Who to host with (domain names, web space, SSL, DNS)

I’m sometimes asked who I recommend buying web infrastructure from. Here’s my list based on my personal experience:

Domains | SSL | DNS | Shared hosting | Dedicated hosting | Transactional email | Virtual servers

Domain names: Namecheap

Almost all of my domains are hosted with Namecheap. They’re simple, have a super-fast web interface, a straightforward API, and have never messed me around. Most importantly, they’re cheap, so I never have to regret a purchase. I transferred my domains from GoDaddy by hooking them up to third-party nameservers (see below) before initiating the move. It took around 24 hours.
NB: I get a cut if you buy a domain from the link above. If you’d prefer to avoid this, here’s a clean link.

SSL certificates: CheapSSLs

A lot of people use GoDaddy for this, but their certificate chains make server configuration annoying, and there are about a million and one reasons to avoid buying from them anyway. Meanwhile, CheapSSLs resell certificates from a bunch of providers, including RapidSSL, for significantly less. I tend to use wildcard certificates, which are expensive (although still half the price of anyone else), but a normal cert will set you back around $7.99.

DNS: Amazon Route 53

No complaints: Route 53 just works, including wildcards and complex domain rules. And it costs 50 cents per month, plus 50 cents per million queries. That’s pennies, and you get the benefit of Amazon’s distributed infrastructure and redundant data centers. It’s a good idea to host your DNS with a different provider to your domain names, and I haven’t looked back since switching earlier this year. (I had been using Namecheap’s bundled DNS, which is also pretty good, but again: keep your domain names and nameservers apart.)

Shared web space: Pair

My first ever .com website used Pair Networks, over a decade ago, and I’ve been recommending them ever since. Their support is responsive, and they sell perfectly good shared plans that fit most budgets. It’s worth noting, however, that although I’ve heard great things from the people I’ve recommended them to, I haven’t used a shared hosting plan personally since at least 2002. It’s worth thinking about virtual servers, too.

Dedicated server hosting: SoftLayer

This blog runs on a dedicated SoftLayer server. They’re prompt, the connectivity is great and the prices are excellent. An alternative is Rackspace, who are genuinely great, but also comparatively very expensive. I’ve also had pretty good experiences with ServerBeach, who hosted YouTube when they started. Finally, I’ve had poor experiences with Codero.

Transactional email: Postmark

I’ve learned the hard way that using default out-of-the-box SMTP to send email on rented servers, particularly on shared hosting, often results in a very high level of spam-flagged messages. Postmark deals with all of the nuanced email configuration for you, and just works, although if you’re using it for a reasonably successful service you’ll need to find a cheaper solution. (I moved to Amazon SES, which is a little trickier to hook up, but does the job nicely, and at a very low cost.) Postmark’s other genius feature: an inbound email API, which pings you messages in a JSON string, with attachments broken out and properly encoded. Brilliant.

Virtual servers: the jury’s out

Virtual servers are very often not cheaper than dedicated ones if you leave them running all the time (unless you’re running a very, very small instance). Nonetheless, it’s handy to be able to spin up or clone a server near-instantaneously. The leader is Amazon EC2, which is the service I’ve mostly used, but a lot of the coders I know swear by Linode (which I need to spend more time with before I can recommend it). AppFog and Heroku are versions of the virtual server experience that extract away a lot of the configuration and administration, but, frankly, I don’t trust them. I like to be able to get down and dirty with a server if I need to.

6 responses to “Who to host with (domain names, web space, SSL, DNS)”

  1. NameCheap is for the IGNORANT and for amateur lemmings posting affiliate links. If you want good pricing (Much better than Name Cheap) from a Registrar that actually has a street address and a telephone number you want NameSILO. NameSILO is a professional organization that caters to LEGITIMATE BUSINESS and at prices that are significantly cheaper than everyone else. They have an excellent track record and have been in business for several years. If you want to join an affiliate opportunity that pays better you also want NameSilo

  2. It’s taken a while to find a host that I like. I go with DomainDash.Co just for the fact that they are reliable and they have 24/7 PHONE support.

  3. NameSilo is a nightmare. They are the only registrar that does not give you ANY email functionality. No POP accounts, no Webmail, no forwarding and no Catch-All forwarding. Your only option is complicated and costly MX–>Postmark nightmares. Why, NameSilo? How hard would it be for you to offer email forwarding and a catch-all forward? NameCheap is just as cheap, except they charge a couple of extra dollars for “whois privacy”. But you could use your own spoofed identity for free if you really need to.

    • Why are they a nightmare just cause they don’t offer email services? That’s like calling McDonalds a nightmare because they don’t sell tacos.

      NameSilo is a domain name registrar. That’s it. They focus on that and do very well with it. Their interface is straightforward and their API is excellent as well.

  4. FYI Amazon EC2 is a terrible choice for virtual servers, because of one fact: It’s NOT a VPS service. It is VERY much different than a normal VPS provider. A normal VPS allows you to start and stop your server at any time, like a normal dedicated hardware server. It acts and behaves just like actual hardware, except for the fact that it’s virtual.

    Amazon’s EC2 instances are NOT VPS servers. They are extremely different. With an Amazon EC2 instance, if you stop the instance, you lose all your data you had stored on it and lost all of your configuration you did on the server. There is no permanent storage in EC2 and if Amazon’s servers go down at any time, you lose your data on there. Amazon wants you to also pay for other services that have more permanent data storage that EC2 hooks into in order to keep your data alive. It’s much more complicated than a simple VPS that a normal VPS provider would give you.

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