There are tons of places you can host your WordPress or WooCommerce powered website, from huge companies like GoDaddy to small independent companies like us. And while it’s easy to think of web hosting as a relative commodity, there are big differences. This is a story about how we approach hosting, things going wrong, and why trusting a smaller company like Cinch might be the best way to go.
Our dedicated approach
Cinch’s model for hosting is pretty straight forward: We lease high end dedicated servers from a US based company (Liquid Web), and put websites on those servers in individual cPanel accounts. We limit the number of sites on each server to ensure there are ample resources for each site – and then some. This ensures every site runs fast, loads reliably, and has minimal downtime. And while we could load each server to the brink with more sites, it’s not our way. It’s better to have too few on a server than too many.
If you’ve ever used shared hosting from one of the big hosts, you can see now why your site may have been slow, or had frequent loading errors, or were simply offline, and often. Their business model is to stuff a server to the edge, and hope for the best.
At some point all servers begin to fail
We lease the best servers we can because they run sites fast. And they are also very reliable, which saves us the headaches of having to constantly babysit our machines. But they are still machines, which do wear out over time, or can sometimes break down all together. This was the case for with one of our servers over the Thanksgiving holiday. The issues were hardly noticeable at first, but gradually started becoming more of an issue. We worked with Liquid Web to troubleshoot and tweak and fix, which helped for a while but takes time to diagnose intermittent problems–they can be hard to reproduce and may be either software or hardware related. Eventually it became clear that this particular machine was on its way out and it was time for plan B. In late December we ordered a new server and migrated everyone over.
I don’t know how many of our customers notices the fluctuation in service, but some certainly did. Looking back we spent too much time replacing failing components and should have moved quicker to migrate to a new server. Absolutely a lesson learned.
Why should we be trusted?
With the server issue last fall, why should you trust us going forward? Well, this is pretty subjective, but I’m not sure anyone at a big hosting company is willing to go grey to keep your website up :) I could certainly be wrong about that, but we maintain websites that have been on very old, unreliable servers for a very long time. Sites that should have been migrated years ago still haven’t. But again, that’s subjective. Here’s a few more subjective reasons to either host with us, or host with the mass-market giants:
Reasons to host with us
- We over-provision our servers
- We don’t overload servers
- We don’t provide email hosting on our servers, protecting us all from potential blacklisting
- You can reach us easily for support, and it’s the same person every time
- We host our own sites on these same servers
Reasons to host elsewhere
- You prefer cheaper options, and
- You don’t mind slow or unreliable service, and
- You don’t mind calling into the void when you need support
- You have a ton of sites to host and it’s better to have your own dedicated server
- And if you simply don’t trust us, you shouldn’t probably host with us
Lessons learned and forward thoughts
Our plan is to do what we can to not let this happen again. We have implemented a scheduled server migration whether we’re having trouble with a server or not. We will continue to over-provision and under-load our servers.
Over the years we’ve had our ups and downs with dedicated hosting providers. We’ve had solid, independent companies get bought out by the likes of GoDaddy (Media Temple) and EIG (A Small Orange). When that happens things go down hill fast. Liquid Web has so far be extremely reliable and supportive. So we’ll continue to hope they stay independent and we can continue to rely on them. If not we’ll again have to pivot. But let’s not worry about that right now!
A hearty thanks
A big thanks goes to all of our hosting customers. Thank you for continuing to trust us as you do and always remember we’re here and we’ve got your websites back.