This site (and Melissa’s site, and Intersanity’s site) have all been hosted by PowWeb since May 2004. I switched to PowWeb from my previous hosting provider—Hypermart—after they were bought out by Endurance International, moved my sites to a new platform, and changed the available features without warning. Their changes effectiely shut down my website, and it was less work to move to PowWeb than to re-architect the site so it could stay on Hypermart. PowWeb used to be great, and I happily recommended it to others whenever asked. But things changed in 2006 when—cue the broken record—the company was also bought-out by Endurance International.

We went through the hassle of our sites being migrated to an Endurance server on the other side of the country from PowWeb’s in August of 2006, and while the initial transition went fine (lessons learned from Hypermart?) it’s just been one problem after another since then. Support got incredibly useless. Uptime and average load-speed dropped drastically. Communication regarding downtime—why it’s happening and when our sites will go back to normal—became non-existant.

An ongoing problem has been unreliability of the MySQL databases. MySQL is an integral part of our sites and is the de-facto database standard on the web for small-to-medium web sites (and it’s not particularly difficult to run). MySQL databases were one of PowWeb’s most important features, but SQL server performance has been absolutely terrible since the Endurance transition. Most of the time my site isn’t working (which is depressingly often), it’s because the MySQL server is failing. PowWeb claims over 99 percent reliability, but this is a straight lie. The server might be running 99 percent of the time, but it is often refusing to actually serve dynamic web sites because of the MySQL bottleneck.

Initially, I chalked all this up to growing pains and transition pains. I am a very patient person. I patiently watched PowWeb implement redundant, load-distributing servers. It didn’t help. They switched to a newer version of the MySQL server. It didn’t help. To this day, performance is unacceptable. PowWeb won’t acknowledge that the problem even exists, let alone that they need to fix it, and rarely-if-ever provide any useful information to their customers when downtime occurs. Usually, I find out my site is down when I try to load it myself or when a friend tells me. That’s not how a professional web host behaves.

Last night, it happened again. For nearly four hours, PowWeb was MIA—their sites, their customers’ sites, their forums, their email systems, and more all simply disappeared for much of the evening. I tried it from several separate networks, so it wasn’t an issue on my end. There was no explanation. No apologies. Nothing. Browsing the downtime logs and service announcements reveals that, according to PowWeb, everyone was working fine all evening. In fact, the last issue reported was from nearly two weeks earlier.

Enough is enough. After many years and with mixed feelings, it is time to switch.

I wanted to put this out there and get some opinions. Hosts currently under consideration include Dotster (our current domain registrar whom we are very happy with), Pair Networks, United Hosting, WestHost, and DreamHost. If you have any experiences with these or any other hosts, please let me know.

Obviously, hosting providers owned by Endurance are not under consideration. After all, PowWeb was great before the Endurance buyout, so presumably plenty of other good hosts have been made crappy by an Endurance buyout. Endurance-owned hosts include BizLand, FatCow, Virtual Avenue, FreeYellow, PureHost, and—of course—my own former hosts at Hypermart and PowWeb. There are a lot of others too; a full list is hard to come by.