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Site5 Review

2007/11/06 Update: Site5 Exonerated

When I decided to move Themebot to another hosting provider, a unique opportunity presented itself: the chance to benchmark a website that receives many visitors each day and requires a fair amount of system resources on different web hosting providers. Actually, a live version of Themebot was tested on not one but three different hosting services. The backup used for each provider was exactly the same, eliminating confounds favor one provider over another.

The fact of the matter is, shortly after taking the site live on two other web hosts, Themebot was suspended for resource overuse. On both of the other providers I made some drastic changes to optimize the site even further, but that did not help and the site was suspended again on each host. And, this was with only half the traffic Themebot was receiving when hosted on Site5. Obviously, they couldn't handle the traffic with the amount of resources they allocate on their shared hosting plans.

Instead of upgrading to a VPS, I decided to put Themebot back on Site5 to see what would happen. It has been over three weeks now and Themebot is running flawlessly on Site5 without being suspended. Traffic is back to normal and caching has even been reduced in the forums.

Although three hard drive failures in less than a year is inexcusable, this seems to have been an unlucky fluke. It is quite clear that Site5 is a lot more generous than other hosts with the amount of system resources allocated to each account. They are true to their claim that they don't overcrowd their servers and I'm getting near VPS performance on a shared hosting account.

Every hosting provider has its strengths and weaknesses. This was an excellent experiment, and I can whole-heartedly recommend Site5 to anyone who is wanting to get a lot of mileage out of their shared hosting account.

The following is an honest review of Site5 web hosting. I signed up for a MultiSite Dynamite account with Site5 on October 14th, 2006. It was a stormy night and there was an ominous, eerie silence throughout the internet (just kidding).

I previously had an account with Godaddy before trying out Site5. After a couple months, I became fed up with their insanely slow servers. Perhaps Godaddy has improved since then, but at the time it was obvious that they were overcrowding their servers. Don't get me wrong, Godaddy is great for managing domain names, but there was no way a database driven site would work with their hosting due to the abysmally slow pageloads. I started shopping around and did some research on Site5. I was initially drawn in by their statement, "NO OVERLOADED SERVERS". After transferring a web site to Site5, I was quite pleased with how snappy the pageloads were. Exactly two months later a terrible thing happened.

My sites went down, and stayed down. After numerous emails to tech support, I found out that one of their hard drives had failed. A few days later the server was back online. However, most of the sites had problems. Part of this was because they had forgotten to install certain server modules. But the more hideous problem was that their backup was incomplete. Many files from themebot.com were missing. Fortunately I had a recent local backup and was able to sort things out. After two long hard days of repair and debugging, themebot.com was fully functional again. To the credit of Site5, they reimbursed the cost of my hosting plan, although that didn't quite cover my expense in terms of time wasted. I felt compensated and decided to stick with Site5, especially now that there was a new hard drive on the server.

Pretty soon afterwards, problems started cropping up. There were numerous small downtimes and slow pageloads. I can't count how many emails I sent regarding this. There were promises it would be fixed. It would seem to be fixed, and then it would start up again. This was obviously due to poorly managed system resources and other accounts that were hogging the server. I requested several times that they transfer my account to a different server, but they refused to do this.

Then... It happened again. Three months later, another hard drive failure and more wonderful downtime. As you can imagine, I was pissed off at this point. However, it took less time for them to restore the server than the previous incident and at least all of the sites were properly backed up. I was promised that the server had been upgraded with new hardware and that I would be very pleased with the performance. I was for awhile, and then I wasn't. The slowness returned. I emailed support several more times. I was told they were working on it. I should've left Site5 then, but I was discouraged by the thought of having to migrate a couple of complex sites to a new server.

After another month or so, things finally started to work smoothly. The pageloads were as fast as when I had first signed up and there wasn't any more sporadic downtime. I was graced with several months of near flawless service.

But I was naive to get my hopes up. Once again, on September 21st, 2007, yet another hard drive failure! The server was down completely for more than two days. Not only where all of the sites I had hosted with Site5 down, I wasn't able to receive any emails during the whole time. And... I was expecting some very important emails. And, when the site was restored, there were files missing.

Obviously, Site5 had failed at upgrading the hardware and did not configure the RAID array properly to prevent this kind of thing from happening. At this point, I had suffered enough with Site5 web hosting. Third time is a charm.

I had planned ahead to be prepared for just such an event and did extensive research on many different web hosting providers over the past several months. I not only read the specifications, I also called and/or chatted with tech support representives, asking important questions that aren't commonly listed in the public specs. I finally settled on HostICan. They have PHP5 and MYSQL5 installed by default (I wish more of the hosting industry would get up to speed on current technological standards). The also have RAID10 and can sustain two hard drive failures without the server being brought to its knees. Their implementation of CPanel is excellent. They have the option to upgrade to a VPS or dedicated server. And, they provide phone support, something sorely lacking with Site5.

So far I am very pleased with the service I have received from HostICan and have recommended them to several clients. As of today, Themebot has been sucessfully transferred to HostICan and pageloads are even faster than they were on Site5 when it was working well. Time will tell if HostIcan can provide the "magic" 99.9% guaranteed uptime that nearly all web hosting providers claim to have.

For your reference, here is a link to the monitored uptime on the Site5 server that Themebot was previously hosted on: Site5 Uptime report. Also, here is a link to the disruption notices as reported on the Site5 forums. Dismal to say the least!

At this point, there is no way I would recommend Site5 hosting to anybody. If for some reason you want to sign up with them, make sure that they put you on a server that has demonstrated reliable uptime over a long period of time. This concludes the Themebot review of Site5 hosting. Fortunately there is a happy ending. Now that the transfer to HostICan is complete, more time and energy can be focused on upgrades :)

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