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View Full Version : What Will Be WH's Value Proposition Compare to Others?



artbuilders
03-10-2010, 11:10 PM
After reading the posts here, and having spent 4 hours on a semi-dedicated server in the 4.0 environment, I'm getting really nervous. I understand the business need but it seems strange that as technology advances we're going to be asked to take a step backwards in terms of the level of control we have (or pay more and deal with migration issues of moving to vps.net). I really hope the new owners haven't misunderstood WH's core users. Or, I guess, it's possible my situation is really not that typical.

I've been with WH for over 6 years. Two factors have kept me. 1) Your support which is second to none 2) The level of control I have. I'm a developer and about 75% of the clients that hire me are already with more name-recognizable hosts. I succeed in moving 99% of those over to WH. Since I represent their front-line support, the only real bones I've had to offer were reliability and the level of access I have. WH is very reliable but over the past year I've had to drop that pitch since. WH seems to have as many hiccups as other hosts. (Not that they are to blame for outages related to DOS attacks, nameservers failing, etc. Just the nature of the Internet) So, now I'm down to access as the only real incentive for me to want to move them over... or at least it was.

The answer is clear that I'll no longer move new clients from existing hosts. There's no point since there will be nothing unique about WH (to overcome the confidence that name recognition brings). And leaving them where they're at means that I take much less flack when things get fouled up. Then the only question is, do I bother to migrate dozens of existing accounts to the new 4.0 environment or head for the shelter of a big brand?

jalal
03-11-2010, 12:56 AM
I agree, the Sphera software that WH used was one of the unique selling points of WH and that will disappear with the move to WH4 and cPanel. Not that I've anything against cPanel, I use it on a lot of my accounts, but the Sphera setup was kind of different.
The only real option to Sphera is to move to Xen (which is, I think, used at VPS.net) and I really like Xen but it is usually unmanaged, which Sphera is not.

So, it's down to WH's new packages on cPanel, which still stack up quite well against the competition (50G/1000G at $15.00/m is pretty good) so on that count I think they'll do quite well. The question for me is whether I want to work in cPanel system with the accounts I have on WH.

wildjokerdesign
03-11-2010, 07:15 AM
I have to agree with you that with the lose of the Sphera vps like environment it seems like a step back and the WestHost is now just like any other shared hosting company out there. They have mentioned that only 5% of their client base actually used the abilities of the vps software but I wonder if that takes into account only those using GNU to install things. Then again if you look at the amount of post on the forum that actually relate to the abilities of the vps and compare that to what must be their actual client base it may be a very accurate percent.

I do have to wonder if they have plans down the pike that would make them unique. While they do use cPanel the main control panel for your account is unique to them and their sister companies. There is an interface for adding services to your account and perhaps future services well be something that no other hosting service is offering.

Actually I am finding that a WH 4.0 account is a bit more usable then I had first thought. For example did you realize that you can run shell scripts and commands even in packages without SSH? Cron is a wonderful thing. ;)

I still feel that their support is like none other and I am convinced that they well not drop of the face of the earth some day and leave me in limbo. The only negative I would have for that is that there are some departments that do not work on the weekend and thus there a somethings you have to wait for till regular business hours.

As Jalal mentioned price is very competitive for the services you receive. While you may be able to find a cheaper host, well they provide you with the same things. Again there is one negative I can see here and that would be domain registration via WestHost. The price there is higher then others and the services are less. You don't have the ability to mask your information in the whois data which I feel is an important feature.

I do hate losing the vps like environment but so far have found ways around any limitations that WH 4.0 may have. The only thing I can't work around is the lack of, or ability to install, ffmpeg. Then again if I really need that or some other service I have been wondering if for the cost of a node at vps.net, I might be able to install them there and then connect a WH 4.0 with the account at vps.net. This idea has been bouncing around in my head for some time but I just have not had the time to research and try it out yet. In fact I wonder if WestHost themselves could benefit by the same concept in order to offer added services?

