Host Benchmarker Blog

Experiences benchmarking top shared hosts

Why does EIG host their servers in Provo, Utah?

If you you’ve been a customer of HostGator, BlueHost, or any others that have been acquired by EIG (Endurance International Group), then you’ve probably heard of Provo, Utah before. It’s a tiny town of 116k population, and it houses almost all of EIG’s data centers. Your site was most likely migrated there as a result of EIG consolidating servers after company acquisitions, and although they claimed you were being ‘upgraded’, you most likely didn’t notice any performance increase (or perhaps you website got slower or less reliable).

Why Provo, Utah? Short answer: cost. Most good hosting companies choose to locate their data centers around major internet backbones, such as how Amazon does in Ashburn, VA. But EIG seems to not care about performance, as Provo does not appear to be a major international hub.

Here’s why Provo:

  1. Cheap rent. It’s Utah, the land costs less than a larger city such as Los Angeles or New York.
  2. It has cool outside air. Did you know that up to 30% of a datacenter’s cost is spent on air conditioning? Those servers get warm, and it’s necessary to keep them cool in order to operate effectively. By using the free outside air of Utah, EIG cuts down on their utility costs.
  3. It’s central – okay, I can understand why you’d want to be in the middle of the US, however a city like Dallas that has a major internet drop would be a better choice.

Next time you choose a new host, be sure to ask them where their datacenters are located. Good hosts will be in major internet backbone cities. Even better hosts will have multiple locations and allow you to choose.

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Why does Amazon host many of their EC2 instances in Ashburn, Virginia?

Ever heard of Ashburn, VA before? I had never, until I started using some of Amazon’s elastic cloud compute (EC2) servers. Why would they pick a little town called Ashburn to house their east coast data center?

Turns out there’s a major internet backbone there. A lot of hosting companies, ISPs, etc strategically place their infrastructure near these international hubs in order to decrease the ‘last mile’. The last mile is the distance between a computer/server and a major network hub, and it usually accounts for most of the network latency. Decreasing the last mile distance is a common practice that has a huge impact on the speed of a connection.

AshburnVA

There are also major international hubs in Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, and Seattle, to name a few. When picking a host, be sure to ask them where their data center is located, and strive for one that’s near a major internet backbone.

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Getting to know InMotion Hosting

A few weeks ago I got an email from a manager at InMotion Hosting reaching out to say hi and answer any questions I had about their service. As the man behind HostBenchmarker, I’m always looking for ways to network with hosts and learn more about their servers. Once learning I was less than an hour from their Los Angeles data center, they extended the offer to meet in person, and do an interview for this site – pretty cool of them!

The manager put me in touch with Will Miles, a Data Center Operations and Systems Supervisor who had been with InMotion for over 4 years. We met up for an informal dinner (sandwiches at Panera Bread) during the week, and, in short – geeked out. I picked his brain on what makes their servers more reliable and faster than the others, and he shared some cool technologies they were using (or about to release).

Here are a few takeaways from that conversation…

InMotionWill

What is it like working for InMotion?

Something Will was very proud about was working for InMotion. He’s aware of many other unhappy/incompetent workers at other hosting companies, and is super appreciative to be at InMotion.

Unlike other hosting companies, InMotion is an employee-owned business. The staff is involved in direct bonuses and profit sharing, which gives them incentive to go above and beyond to make their customers happy.

Will said the upper management is very down to earth – they don’t drive fancy cars or have an entitled personality. Instead they reinvest a lot back into the company, always upgrading hardware, etc. This ensures the company is around for many years to come.

Of course he wasn’t going to say anything bad about InMotion while he was wearing a company-issued shirt, but I could tell he truly was proud of where he worked, and enjoyed his job and roles.

How do you ensure your servers are reliable?

After getting to know him and InMotion, I began to ask the questions I was most interested in – the ones that affected the performance of their severs.

