An Idiot’s Guide to Web Hosting

by Alex on October 15, 2011

an idiots guide to web hosting

I’m Back!

If you have been following the story so far then you will know that I had some serious issues with my hosting account which basically led to the shutting down of every single website in the Build Rank Profit network.

As you can imagine I have been somewhat stressed out over the last week, not so much because of the fact that my sites were down but because I am a technical dunce and had no idea why?! However, I’ve since learned a few things about Hosting – and about how good my readers are, and I would like to share these lessons with you. In the process I hope to give you some insight into how hosting works and more importantly – provide you with some helpful tips to boost your sites speed AND ensure that what happened to me never ever happens to you.

What Happened Exactly?

In order to understand what happened you need to know how it all works… and seeing as it’s all very technical and not much fun anyway, allow me to explain how web hosting works – in layman’s terms

An Idiot’s Guide to Web Hosting

hosting is all very confusing

There's more to it than just storage and space

When you pay a host company you are effectively asking them to store all your sites content and associated data on their server.

But contrary to popular belief (well my belief anyway) it’s not just about bandwidth and physical space. Did you know there is all this ‘database querying’ going on the whole time?! Some other stuff about SQLs and load limits too apparently… and I don’t even want to know what WordPress is doing to my backend. It’s not fantastico at all!

Basically there is a lot more to it than simply ‘using a server to store your stuff’ – and understanding this is paramount to building a successful online business.

The first thing you need to do is choose a Hosting Plan, and even this bit can be confusing – so allow me to stupify simplify it :)

First things first though: CPanel.

The Control Panel is the heart of everything in relation to Hosting (at least when you are as technically challenged as I am) and it is from this wonderfully laid out screen that you do all the important things – like managing emails, creating and managing pages/files and of course – Installing WordPress.

Something to note is that only the Shared Hosting and Reseller Hosting accounts come with CPanel. Unless otherwise stated – nearly all VPS and Dedicated Hosting packages require you to pay an additional cost (between $5 and $20 a month!) in order to be able to use CPanel. Just keep this in mind as I bore you with hosting plan details…. (yay)

  • Shared Hosting ($5 – $50 a month)
    As the name suggests, what you are effectively doing is placing your site and all its glorious content on the same server as 673,081* other people. (*Exact numbers may vary).
    Limits are placed on how much space you can use as well as how many domains/databases/mail accounts etc you can utilise.
  • Reseller Hosting ($25 – $75 a month)
    Utilising the same resources as shared hosting, but with as many different ‘accounts’ as you like.
    Limits are placed on each ‘account’, so by separating your domains you can ensure they do not all bring each other down – should one cause ‘problems’
  • Dedicated and Semi-Dedicated Hosting ($100 and up a month)
    As the name suggests, what you are doing is getting a server (or part thereof) all to yourself.
    The costs are generally (a lot) higher but you get the peace of mind of knowing you have an abundance of ‘Hardware and Resources’ at your disposal.
  • VPS Hosting (Virtual Private Server) ($50 and up a month)
    Virtual Private Servers are basically a step up from Shared Hosting in that although you technically have your own ‘private server’ it is actually part of a larger standalone server – you just get your own dedicated amount of RAM, Harddrive Space and Processing ability.
    VPS Hosting is also for those who actually know what they are doing, because the emphasise here is more on self managed hosting, with the idea being that the user has much more control over what is going on (so that what happened to me for example would not have happened to someone managing their own VPS hosting account)

So What DID happen to me then?

Basically I was too cheap to begin with – and then too ignorant to know any better… but the more technical reason , according to Hostgator was as follows:

“Your account had been automatically suspended from using the MySQL service due to placing excessive load on the SQL server. This prevented WordPress from accessing its database, causing it to revert to the pre-installation state. If you do not alter your sites to use less SQL resources, they will most likely be suspended again”

I then proceeded to have my sites (yep, all of them!) suspended numerous times over the next few hours as the ‘SQL Load limit’ kept being compromised.

What does this mean in English?

hosting is all very confusing to meYes well… I think this is the biggest reason for me being so upset about the whole process.

Admittedly I am not exactly knowledgeable in the area of Hosting (you don’t say Alex) but surely as a Company it is up to Hostgator to inform their clients of any and/or all limits that their accounts have on them?
And further to this – how hard is it to allow me to see this SQL Resource as a metric within my CPanel – just like I get with bandwidth and space?

