrected, but the problems would just come back within a day. The WordPress error log, which normally should be empty or nearly empty, swelled to more than 120MB in size within a week, mainly because database queries keep timing out. Much of the time I can’t even access the server myself to see what’s going on, so I’ve been at the mercy of ServInt to diagnose and fix the problem, which hasn’t felt particularly merciful this week. Now I feel like I’m merely waiting for them to attempt the next quick fix that won’t actually work.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to research web hosts. I’ve already started researching some options, but I’m not yet up to speed on the current quality offerings for high-traffic WordPress hosting. As a programmer I’m pretty comfortable with the tech side, but I still prefer a managed hosting environment since I don’t like worrying about updating server software and keeping up with security issues. If you happen to know of any reliable hosts that provide serious speed and solid support for hosting a WordPress site with tens of thousands of daily visitors and at least 1TB of monthly bandwidth, please let me know. I’m not super price sensitive, and I’m used to paying hundreds per month for strong service and support.

I do want to avoid hosts with less than stellar reputations for support; that isn’t an area where I want to gamble. I also want to avoid hosts that have uncompetitive pricing models for high traffic sites. One otherwise promising host that I ruled out was Kinsta, which offers puny bandwidth packages and then charges a ridiculous $1/GB for bandwidth overage (Seriously… $1000 per TB!). Another I had to rule out was WP Engine due to its per-visit pricing scheme and inconsistent support reviews, whereby the definition of “visit” is left to its discretion and includes bot traffic (by their own admission); this blogger sure wasn’t happy about the surprises on his bills. I don’t want a host that plays pricing games to pad their revenue at the client’s expense. At least to their credit, ServInt never played pricing games, so I always knew what the monthly bill would be.

Switching hosts isn’t my favorite kind of challenge to tackle, but it’s worth the effort for a site that’s fast, responsive, and accessible to people worldwide. Even if it takes a while to get there, I hope you’ll be patient and can forgive the site’s current accessibility issues till this is resolved. Perhaps I’ll get lucky again this time and will find a host that’s great for at least another decade. 🙂

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Update: The early bird discount for Steve's upcoming Conscious Entrepreneur Workshop has been extended until Sunday, September 25.