New website host

WebFaction logo

I finally decided that I’ve had enough of P4Host’s frequent outages, lack of Subversion support, and absurd 200MB storage limit. After a bit of searching, I found WebFaction and decided to give them a try. All things considered, the move was very easy and I’m quite satisfied so far–and glad to be rid of my old hosts. Hopefully the satisfaction will remain and I won’t have to worry about another host switch for a while.

Before the switch, I did a bit of looking around and was disappointed to find that most web hosts look very similar, their home pages screaming about their “UNLIMITED!” space and bandwidth, their “one-click website creators,” and their “e-commerce solutions.”

I didn’t care about that stuff. I wanted a host that would give me SSH access without some stupid authentication procedure, that would let me host Subversion+Trac repositories, that would clearly delineate reasonable space and memory restrictions, and that had a forum or ticket system with rapid and competent responses. The jury’s still out since I’m only on the second day after “the switch” so far, but WebFaction seems to fit all my requirements and exceed them.

I’m paying more now, of course, but I’ve already been impressed by their setup. Instead of the crappy CPanel software that most hosts saddle you with, they give you a very clean admin interface with only the things that are better done in a GUI than in a text editor. They have a system of domains, apps, and sites that takes a little getting used to but is quite nice once you get the hang of it. After installing the apps (apache, svn, wordpress, etc.) that you plan to use on your website, you can set up multiple (sub)domains and “mount” the apps to folders on the domains. Setup was quick and they give you all the relevant information you need. They also have a (IMHO) cleaner method of dealing with mail, allowing you to set up “mailboxes” and then redirect email to the mailboxes. In this way, you can redirect many addresses to the same box, or have addresses that redirect outside (eg. Gmail) without having to worry about having a local mailbox.

Subversion is supported out-of-the-box and I had no trouble setting up a repository and importing a folder from a previous exported checkout. I also took the opportunity to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress, which is much nicer than the version I was using before. When I had an issue with WP’s handling of multiple domains, the response on the forum was quick and helpful.

In general, it seems that their control panel much more closely reflects the way the actual server works than the usual CPanel setup. I guess this would be a problem for someone who has never played with an actual server before, but I found it remarkably refreshing. I feel like I almost have a virtual private server without having to worry about doing my own maintenance. 🙂

NOTE: I think that the WordPress export/import process does not preserve users, so anyone who comments will probably need to re-create their account. Sorry about the inconvenience. Since the new WordPress seems to have better comment moderation policies, I have re-enabled the ability to post a comment without registering. Hopefully this won’t backfire on me with spam messages.

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