At the time of this writing, InMotion came in 4th of 10 in terms of the uptime stats I collect. While this sounds decent, an uptime of 99.95% is still 21 minutes per month of downtime. Some would argue that’s fine with shared servers, but I’d like to see 99.99%

InMotionUptime

While Will agreed that 99.95% could be better, and they’re striving for that, here’s what they’re currently doing to ensure reliable hosting:

  • DDOS mitigation at the ISP level – This means filtering out the bad traffic before if even hits their network/servers. This combats 99.99% of DDOS attacks, but there’s always new threats that pass through
  • Proactive vulnerability mitigation – It amazed me when Will told me that most of the downtime encountered was due to software glitches. Because of this, they have a team actively working to contribute to the server community through patches, upgrades, etc for common software. For example, he said his team had a fix for the Heartbleed vulnerability before a public patch was released (and that public patch incorporated some of their own development). Thanks for fixing the internet, InMotion!
  • 100% SLA coming soon  – One of InMotion’s future goals is to offer a 100% uptime service level agreement. This means if your site is down due to their servers failing, you’ll be reimbursed a portion of your hosting fees. While they don’t have a projected date for this, it is a core initiative they are focusing on every day.

Will also explained that even if everything is working perfectly with their servers and internal network, there are outside network outages that happen all the time that simply cannot be avoided. He pointed me to InternetHealthReport as an example – each row/column is a major carrier connecting to another major carrier, and anything in yellow or red is a problem:

InternetHealthReport

How do you ensure your servers are fast?

Having reliable servers is one thing, but making them fast takes a whole other level of complexity. At the time of this post, InMotion came in tied for 5th out of 10 for server speed.

InMotionSpeed

Here’s what Will and his team are doing to ensure your website loads fast:

  • Constant rebalancing of resources – They don’t put a specific # of accounts per server, instead they’re always monitoring the resource usage of accounts and seamlessly moving them to ensure an equal spread of resource usage. This means if there’s a few account on one server that are in high demand, their system will automatically move them to a server that’s in less demand. One server may host 10 high-traffic accounts, while another has 200 low-traffic accounts. What amazes me is that this is all done transparently behind the scenes – no one is controlling this, and it’s completely seamless – no IP or DNS changes, no downtime.
  • Capping certain resources – While InMotion does offer unlimited disk space (they host a church website that uses terrabytes to stream their video sermons, all on a basic plan), they do cap other resources like bandwidth. I’m a huge fan of this, as there’s no such thing as unlimited resources and I get concerned when I see hosts that advertise this.
  • All SSD storage  – InMotion recently (1.5 years ago) upgraded their entire infrastructure to use SSD hard drives for all storage. Compared to traditional spinning hard drives, solid state drives are up to 50x faster. And since there are no moving parts, they break down less and are more reliable. However nothing’s perfect, and by default everything is protected in RAID, in case any disks do fail.

What would you like us to know about InMotion?

One thing Will was super excited to tell me about was their new High Availability feature on all of the VPS accounts. It’s a free service that’s going to be provided to all new customers (existing customer just need to enable it by asking for it) that ensures your servers are almost always reachable. Without getting too technical, it automatically mirrors your VPS sites across many servers. And when I say mirror, I mean everything – not just your files, but all settings, ip addresses, databases, even memory is identical between all replicated instances of your site. It sounds super impressive!

But they don’t stop there – each of these servers has four 10 gig network cables, ensuring there’s never a shortage of bandwidth. Snapshots are taken at regular intervals, and you can choose to rollback to a snapshot in real time. All of this combined ensure there’s no more than 1-2 seconds of downtime if their systems detect any kind of hardware failure, network stoppage, or software glitch.

I know the focus of HostBenchmarker is shared hosting, but as an advocate for speed and reliability for all websites, I couldn’t not mention this VPS feature.

This High Availability feature is currently on a soft release, planned to be rolled out to the general public in April 2016.

Wrapping up

Overall, it was a great conversation. I expected it to last no more than 30 minutes (how long can you talk about servers to someone?), but after an hour flew by I realized I better get home to my family.

