DowntownHost – Recommended Shared, Linux Web Hosting
Over the years, I have used Yahoo, Hostway, Sharkspace, and Godaddy, sequentially, for my web hosting services until finally changing to Downtownhost in 2008. Yahoo was great during the Web 1.0 years, but became expensive in comparison to other services and I migrated to Hostway around 2001, using its servers to run an online art gallery for over 6 years. When I launched a new web development company in 2006, I shifted to SharkSpace hoping to use their reseller hosting package as a good way to manage disk space for multiple clients, but the price and disk space could not compare to shared hosts like Godaddy. (For reference, $24.95 per month vs. $5 per month.) I signed up for a Wild West reseller account thinking that would be a better option for hosting client sites cheaply – big mistake. I had innumerable problems with Godaddy doing CMS development and hosting multiple domains on the same shared space. So many problems in fact, I decided I could not offer the services responsibly to my clients or even use the disk space for my own sites.
I canceled my Godaddy account and began a serious search of all hosts for the best one to build my own sites on as well as host my client’s sites reliably, securely, and economically. I checked all of the main web hosting companies, all of the review sites, forums, bulletin boards, etc. A lot of people had good things to say about DowntownHost, something that is really rare if you look at discussions of hosting companies. One thing that was mentioned, is that when hosting companies offer disk space in massive quantities (500GB, Unlimited Storage) and unlimited bandwidth for a super cheap price, they are overselling their servers – i.e. selling disk space and bandwidth they don’t actually have, and betting that most users won’t even use a fraction of their 500GB. That is fine, it probably wouldn’t happen anyway, but then the same shared hosting companies have the server processor use restrictions and can shut your site down even if they promise unlimited bandwidth. In a nutshell, you get what you pay for, and with cheap shared hosting a lot of the servers can develop small problems with configurations that cause nightmares for developers. Godaddy is the worst example here probably, just check any CMS board about the host-specific problems developers discover there.
After reading so many reviews and comments, I got in touch with DowntownHost and they have a great service where they will migrate your site files from the existing host to their servers for free when you sign up for a new account. So, the transfer of all my domains from Godaddy was really easy, and free. The main point people make about DowntownHost is customer service. If you have ever submitted a support ticket to a web hosting provider about configuration and development issues you know how important this is and what a nightmare – in my opinion, it is not uncommon to wait 24+ hours for a canned email stating “we can’t help with development issues” on a server configuration related issue that is urgent to deadline-based site development, and no real hope of any assistance being the norm. This is definitely not the case with DowntownHost – any time I have had a question, problem, or issue arise on any topic, and sent an email with a question, they generally replied within 2 to 5 minutes, any time of the day. And they helped to definitively diagnose, repair, and fix the problem.
Downtownhost offers shared Linux web hosting at around 5GB disk space / 100 Gb monthly transfer with a Cpanel interface, free AWStats, unlimited MySQL databases, and unlimited domains at around $5.95 per month, paid a year in advance. As stated, the disk space is not as much as similar web hosting providers, but I found myself migrating away from those shared hosts because of development issues. I find the server configuration at Downtownhost to be perfect for working on multiple CMSs and multiple domains at the same time without any problems. Cpanel is much preferred over the proprietary control panels that you find at many of the web hosting providers, it is very solid, and with all the extras. Cpanel is much more quick and efficient than Dreamhost, MediaTemple, or Godaddy’s administrative backend for example.
As I am doing over 90% Drupal development professionally, I needed to make sure the servers were optimized for Drupal – that was my main reason for doing a quick and extremely dissatisfied flight mid-contract from Godaddy. Working with Pligg and Drupal sites, I was having a lot of trouble with Mod Rewrite and Clean Urls. After solving the problem with one site, it would reappear on another, in a different way, even on a clean install – with no support from Godaddy on any issue. For the record, I have never had a problem with Clean URLs or Mod Rewrite at DowntownHost.
Otherwise, Cpanel includes MySQL Wizard & Management, phpMyAdmin, File Manager, multiple ftp and email accounts for each domain, SSH Access, Mime Types, Apache Handlers, Perl, CGI, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Fantastico, etc. I requested Python installation on the server but that is probably not happening at DowntownHost anytime soon, unless you upgrade to a private server and install it yourself.
DowntownHost has data centers in both Denver, Colorado and Detroit, Michigan, as I understand it. Before signing up for an account, I went to a site providing server speed benchmarking tests like:
Typing in the names of the top 10 web hosting providers I was evaluating for the test:
SPEED TEST – RESULTS:
|#||Domain Name||Size||Load Time||Average Speed per KB|
|1||downtownhost.com||170.92 KB||0.23 seconds||0 seconds|
|2||godaddy.com||2200.23 KB||1.43 seconds||0.01 seconds|
|3||mediatemple.net||13.35 KB||0.5 seconds||0.04 seconds|
|4||hostmonster.com||17.45 KB||1.26 seconds||0.07 seconds|
|5||hostgator.com||10.06 KB||0.63 seconds||0.06 seconds|
|6||anhosting.com||8.83 KB||1.12 seconds||0.13 seconds|
|7||rackspace.com||24.95 KB||1.31 seconds||0.05 seconds|
|8||mosso.com||13.82 KB||0.61 seconds||0.04 seconds|
|9||dreamhost.com||4.35 KB||0.52 seconds||0.12 seconds|
|10||1and1.co.uk||20.66 KB||2.81 seconds||0.14 seconds|
However you do the math, DowntownHost tests as the fastest of all of the web hosting providers listed above. I performed the same test with multiple web hosting companies 8 months ago when I switched – and the results haven’t changed much. So, with DowntownHost you have the best customer service in the web hosting industry plus also the top speeds – this is why I consider the company a “hidden gem” and recommend them to my clients and friends.
Note: you may doubt the speed tests above, as they are actually downloading the hosting company’s homepage and testing that speed. When I first joined, DowntownHost also sent me some fixed-sized, set MB number files that could be used for speed benchmarking of the different servers themselves. I do web design from India, and the DowntownHost servers are located in the USA – I have not had any speed or performance related issues arise in 8 months of development work on the servers.
While I haven’t used DowntownHost’s dedicated or VPS servers, I would consider them if I need to upgrade because in my opinion it is difficult to find good customer service and friendly people you can contact repeatedly for reliable tech support in the web hosting industry. That said, I am looking for cloud hosting solutions currently to offer my clients who need web sites that scale and survive the Digg effect or traffic spikes. For that, we are currently evaluating between Amazon and Mosso.