In conclusion, while it feels to me like the move to WH 4.0 is a step back right now I am very interested in what it would take to turn it into a step forward. Perhaps if we can give WestHost specifics on what our needs are they can incorporate those needs into the new system.

WestHost - CReeves
03-11-2010, 08:43 AM
You don't have the ability to mask your information in the whois data which I feel is an important feature.

In conclusion, while it feels to me like the move to WH 4.0 is a step back right now I am very interested in what it would take to turn it into a step forward. Perhaps if we can give WestHost specifics on what our needs are they can incorporate those needs into the new system.

Wildjoker,

Many good points in your post. We actually now have the ability to have domain privacy and will be annoucing more on this in the coming days/weeks. New 4.0 clients can actually add this to their account today during sign up.

We are working on making the 4.0 environment more appealing for all and are open to any suggestions. While we may not be able to acommodate everything we do intend on adding new features as time goes on.

artbuilders
03-11-2010, 09:16 AM
So, it's down to WH's new packages on cPanel, which still stack up quite well against the competition (50G/1000G at $15.00/m is pretty good) so on that count I think they'll do quite well. The question for me is whether I want to work in cPanel system with the accounts I have on WH.
I agree. I think their pricing is good on paper but here's the rub... Several years ago I contacted WH unhappy that they where undercutting me, a new reseller at the time, with their impressive specials. The unofficial response, which has been borne out in my experience since, is that most clients will never use anywhere near their quotas allowing you to inflate the numbers. But the truth is, my clients NEVER ask about numbers anyway. They do care about pricing and reliability. In other words, 50G/1000G at $15/m looks as good to them as 20G/500G at $15/m. So what I'm usually looking for is dedicated IPs (to avoid having them end up blacklisted) and an environment I'm familiar which allows me to troubleshoot, turn the wrenches when necessary, and re-use code across accounts without much tweaking. I really prefer not to split my clients across hosts if possible.


...They have mentioned that only 5% of their client base actually used the abilities of the vps software but I wonder if that takes into account only those using GNU to install things.
Good point. Many of my installs, Magento and even Wordpress, are manual. Looking at their comparison of 4.0 and 3.0, with emphasis on all the new apps that can be installed, does little for my enthusiasm since I will likely go looking at Sourceforge, Google et al for the latest packages and install them myself.


Again there is one negative I can see here and that would be domain registration via WestHost.
This has always been a hole in their swing. All but 2 of my clients' domain names are registered elsewhere. New clients are coming to me with hosting packages because they were bundled with registration services, which is really what they were after.

Conclusion: This is either another "scary moment" as a host that will soon pass as I learn to adapt to the new 4.0 environment. (Which is possible) It could prove to be the thing that finally convinces me to take cover under a big-name umbrella. Or it, along with the increasing demand on my time dealing with email/hosting-related issues & recurring billing, will finally convince me to let someone else deal with it once and for all and just stick to what I do best... develop!

I think what I'm waiting for now is more news in terms of whether we get to keep our 3.0 setups (w/ support) and what's the hassle & cost to migrate our current sites to WH 4.0. After all, I can't go back to my clients and tell them I am going to charge them to move their sites when they didn't ask me to, right?

wildjokerdesign
03-11-2010, 09:36 AM
WestHost has said that they well allow clients to stay with 3.0 and that the existing system well be supported and maintained. It well not have any further features or development though. So what you have now is it.

I do think that 3.0 is much harder for them to maintain then the new 4.0. Have you noticed that we really did not hear from anyone during the outage that was on a 4.0 account. ;) Granted I would imagine the majority of clients are still on 3.0 but still.

If you are working mostly with PHP then I don't think you are going to lose anything by migrating and as far as the time you now spend dealing with email related issues, I think that well actually decrease. Support for multiple domain email is built into 4.0 so there is no more mucking about with manually editing files. You can manually install pretty much any php program on 4.0 just like you can on 3.0.

artbuilders
03-11-2010, 09:53 AM
WestHost has said that they well allow clients to stay with 3.0 and that the existing system well be supported and maintained. It well not have any further features or development though. So what you have now is it.