As we wrapped up, Will mentioned that InMotion does offer facility tours. If you’re ever in the downtown LA area and would like to geek out at the hardware in their data centers, feel free to reach out to them. I’ll probably be doing this sometime soon 🙂

Thanks again to Will for the interview, Sev for connecting us, and InMotion being transparent about all this.

Results from HostBenchmarker are always being updated, be sure to check out the most current report of InMotion’s benchmark stats.

BTW – if any hosts would like to connect with me to do an interview, please reach out – just keep in mind I can’t be bribed to change benchmark stats.

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Bluehost breaks record for worst tech support

One of the tests I run at HostBenchmarker is the Support Response Test. It’s a simple test where I send a tech support message, and see how long it takes for them to respond. The top hosts will respond within minutes. But the poor performing ones can take a 1-2 days. Well this month Yahoo Web Hosting broke the record for slowest support response time.

How slow were they to respond? 264 hours. Yup, do the math – that’s over 11 days!

What if my site had been having real problems? It could have been down for what feels like forever.

What’s interesting is that Bluehost actually varies the most out of any host. Take a look at this history for them – some months 0.1 hours (awesome), yet many others way worse:

bluehost_support_poor

Note – above you’ll see we cap the results at 168 hours (7 days), just because I can’t wait around forever to publish test results if a host hasn’t responded. In reality they responded on Mar 21st, 8:39pm.

I should note that they did apologize in their response, saying that they recently had a high amount of tickets and were working as fast as they could to resolve them. So there’s that. But still. Over 10 days. Wow.

If you’re on Bluehost shared web hosting, you better pray you don’t need any help lately. Take a minute to consider some better alternatives.

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Top EIG Hosting Companies Tested – Performance Comparison

Endurance International Group, more widely known as ‘EIG’, is a parent company to many known web hosts. Lots of the popular hosting brands you’ve heard of, such as HostGator and Bluehost, are owned by EIG.

Many EIG customers are unhappy with their hosting experience. This is especially true when a hosting company gets bought out by EIG and you have to transition to their data centers. They claim you’re moving to a more secure, stable environment, but many have noticed poor support and increased load times once this transition happens.

Is it true that all EIG hosting companies suck? Let’s take a look at the data.

Here’s a chart of the top 10 hosts being tested here at HostBenchmarker. I’ve marked the EIG-owned hosts for reference:

EIG-hosting-performance

So, do they all have poor uptime, slow page load times, and bad support? You can see that it’s actually not true.

Consider Bluehost, they actually have the top average page speeds in under 3 seconds. And HostGator – decent uptime at 99.97%. Finally, Site5 – they have one of the best support responses at under .3 hours.

However note that none of these hosts score well in all categories, and it is important to have a host that has good reliability, fast speeds, and great customer service.

See more up-to-date performance benchmarks

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Hostgator’s New Prices – Raises rates by 20%!

I recently got the following email from Hostgator, in regards to one of the shared hosting accounts I run tests with:

Hello,

This email is to notify you that the following invoice with HostGator.com has been generated which reflects the new recurring price for the products you have purchased.

In an effort to ensure best in class service and top-notch server performance, this invoice reflects the new increased recurring price for this product:

Invoice ID: 46373669      Amount: $10.95
Product: Shared Hosting – Hatchling

Whoah! Almost $11/month for Hostgator’s cheapest shared plan? That’s about as expensive as Site5 and Dreamhost – which are some of the most expensive cheap shared hosts out there.

When I signed up with Hostgator almost 2 years ago, the price was $8.95, as seen in my detailed review of hostgator’s smallest plan.

However, if you go to their website, it will look like it’s much cheaper than this:

hostgator-signup-price

This is because they’re showing you the 3 year term here, with a one time 20% off discount. Know that the discount will be removed and if you don’t want to commit to 3 years, you’ll be paying much more than that, as seen in their billing table:

hostgator-new-prices

Does HostGator’s performance warrant an increase? After all, they claim this increase is due to ‘top notch server performance’ changes. What do you think by looking at these Hostgator performance stats?

 

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