So How Much Do I Hate Hostgator Now?

I don’t – not even slightly. In fact I like them. So much so I will still actively promote their services to my readers! (I’ll just make sure they read this post first)

The fact that Hostgator just shut me down completely with no warning what-so-ever is the only reason I am not happy with them. I will say on record now that I am still using Hostgator Hosting services and I am still extremely satisfied with the service and support they provide. (In fact Hostgator have been instrumental in helping me successfully move alexwhalley.com to a new host – and THAT speaks volumes in itself)

No the biggest issue for me was a combination of lack of communication on their part and a lack of knowledge and understanding on my part. Now I can’t help you with the poor communication part but I sure as shit can sort out the other bit for you :) So allow me to share with you what I did to fix the problem and how you can prevent it from ever happening to you

How to Minimize Your Use of SQL Resources

When you install WordPress on your site (which most of us do) you create an SQL Database that is connected to that installation of WordPress. So on top of your sites physical files and the storage/space/speed that goes with this – you also now have to factor in how often your WordPress installation ‘talks’ to the associated SQL Database. Making sense so far?

When you have a shared hosting account you are effectively sharing this SQL Database space with everyone else – just as you are with the physical space you are allocated on the server – so if you start utilising too much of the resources they simply shut you down.

Here are some things YOU can do right now to Minimize your use of SQL resources.

  • Disable the all-in-one-seo-pack and seo-automatic-links plugins, as they are known to cause high resource usage.

    • Don’t Worry -SEO by YOAST plugin has a feature to allow you to import all data from your old SEO plugin – including All-In-One SEO!
    • Murray Lunn actually noticed a flaw in All-In-One SEO – yet another reason to go with SEO by YOAST.
    • With regards to SEO-Auto-Links – sorry, there is NO WAY I would recommend removing it. The alternative is SEO-Smart-Links but this also utilises a lot of SQL Resources.
  • Install a caching plugin to reduce resource usage. 
    • When you install W3 Total Cache it defaults to ‘Preview Mode’ and will not actually work until you disable this in the settings.
    • I strongly recommend that you install this plugin on your blog regardless as it WILL increase your overall sites speed (great for SEO – among other things)

  • Upgrade Your Hosting Account!
    • Let’s face it – you should NOT have to go removing and adding plugins just to keep your host service provider happy – I mean seriously, if it comes to a point where you are required to change aspects of YOUR business to accomodate then it is time to invest a little more in yourself and move on up.
    • Can’t afford dedicated Hosting? – Consider purchasing a reseller account. This would allow each of your add-on domains to be converted to its own cPanel account with its own SQL resource limits.

Marketing Takeaway

Hosting is one of the most important aspects of your online business – but because it is something you usually do long before you see any success it is easy to forget about.

I was a victim of my own ignorance and success, and although I was not happy with the way Hostgator handled this particular situation – I have to admit that their support and assistance before and after the fact was second to none. Had I built my business on a more stable platform (like my own dedicated server for example) then this would never have happened.

Lesson: Get yourself some decent hosting! (and yes, I recommend Hostgator because their support is excellent, and THAT is most important of all.

 

{ 33 comments }

Erik Emanuelli @ FreeMakeMoneyAdvice October 16, 2011 at 3:17 AM

Hi Alex,

I am happy that you solved the problem.

Thanks for suggestion,
I have just installed W3 Total Cache plugin and I disabled “Preview mode” of this plugin.

Is there any options that I should set, in your opinion?

Thank you Alex !

:-)

Alex October 16, 2011 at 5:53 PM

Thanks Erik! :)

As for the plugin, as I understand it there is nothing more you need to do apart from occasionally clearing the cache when it asks you to.

Thanks again for the comment mare, it’s good to be back to normal!

Erik Emanuelli @ HowToMakeMoney October 17, 2011 at 4:03 AM

Thank you for the suggestion, Alex !

I think this plugin is very useful …

I followed your Odyssey while your sites were off, hoping to come back online soon …
I wanted to help, but it was a mystery to me how to solve the problem…:-)

I’m glad you’ve solved!

Talk to you soon!

