When I first started GrownUpGeek.com it was on a shared-plan from PowWeb.com that cost me $7/month. I always recommend that new webmasters get started on a low-cost shared or VPS becuase there is no sense in throwing a pile of money down the toilet every month when building a new website. Might as well get by as cheap as possible for as long as possible.
After about 6 months, when we were averaging around 5k visitors/day we started to see and feel some of the disadvantages of shared-hosting – SLOW page load times. At peak traffic times, page-loads were as slow as 15-20 seconds. Because the site runs Drupal and is very database/CPU intensive (and a memory hog) it started to become obvious that I needed to move to a dedicated server. If the site was simple static-HTML or a more simple script like WordPress, shared-hosting probably would have been acceptable until daily traffic was much higher, but all those great features of Drupal were forcing my hand.
When I started my search for a dedicated server host I only had two requirements:
1) I didn’t want to spend a lot of money – The website was generating about $1,500/month at that point, but I was nervous about increasing my expenses from $7/month to hundreds of dollars per month.
2) The hosting company needed to be n00b-friendly. I had zero experience running my own server, and I didnt (still don’t) know the difference between a UNIX command and a hole in the ground. Whatever host I choose needed to be able to hold my hand and do anything I could not figure out on my own.
After much research and asking questions at DP Forums and BroadBand Reports, I decided on SurpassHosting.com. Surpass certainly was not the cheapest, but they were far from being the most expensive – and based on the reviews that I’d read, and from what I was seeing in their Support Forums, it looked like they would be able to hold my hand whenever I needed it.
I made the move to the new host and server (was actually able to do it all on my own.) Almost immediately I knew I made the right decision – That first Monday morning after the move page load times were never slower than 1-2 seconds (down from 10-20) and traffic was higher than ever (people weren’t getting tired of waiting for pages to load and hitting the back button), and Adsense earnings were up.
In that year-and-a-half or so since I moved to that dedicated server, traffic has tripled, my Drupal database is 400% larger, I’ve installed more Drupal modules, and I’ve added the blog and two other sites to the server. A few months after the move I upgraded the RAM on the server from 1gb to 2gb, but in the last few months it’s been apparent that another upgrade was going to be needed. Page-load times were getting slower at peak times, and RAM and CPU usage were creeping into the red more times than I liked.
I asked my host if I could throw more RAM into my server, but the (lower cost) model I had was already maxed-out at 2Gb. The only way to get more RAM would be to upgrade the entire server. After about a week of negotiations and stupid questions I finally decided on a new Core-2 server with 4Gb of RAM (upgradeable to 8Gb). They offered me two upgrade options – bring the new server online and I could migrate the sites, DNS, and everything else myself, or, they could shut-down the server and do a complete turnkey upgrade for me with only a few hours of downtime. Me, being the lazy Unix n00b that I am, choose option 2: Do all the work for me.
They took down my old server last night at 8:09PM (just as I had requested), and had the new server online and running by 10:30PM – much faster than they had warned. They sent me email status-updates every 45 minutes or so and afterwards they fixed a few minor issues that I saw, and a few others that I didnt even know about.
This morning the website is blazing-fast on the new hardware, and I’m happy as I can be.
I love my host.. Do you love yours?