The winner: HostGator
I used to have MidPhase as my provider. They were reasonably priced, and relatively smooth. For a good 5 years I had no issues. However, recently my WordPress blogs were starting to get random and frequent 500 Internal Server Errors. The server status indicates that they are aware of this issue (and apparently, 20+ other issues).
After patiently waiting for 2 weeks I decided that it’s time to move on to another provider. I did my research online, and found iPage and JustHost seemed to be the two top players, with iPage seems to be getting a little upper hand (mostly due to the price, I believe). The price and feature set offered by both were amazing. After looking at what they offered, just price alone told me that I needed to move off Midphase. Both iPage and Just Host offer unlimited MySQL DB and unlimited subdomains for a price lower than single DB and single subdomain package from Midphase. To get unlimited DB and unlimited subdomains, I had to pay another $29.95/year at Midphase to add the developer pack.
I started with iPage. While I have a bit preference for cpanel, I didn’t mind vdeck. However, right away I noticed that the page loading speed was not great. There were visible delay moving from one page to another. I decided that I could live with this.
Moving my current site content to iPage turned out to be extremely difficult. I had a WordPress Multisite blog network on my old server. Since iPage does not offer cpanel, I could not use the website backup utility built into cpanel. I found this site and followed the directions. No matter what I do, I could not make it work. As soon as I imported the database, I started getting all sorts of DB connection errors.
iPage offers a ticketing system for support (to get real time support I’d have to buy the premium package). The response time for tickets are typically more than 1 day, and was not super helpful. At least with Midphase they would point to to potential articles online that might help, if they were not able to help you directly. iPage didn’t really provide any useful leads, let alone direct help. Instead, they offered a $75/hour to help me move my content. I didn’t go for it, but soon I found I was more than 1 week into the process and still was not able to move my old site content.
At this point I decided to give JustHost a try. I was glad that they offer cpanel. Unfortunately, for some reason, cpanel site back up and restore did not work and I was back to moving the contents individually, again. Like iPage, JustHost offers support via ticketing system. However, unlike iPage, JustHost does not offer a way to manage all your open tickets. Instead, you start the support request with the online form, and then do the rest via emails. Their response time was even worse than iPage (often close to 2 days) and again, were not very helpful. I tried their Live Chat. The queue was on the long side (usually more than 5 min wait. Ran into 10+ min a few times), which was fine. However, even when you are connected with a support personnel, their response time within the chat session were very long, too (often took more than 5 min for them to reply to my inquiries) because they were serving many people at the same time. The worst part was, they were not helpful.
Two weeks and two new hosts providers, and I was nowhere close to move my site.
Maybe I am unrealistic in my expectations, but the level of support surprised me, as the online reviews raved about the support iPage and JustHost provide. After doing more research I found HostGator. HostGator and BlueHost. Online reviews tend to rate HostGator and BlueHost on par with each other, but below iPage and JustHost. I think it’s because both HostGator and BlueHost are higher price than iPage and JustHost. However, we are talking about $2.99/month vs. $3.95/month. It’s really not that big an amount in the grand scheme of things. It’s $12/year difference. Meanwhile, the agony I’ve been going through trying to transfer my website would probably cost me a lot more.
I decided to give HostGator a try. Right away I noticed that their site loads a lot faster than either iPage or JustHost. To be the on cautious side, I decided to try out their Live Chat to see how their support system is. The queue was longish (about 7 min), but I was pleasantly surprised by the quick and knowledgeable response of the support personnel on the other side. Then I asked what kind of help they can provide to help me move my current site and found a pleasant surprise”: they offer a one-time service to transfer your old site contents to HostGator for free! WoW!
The support person gave me an URL and instructed me to go that site after I signed up for an HostGator account to start the site transfer process, which I did. Signing up for a new account was instantaneous, just like iPage and JustHost. Upon filling out the form to request for content transfer, I received a confirmation, informing me that the process will take up to 72 hours (3 days). However, 12 hours later my site was fully transferred and operational.
HostGator gives you a test URL to test your site after the transfer. Any issue you find you report it via replying the confirmation email. The site transfer was clean and successful, and everything worked like a charm. However, I found an unpleasant side effect: in transferring my old site content, they renamed my cpanel username to match my old username on midphase. I happen to really dislike that username, which was given to me with no way to change it. I also happened to really like the username HostGator gave me and was quite upset that it got replaced by the old username. I reported back to the email and asked about the change, and received a reply within 2 hours. The support person told me that the content transfer system they user transfer the username as well, and that changing cpanel username is not something they normally do due to the complexity involved. However, he also gave me a one-time service and change it for me and I now have the username I like back. Needless to say I was very pleased.
As with any new providers I transfer to, I have been probing around the service and trying out new things. So far I have contacted Live Chat about 5 times and used email support about 2 times. Each time the response time was reasonable and my issues/questions were resolved extremely satisfactorily. I am a very happy customer right now. I think I will be staying with them for quite some time.