Time for a Change

I’ve had my websites on GoDaddy for fifteen plus years. For most of my stay there, I had no real problems, but, lately, I started noticing slow response times on one of my websites. I was also in the process of rewriting a site using Ruby on Rails. GoDaddy doesn’t support it. It was time to move

Finding a New Provider

I chose HostGator after reading a number of reviews. HostGator was the cheapest and most reliable. Things change so do a web search on “hostgator vs” to get the latest information. The review that seem most comprehensive compared HostGator, Bluehost, and DreamHost.

HostGator has three plans: Hatchling, Baby, and Business. If you have a single website, you can go with the Hatchling plan. Since I have multiple web sites, I chose the Baby plan. Sign up was simple.

Moving My Site

The web site on which you’re reading this was pretty simple when I did the transfer. It was just a few pages and a WordPress blog. WordPress can sometime be tricky to set up especially if you are moving an existing database. One of the services HostGator offers is a site migration service. I decided to let them do the migration for me.

You need to go to a specific url and submit a request. There are a few pages to fill out. The first one was not clear on what user id and password to use. When you start, you will have one for billing and customer service and the other for your control panel access. Both are sent to you when you sign up. I found this out by calling tech support. Since I was on the line with them, I had them help me with the rest of the questions. When we were done, I submitted the request. They state it takes up to 72 hours or more for the request to be processed. It took about five days for them to complete mine.

They sent me instructions to access their S.W.A.M.P. simulator to view the site before I made it public. Everything looked fine except for the blog, which didn’t render correctly. All the content was there, it just wasn’t formatted. I responded to the request about the problem. I was afraid it was going to take another five days to get a response. Instead, they got back to me almost immediately. I had to make an entry into my hosts file to point to the temporary IP address. When I browsed it through the temporary link, everything looked great. I went over to GoDaddy and switched my name servers to point to HostGator. This is usually a 24 to 48 hour process to propagate the changes world wide. In my case, it only took seconds.

The Control Panel

I had a second site to move to HostGator. Since I had just finished rewriting it to Ruby on Rails, it only existed in development on my home computer. Deploying a Rails application is a lot more complex than a simple html or php site. HostGator provides detailed step by step instruction on how to do it.

In the process of setting it up, I had to use a number of services on the control panel. The control panel or cPanel is a Web Hosting Management System used by many ISP’s including HostGator. GoDaddy has their own system that I’ve always found rather confusing. They always seem to be changing it so if you haven’t used it in a while you may have to learn it again.

If you’re not a web developer, the following won’t mean much to you. For those of you who are, Hostgator provides some great tools or services.

I access my production database by using the Sequel Pro application running on my Mac. This is the same application I used to manage my local databases. To gain remote access, you have to set up permission for the IP address of your Internet account. For most people this is a dynamic address, meaning it may change. If it does, you have to update the permission table. Instruction on how to do this is provided by HostGator.

Another nice service is the ability to manage your site remotely using ssh on a Mac. On Windows, I believe it’s PuTTY. On the Mac operating system, OS X, your connection just appears as another Terminal window. Other than doing some simple edits, I haven’t done much with the interface. The main benefit is that it lets you run commands against your production system.

There is also a nice file management application. It allows you to view, update, and manage files. The update has three editors, text, html, and code. I find the file manager handy to manage files I don’t want to keep on my development site such as .htaccess.

For those of you on ISP’s that have cPanel, this maybe be nothing special. Coming from GoDaddy, I found it to be a vast improvement.

Email

After the tech support people finished migrating my domain, they offered to move my mail as well. I had already begun the process, but was happy to let them finish it. I used IMAP, which stores your email on your ISP’s servers. That allows you to access it from any device where you have set up your email account.

When they finished doing the transfer, I checked my mail folders. Not all the mail had been moved. It turned out that I had set the email account to a fixed limit and I had used up all my space. There is an unlimited option that is including in the cost of the service. I switched to it so I wouldn’t have the problem again. I ended up moving all my old email down to my main home computer as I rarely ever referred to it.

The support people also switched my email delivery so I would receive all new email at HostGator. One of the benefits was that I now automatically received my email on my Mac systems. With GoDaddy, I had to manually request it every time I wanted to see if I had any new email. I don’t know if this was a problem with GoDaddy or the way I had my account set up with them. Either way, it now works normally.

Tech Support

As with the case with moving to any new provider, I had to make a number of calls to their tech support. I called in the middle of the day and the wait time was over ten minutes. One of the tech support people said it’s busiest about 11 to 1 Central time. Since then, I’ve made a number of calls off hours and have always got through pretty quickly.
One of my calls was with a problem with entering the data for the transfer service. I called tech support and got Allan. He was great. Anything he didn’t know, he quickly checked and got me an answer. After getting through that problem, I had him help me with a few other questions I had. Overall, the service has ranged from good to excellent.
Trouble ticket handling is a different story. While I get useful responses, the response time have been running five days. The one time I tried online chat, It took five minutes for the support person to come online. After asking me a simple question, another five minutes went by before I gave up. I’ve only made this one attempt so I may have hit a bad time. Regardless, I’m sticking with voice support from now on.

Ruby Support

Sadly, HostGator’s support for Ruby on Rails on their shared service is very much out of date. The version of Ruby they support at the this time is 1.8.7. It was released in early 2011. The Ruby organization dropped support for it in June 2013. I’m using much newer versions of Ruby and Rails. Even if I could recode my site to work with the older version, I fear I would be stuck with that version or one equally old and wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the newer features.

I could upgrade to HostGator’s Virtual Private Server (VSP) service. With that service, you have root access and can load any version of Ruby you like. It costs a minimum of twice what I’m paying now and is total overkill, performance wise, for a few personal websites. I’m finding another provider for my Ruby on Rails web site.

Conclusion

If you don’t have a Ruby on Rails website, HostGator is a great provider. They have great prices as well and the best uptime of the major providers in this category. Their phone tech support personnel are friendly and generally very knowledgeable. Unless I can find a provider that has equivalent service along with Ruby on Rails support, I’m sticking with HostGator.

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