Don | WordPress Website October 16, 2011 at 3:29 AM

I had a similar situation with Hostgator for one of my sites. For me, the main culprits were a high volume of traffic, WP Robot, and the Related Posts plugin. I had WP Robot going on over drive to crank out content, and the related posts plugin added to the strain. Like you, I had to dial down my usage of the MySQL database, and install a caching plugin.

I was frustrated at first, but like you said, we’re on shared accounts, and have to expect that there are going to be limits once your site becomes more successful. I too would still recommend Hostgator. During my ordeal, they walked me through the process of staying within acceptable limits, and performed site audits upon request to ensure I was in compliance.

Alex October 16, 2011 at 5:50 PM

Hey Don,

It’s funny you mention WP Robot because I too have that running on a few sites but that was never flagged as an issue?
Might do a follow up on that.
As for the support from Hostgator… Brilliant!

Jeffrey Morgan October 16, 2011 at 8:51 AM

Hi Alex,
The Plug-ins that you recommend are very good for any Blogger who considers his Blog of valuable. However a recommendation is only one half of the equation. You need to give a beginners or lay-persons guide to working with these plug-ins.

Ok, I know that’s what the “Plug-In Site” is supposed to accomplish, but documentation is most times scarce as coders are usually not real life Bloggers, such as you and I. Any light that you can shed on the issue with a follow-up post on the plug-ins that you suggest would be of great assistence as the learning curve for those that are listed are kinda ……… killer!!!

Oh by the way, are you still dealing with the “H3″ issue? You know that I have a work around to the problem don’t you?

Alex October 16, 2011 at 5:47 PM

Hey Jeffrey,
Damn you for making such a good point! Now I have more work to do lol!

As for the h3 issue, that disappeared when I moved hosts. Think it was a database issue but was ‘cleaned up’ during the transition.

Lesley October 18, 2011 at 9:53 AM

Hi Alex
Are you still having problems? I got your eagerly awaiting newsletter for Module 15 this morning and got a 404 error. It is also happening with your email about coffee requesting feedback.

I’m thoroughly enjoying your course by the way but Im having alot of difficulty finding a product to work with – thats the hardest part – so much competition on every idea I try!! Even the most unusual ones someone has already done it ! I’m fine with doing everything else – am technically savvy, know Wordpress quite well, believe I can research and write but finding that dam product to run with is beating me.

Web Traffic October 21, 2011 at 3:47 AM

Good to see you back, my dear!

I’ve had some similar issues with Hostgator recently, but still with them. LOL

Now, what do you mean “I moved hosts”? I thought you said you stayed with Hostgator.

Alex October 23, 2011 at 9:32 PM

Thanks Ana, good to be back.
I am still with Hostgator but I have moved this blog and the build rank profit sites across to a dedicated server here in Oz – just to be on the safe side.
Oh, but the problems I am having with them …. aaaaaaaaaaargh (WILL IT NEVER END?) :)

susan hamilton October 22, 2011 at 1:25 AM

Great tips! My company has had these exact problems as well. There is one question i have though, when is the right time to install the cache plugin? I have sites that are not getting too much traffic and there for don’t need it yet. But I thought you should regulate the amount of plugins you have and if it isn’t needed don’t use it?

Bruker November 17, 2011 at 7:55 PM

This post is really help full for solving these problem because if you are running a server these kinds of problem will be regular to you.

susan hamilton October 22, 2011 at 1:25 AM

Great tips! My company has had these exact problems as well. There is one question i have though, when is the right time to install the cache plugin? I have sites that are not getting too much traffic and there for don’t need it yet. But I thought you should regulate the amount of plugins you have and if it isn’t needed don’t use it? Thanks for the advice.

Don | WordPress Website October 22, 2011 at 1:32 AM

Susan,

The “right time” is probably right now – or whenever you create a new WordPress website. The cache plugin is designed to improve page load times. Google monitors how long it takes for your pages to load, and uses that information as part of its ranking algorithms. Decreasing the page load time is good for SEO no matter how much traffic your sites are getting.

- Don

Alex October 23, 2011 at 9:18 PM

Ummm… what he said :)

Thanks Don – could not have put it better myself

susan hamilton November 2, 2011 at 11:36 AM

Thank you Don.. That has been bugging me for awhile hosting can be such a pain especially if you get stuck with lame company.