I do think that 3.0 is much harder for them to maintain then the new 4.0. Have you noticed that we really did not hear from anyone during the outage that was on a 4.0 account. ;) Granted I would imagine the majority of clients are still on 3.0 but still.

If you are working mostly with PHP then I don't think you are going to lose anything by migrating and as far as the time you now spend dealing with email related issues, I think that well actually decrease. Support for multiple domain email is built into 4.0 so there is no more mucking about with manually editing files. You can manually install pretty much any php program on 4.0 just like you can on 3.0.

That's very good news! Then I really don't need to do anything right now. I'm interested in learning more about the 4.0 environment. Couple questions:
1. Does it support Dedicated IPs & sub-domain?
2. Are we able to install our own version of PHP? (Important because PHP 5.3 will break older apps)

jalal
03-11-2010, 10:04 AM
The main difference between WH3 and WH4 is the underlying system. With WH3 you have your own VPS, with it's own apache, php, email etc. and therefore you can be a 'root' user (with some exceptions). It means that your VPS can completely screw up and crash without effecting other VPS' on the same physical server.

With WH4 you are part of a bigger system which is why there is not root access. And you are sharing your apache/php processes with other users (I assume, I don't have a WH4 account to check this out), so are subject to the vagaries of other sites. SSH access is in a chroot shell, which is why you are so limited in what you can and can't install. You probably won't be able to install a different version of PHP for instance.

Some years back I moved a lot of my sites off of WH because I wanted them on a cPanel system under one roof. It made maintenance much easier (one set of log files to watch, one cron job to rule them all, easy to back up the whole server rather than run 20-30 backups on different VPS) and WHM/cPanel made it all very easy. So I can understand why it makes sense to move off to a Virtuozzo/cPanel system, the overheads for Westhost are probably lower, plus Virtozzo/cPanel is a very solid system to base your business on.

But for some sites I needed a system with root access and a separate isolated VPS and for that Westhost had the goods with WH3. Although now I've had the opportunity to play around on some Xen systems, they are pretty good as well.

wildjokerdesign
03-11-2010, 10:43 AM
On WH 4.0 you have the option of using php 4 or php 5 but are limited to the versions of those two that are installed for everyone. In 3.0 php runs as an Apache module in 4.0 it runs in CGI Mode. Currently for php 5 WH 4.0 is running version 5.2.11. I really don't think they well move to 5.3 because it does "break" older apps.

Dedicated IP's depends on the package you choose. At the moment only Business, Semi-dedicated and the March Special include a dedicated IP but the others can have a dedicated IP for an additional cost per month. Refrence (http://www.westhost.com/web-hosting/index.html) On re-seller accounts it is kind of the same thing but even the lowest package comes with 2 dedicated IP's. Refrence (http://www.westhost.com/reseller-hosting-plans.html)

Sub-domains are available with any package but do not confuse that with additional domains. :) On the starter package you only get one domain/"Included web site". With resellers you get 25 resold accounts, which I interpret as domains, on the basic plan but they are unlimited on plans above that.

dbuckley
03-13-2010, 04:57 AM
The biggest difference WH3 to WH4 is that with WH3 Sphera VPSs each virtual host gets its own filesystem, with WH4 (and all WHM/cPanel hosts) all the shared hosts are on one filesystem. The jailshell thing is just a mechanism to try and paper over that fundamental security nightmare.

arlomedia
03-15-2010, 10:30 AM
That's very good news! Then I really don't need to do anything right now. I'm interested in learning more about the 4.0 environment. Couple questions:
1. Does it support Dedicated IPs & sub-domain?
2. Are we able to install our own version of PHP? (Important because PHP 5.3 will break older apps)

