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Tips To Choose A Web Host You Probably Don’t Know by GlowHost CEO Matt Lundstrom

Tips To Choose A Web Host You Probably Don’t Know by GlowHost CEO Matt Lundstrom

Roberto Popolizio
Website Planet had the chance to sit down and chat with​​ Matt Lundstrom is the founder and CEO of GlowHost.com, a web hosting service started over 20 years ago from a living room and now one of the most successful hosting companies worldwide.

He shared the most overlooked but crucial things to look for when choosing a web host, the underestimated importance of a hyper-reactive senior tech support, and the number one tip for all website owners you would never expect from your webs hosting provider.

What’s your story? How did you get into the web hosting business?

I started GlowHost in 2002 in the living room of my apartment that I shared with 2 other roommates. I was constantly in trouble for tying up the telephone line with my 56K dial-up connection. Nobody had cell phones at that time where I lived. We couldn’t afford them anyways if they did!

Between college in the day, running the door at the local dive at night and heavy equipment in the summers, managing a ski-rental shop in the winters, and building homes in between, I guess I wasn’t busy enough. A friend of mine at the college was the webmaster for the university and showed me the basics of web design. So, I decided to start building websites for the local mom-and-pop businesses in my “free time.” Soon enough I realized the people that needed websites didn’t really know where to get, or how hosting worked in general. So I started charging a markup on the monthly hosting fees in exchange for managing the hosting and websites for them.

I eventually purchased a reseller hosting account for $24.95/mo which was making several hundred per month in hosting revenues within the first few months. Soon after that, I needed a dedicated server. The biggest one I could find came with 2 GB RAM and a “whopping’ 40GB HDD. By that point, I was making more in hosting than the bar and heavy equipment combined. I was also running out of money for tuition, and driving 40 minutes to the university, especially on snow days, when I was supposed to be snowboarding or snowmobiling instead was no fun!

Eventually I realized that web design was not making as much as the hosting itself, so I halted the design company and focused entirely on hosting and domains. Two decades later we are one of the oldest and most successful hosting companies around, and while we still host mom-and-pops, we have grown our capabilities to support towns, cities, entire counties and government websites in multiple countries. What a ride!

What types of hosting plans do you currently offer?

GlowHost primarily offers Linux servers to support the most popular website apps like WordPress, and hundreds of others, including custom built sites. These servers support brochure-ware type websites all the way up to multi-server clustered setups with offsite backups spanning multiple geographically separated datacenters across the globe.

Our zero-downtime Cloud Servers are capable of hot migration and hot failover and do not require reboots for security and kernel updates. The clustered storage on our Cloud Servers saves customer site and email data in at least four different storage pools simultaneously resulting in near bulletproof data protection. The Cloud Servers are scalable, meaning the customer can add or remove disk space, CPU, and memory on the fly, also without a reboot.

What is hot migration?

A hot migration is a live migration from one physical machine to another that can be done without any downtime, unlike cold migrations.

Why is the difference between hot and cold failover?

A hot failover detects a failure instantly and switches over to another running system with no visible interruptions. A cold failover is manual that is usually completed within a few seconds or minutes.

GlowHost also offers add-on products and services like domain registration, SSL certificates, website hack repair and prevention services, to name a few options for easy one-stop shopping. We provide a single combined invoice or split the services up to fall on different renewal dates for our customer convenience.

How does your mission differ from the competition?

Our key differentiator is our technical support services. Each technical support ticket is reviewed and responded to by high-level systems administrators. You won’t receive unhelpful replies or experience escalation, you deal directly with the top level at GlowHost.

Our goal is to provide 20 minute resolution times from the moment the support incident has been filed. We have some of the best techs and response times in the industry, if not the best. We have extremely high support agent to customer ratios, meaning our techs are never overloaded to the point where response wait times become an issue.

P.S. Our team operates 24/7/365 – Yes, holidays included!

What makes people eventually choose you over your competitors?