Jane | Merry Relationships October 23, 2011 at 1:14 PM

Great lesson learned Alex. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, so that we can be very careful too.

I uninstalled all-in-one a long time ago; found that buggy. Wordpress SEO by Yoast is not only lite but also has so many other features integrated to it, saving another plugin or two.

Alex October 23, 2011 at 9:14 PM

Hi Ms Sheeba :)

How many bloody domains do you own?! LOL I give up trying to keep up :)
I am slowly realising that nearly ALL the plugins I have on this site are just a waste of time and space (and resources evidently!) mind you the problems I am having now with the new host are annoying too – like I am learning that being on a reseller account means you cant just login once and see ALL your domains!?! pain in the…..

Thanks for your continued support Jane, see you around… everywhere! :)

Dave Tong October 30, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Great post Alex,

As you probably know, my hosting was hit too, but luckily, BlueHost didn’t shut the site down but just throttled it A LOT…

Just to add to your very useful article, folks should consider CDN as well if they want to stick to Shared hosting.

Dave

Alex November 3, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Hey Dave,

Care to emphasise more on CDN for the readers? (and for me too LOL)

Vi November 2, 2011 at 7:36 PM

@Alex, so what is your suggestion regarding SEO-Auto-Links ? You suggest disable it, but don’t to remove. If it is disabled what is point to keep it?

Alex November 3, 2011 at 10:05 AM

Hi Vi,

Actually my suggestion was to NOT disable it. Apologies if it was not clear – but what I was saying was that even though it is advised that I disable it – there is no way I am going to!
You are correct in assuming that if its disabled then it is effectively useless.
Hope this clears up the confusion Vi

Vi November 4, 2011 at 2:25 AM

Thanks, I got it :)

Nick November 7, 2011 at 1:26 AM

I use Hostgator and I have no complaints at all. I tried to switch to Network Solutions. They are awful. Don’t try that.

Alex November 8, 2011 at 11:40 PM

LOL. Love it man. I can just see you saying it too (well written :) )
I love Hostgator despite all of this because their support is just so bloody good!

Thanks for taking the time to comment (lots) Nick, you definitely earned a return visit by now :)

Nick November 9, 2011 at 4:47 AM

Yeah, I spent over 3 hours on the phone with Network Solutions to try and fix a problem making it that my blog was not up and I had no way to access it. And then another 1 hour trying to get my full refund. I eventually got it but it took a while. And no problem, I love commenting, especially when the author of the blog post actually responds! I give you two thumbs way up for that! And don’t worry, I’ll be commenting very often. Pretty much every post, I assume. You seem like an AWESOME guy!

Managed WordPress November 12, 2011 at 2:29 PM

It’s good to hear that you’re happy with Host Gator.

Ricci Sionil November 17, 2011 at 1:12 AM

I also used Hostgator, but it’s working fine to me….It’s easy to use…

Mike| reliable web hosting December 5, 2011 at 2:56 AM

A good article for hosting basics. I think you may also put “Cloud Hosting” in the types of web hosting and it’s becoming popular nowadays.

tires December 20, 2011 at 8:26 PM

I currently use Softlayer but I have used GoDaddy most recently and have no qualms about either really. But of course, everyone’s mileage may vary, as always.

-Jean

Web Hosting January 5, 2012 at 7:17 PM

Hi Alex,

Hats off to you for sharing all these great tips that can surely save fellow Bloggers a world of headaches!

Finding a reliable web hosting company can prove to be a daunting task if you don’t know what to look for. I took the reseller route and all has been smooth sailing. Low pricing and free 24-Hour tech support is what sold me.

Thanks again for such helpful info! Cheers!

Manny – Web Hosting CEO

susan hamilton January 7, 2012 at 3:43 AM

You are not the only one having this problem my friend. I have been having hosting issues all year, I am hoping after switching to a private dedicated server i won’t have any more issues, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Victoria@hypnosis mp3 May 24, 2012 at 2:59 PM

Thanks for this post. I admit I’m pretty naive when it comes to web hosting stuff but I’m trying really hard to learn the techniques about this. Good thing I found websites like yours that provide plenty of information and very helpful tips that I can apply soon. Thank you

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