Artbuilders, your needs in a host sound very similar to mine. I came to Westhost, and eventually brought all my clients with me, because it was a great combination of a managed platform plus hands-on control via the command line. (I routinely bypass the Domains page in the control panel and edit httpd.conf myself to get more control of, for example, domain aliases.) Your challenges sound similar to mine, too: your clients come to you having already bought a crappy GoDaddy hosting account, you tell them about this great host called Westhost and convince them to buy -another- account there, and then when there's a problem with Westhost you have to defend them. Yep, very familiar! :)

Unfortunately I don't know if Westhost 4.0 will work for you; I'm concluding that it won't work for me. Switching to PHP as a CGI causes too many problems for the apps I build -- I've been down that road with other hosts and I don't want to go there again. Other restrictions with cpanel are merely annoying, like having a part of my account name prepended onto all my usernames and database names, but PHP as a CGI is the dealbreaker.

I have a new project starting next week that I plan to set up on VPS.net, so I'll see how that goes. If I like it, I'll eventually migrate my other sites there (blech). If not I will shop for a new host (also blech).

arlomedia
03-15-2010, 11:37 AM
P.S. Aside from the technical differences between the two accounts, I do think Westhost has great customer service and that's still a differentiation from other companies. I love that I can call, email or IM depending on the level of info I need and the urgency with which I need it.

wildjokerdesign
03-15-2010, 06:22 PM
...
Unfortunately I don't know if Westhost 4.0 will work for you; I'm concluding that it won't work for me. Switching to PHP as a CGI causes too many problems for the apps I build -- I've been down that road with other hosts and I don't want to go there again.
...

I am curious what problems you have run into with PHP as CGI? I am finding that there are a lot less restrictions over all then I had thought there may be. We can go private with the conversation if you like. I really am interested in particulars. I trying to run the new 4.0 system through it's paces so anything you can give me to "test", I would love. :)

arlomedia
03-15-2010, 08:28 PM
I am curious what problems you have run into with PHP as CGI? I am finding that there are a lot less restrictions over all then I had thought there may be.

The first thing I usually run into is that with PHP as a CGI, you can't use the php_flag and php_value directives in htaccess files to customize your PHP setup (for example, to change a site's include path). Although it's easier to manage site-wide in an htaccess file, you can sometimes make these changes in your scripts using ini_set() (for example, to change a script's memory limit), but that is disabled in Westhost 4.0. The only other solution would be to edit your php.ini file (which would affect all the sites in your account), but I wasn't able to do that from the command-line because the command-line was so restricted. I read on one of Westhost's marketing pages that there is a way to customize php.ini, but it didn't give any specifics, so this would be a good thing to follow up on.

Another thing I like to do is use an AddHandler directive in htaccess to process .html files as PHP. I've done this on previous hosts that used PHP as a CGI, but the command was different, so this is a case where I know how to do it one way and I don't want to spend time learning another way to do the same thing (the command is slightly different for each host, in my experience). I recall running into other little things like this, but I'm afraid I don't remember the particulars.

In most of these cases, it's not that one kind of PHP is better than the other, but it does require some extra effort to move from one to the other. I had one project a few years ago that really suffered from a forced transition, and I pretty much vowed to avoid that in the future!

wildjokerdesign
03-15-2010, 08:34 PM
All have a look at the issues you posted and give them work over. :) Although I fully understand not wanting to jump through hoops. I get the feeling that memory limit might be the hardest to over come.

arlomedia
03-15-2010, 08:38 PM
All have a look at the issues you posted and give them work over. :) Although I fully understand not wanting to jump through hoops. I get the feeling that memory limit might be the hardest to over come.

