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 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.


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