Much of the industry has been consolidated by several super companies that all use the same platform and technical support agents, just under a different hosting brand name. Oftentimes they never realize this after bouncing around different hosts, and think that all hosts must be the same. Not at GlowHost. We are independently owned and operated and most of our customers will eventually recognize the names of their technical support agents, if they ever need to contact them in the first place.

Our platform supports virtually any popular web app or bespoke website. Additionally our back end is fine tuned and optimized for the most popular apps like WordPress and Drupal. Advanced users will appreciate the ability to utilize command line tools via SSH, including on shared servers.

Using special back-end software, our shared accounts are separated into their own “containers” so that no one site on a server can overload the entire machine, which is a typical problem at many other web hosting providers. When this happens every site on the same server suffers because of one.

Our email network is strictly maintained. We do not allow spammers on our platforms which means email delivery rates will be much higher than other providers with loose monitoring policies. Our email IP addresses are clean and not on blacklists, which translates to optimal email performance. Users can also configure their email programs with PGP keys to handle end-to-end email encryption for robust security.

Glowhost offers a no-quesions-asked 91 Day Money Back Guarantee. If you aren’t 100% satisfied, you will receive a full refund

Moreover, Glowhost offers hardware guarantees, which are rare in the web hosting industry, and their very own Blanket Guarantee of 99.9% uptime on shared, reseller, and semi-dedicated hosting plans.

What are the most common mistakes website owners make when choosing a web hosting provider, and how can they prevent them?

Just a few tips…

Firstly, look for a managed hosting provider that offers full management services from shared servers to dedicated servers, at least. Many hosts claim management is included but they are relying on the software systems to do the management for them. Our team actually fine tunes each server for optimal performance based on what it is being used for. While some things are out of the scope of our support (for example, building your website for you) we offer a higher level of support than typical hosts provide. In fact, we often find ourselves helping customers to debug their scripts or software and help them tweak their environment to suit their individual site needs.

Additionally, when the time comes, you are going to need a provider that manages the server for you (unless of course, you like getting notifications at 3 Am that your server is down and have no idea where to begin to fix it).

Our management service includes proactive and reactive monitoring, so, if there is a problem, we will be working on it usually before the customer even realizes that there’s an issue.

Make sure your host can scale with you. They should be able to manage not only dedicated servers but complex clusters and cloud servers and be able to provide hosting for your site in different geographical locations when it becomes popular or when redundancy, standby, remote backups, or failover becomes a requirement. GlowHost does all of this.

Data protection should be priority number one when planning out your website. Your data should be stored in at least three separate locations:

  1. One location is of course, the server itself.
  2. A second location could be a secondary drive on the server that is used for backup purposes
  3. The third location should be your local copy of the site files.
To step things up a notch, you can also consider remote backup on top of these layers. RAID is another layer of data protection that should be considered. All of our shared and personal servers are equipped with RAID and local backups. It’s an extra cost for us, but the value is more than justified.

If you are considering a dedicated server, consider adding additional disks for these purposes. In our tests, RAID0 has a minimal human-noticeable effect on site performance, with a primary drawback that if one drive in the RAID array dies, then everything on the other drive is corrupted/lost. For production servers we prefer to use at least RAID1 which can sustain a single drive failure and continue operating as normal until a replacement drive can be installed.

If you are operating a database-driven site that stores sensitive user content, avoid using clear text as much as possible, and opt for an encryption method for the data instead. The most commonly used method we see is AES encryption and our servers fully support this using MySQL and other database technologies.

Finally, realize that most hosts will not tell you or remind you that if your data is important to you, never rely on your web host. Sounds strange for a web hosting company to say this, doesn’t it?

The reasons are storied and numerous, from fly-by-nights, to bad migrations, server failure, hackers, backup failure, accidental deletion, theft, and natural disasters to name a few. Remember, the host owns the machine and what they do with it is beyond your direct control. Always, always, always keep your data safe in a location other than relying 100% on your hosting provider. Even the best provider can make a mistake or suffer any of a myriad of reasons for data loss.

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