You're too quick for me, I just shortened my rather rambling post. :D

artbuilders
03-15-2010, 09:13 PM
Unfortunately I don't know if Westhost 4.0 will work for you; I'm concluding that it won't work for me. Switching to PHP as a CGI causes too many problems for the apps I build -- I've been down that road with other hosts and I don't want to go there again. Other restrictions with cpanel are merely annoying, like having a part of my account name prepended onto all my usernames and database names, but PHP as a CGI is the dealbreaker.
Similar situation. Haven't really had a chance to calculate the full impact yet, though just the thought of fixing paths, tables and adjusting for PHP iterations is already stressing me enough. Just relieved that I don't have to do anything this minute because I'm totally swamped (an immediate force march to 4.0 would've dictated some reaction) But I did want to get the conversation rolling hoping to gain a little more inside baseball from the forum before I'm forced to decide. (And there's been some really helpful discussions so far)

wildjokerdesign
03-15-2010, 09:18 PM
Turns out php.ini was an easy one. Not sure if WestHost is going to like use know this but... Simply grab a copy of the php.ini that they are using and upload it to the directory where your php script is then modify. It has to be in the same directory where you run the script you want to make the changes on so you can't simply upload it to /home/[username]/ and have it work for directories under that.

Add Handler is pretty easy also.
The default base is:
PHP 5

AddHandler application/x-httpd-php5 .php5 .php .php3 .php2 .phtml
PHP 4

AddHandler application/x-httpd-php4 .php4

You can either add your .html to the end or modify all if you like.

I think that covers the things you where dealing with. Actually being able to override the default php.ini makes things somewhat easier. Now the only thing is that with that ability someone could abuse the server but I think they would get shut down. Let's hope WestHost does not put a block on these two things. :)

wildjokerdesign
03-15-2010, 09:21 PM
Hey just as another tid bit... I think I may have figured out how to get ffmpeg working with a WH 4.0 account. Still working it through. It does involve haveing an account over at vps.net that is actually running ffmpeg but might well be worth to some. If you are a reseller you could set this up for folks and maybe even make some extra cash out of it.

arlomedia
03-16-2010, 11:29 AM
Turns out php.ini was an easy one. Not sure if WestHost is going to like use know this but... Simply grab a copy of the php.ini that they are using and upload it to the directory where your php script is then modify. It has to be in the same directory where you run the script you want to make the changes on so you can't simply upload it to /home/[username]/ and have it work for directories under that.

Shawn, your persistence is admirable! Do you know where php.ini is located in this setup? It's not in /etc where it was on 3.0. Also, to clarify, you would need a separate php.ini file in -each directory- where you have PHP scripts? I remember seeing that on a different host, but they had a workaround to make it recursive ... see, I forgot all this stuff because I didn't plan on ever having to deal with it again!

wildjokerdesign
03-16-2010, 03:02 PM
arlomedia,

You might want to double check "Loaded Configuration File" with phpinfo() output but I found it at /usr/local/lib/php.ini Once you upload it to a directory where you have a file with phpinfo() you'll notice the "Loaded Configuration File" changes. :) Also remember you only have to put this in the same directory where the main file(s) are that you call via web browser. Most all php programs filter everything through an index.php file it is not too big a deal. So to clarify if you use include or require on files in a directory below you don't have to put the php.ini in that one.

I have seen cPanel set ups where you could upload even a partial php.ini file to like the /home/[username] and it would be included recursively as you mentioned. Maybe we can get WestHost to include that as a feature down the line. Quite frankly I think it would be easier for most users if they could just upload or edit a file that dealt with the things they wanted to change.

arlomedia
03-22-2010, 07:21 PM
FYI, I emailed Dreamhost support about the php.ini override today and they didn't seem to have any problem with customers doing that.

arlomedia
03-23-2010, 08:20 AM
I also learned today that ini_set is not actually disabled. When I had tried to install OpenX, which requires 128M of memory, its installer told me ini_set was disabled. In fact, ini_set is enabled, the memory is just capped at 32MB. I just wrote a test script that was able to change other settings via ini_set.

I'm starting to think my impression of Westhost 4.0 would be better if I had evaluated it at my leisure rather than under the pressure of restoring a large client site onto a temporary account after its server was damaged.

Anyway, this is one more bit of good news for anyone who is still following this.

wildjokerdesign
03-23-2010, 09:51 AM
FYI, I emailed Dreamhost support about the php.ini override today and they didn't seem to have any problem with customers doing that.
Did you mean WestHost and not Dreamhost in this? :)