After almost a week of being offline due to webhosting problems, WebBiz KnowledgeBase is finally back online. So why did it take a week? Surely it should just have been a matter of changing nameservers and migrating the blog from one webhost to another. Easy, right? Nope! It should be a relatively simple thing to do but things are never as easy as you expect…
Why The Blog Needed To Be Moved
Ok, the first question I hear you ask is “Why did you need to move the blog at all?”. Well, it wasn’t something I decided to do on a whim, just to see if I could do it. Originally, this blog was on a Webhost4SEO shared hosting account. I had other blogs on that account too, but those were blogs built using WordPress Mage. As I’ve come to realise, that particular set of plugins is a resource hog but more on that later.
Anyway, webbizkb.com is my prime blog and it’s the one I worry most about and the one I always want to have up and running. The other blogs on the shared hosting account were chewing up the server resources and every so often the server had a heart attack and keeled over. All sites offline as a result. At the time, neither I nor the webhosting company knew what the cause was but an errant WordPress plugin looked to be the likely culprit. As the blogs grew in size, the server keeled over more often. And webbizkb.com was down for hours, sometimes a day, at a time. And at other times, the site was very slow to load. Not good. And that prompted me to look around for alternative hosting…
While Webhost4SEO tried to diagnose what was going on (their support was great, btw), I did some research on what kind of webhosting I needed. A Virtual Private Server (VPS) was it. For ease of use, I needed a fully managed VPS that ran cPanel. LiquidWeb came up as a recommended choice, so after a bit more research, I opened a Basic VPS account with them at a cost of $60 per month. As you can see, VPS hosting is quite a bit more expensive than shared or reseller hosting.
So with my new VPS account in hand, I migrated webbizkb.com over to a throwaway domain just to see how easy or difficult it would be (I did the migration manually). Within about an hour, I had the site up and running again, and it loaded faster than ever. A good start!
History Repeats Itself
Then I created a couple of WordPress Mage based blogs on the VPS and after a couple of weeks or so, my server started crashing. Crap! Back to where I was before. After investigation, LiquidWeb came to the same conclusion as Webhost4SEO: a WordPress plugin going AWOL was the problem. When I mentioned I was using WP Mage, it was they who told me it was such a resource hog. It’s a great plugin, but it needs more than a basic VPS setup to run, especially if you’re creating multiple blogs like I was. While I was building blogs based on the WP Mage course, it turns out that that advice is not the best, nor the most effective. Well, you live and learn. And where did I learn that somewhat important nugget of information? The Autoblog Blueprint.
The VPS server I was renting only had 384Mb of RAM, not enough memory for the tasks I was trying to run. Since LiquidWeb’s Premium VPS package was out of my budgetary range at $100 per month, I had to look around for other VPS solutions. Besides, their Premium VPS only doubles the RAM available to 768Mb and discussions with other marketers revealed that I should look at for 1024Mb RAM as a minimum.
Now I was looking at having to migrate several blogs and, while it can be done manually for blogs with databases up to 50Mb in size, it’s more difficult for blogs with larger databases. That’s where BackupBuddy comes in. It’s a WordPress plugin that backs up your entire blog (all the WordPress files and folders as well as the database). When you import the blog to another server, you just fill in the database details (you need to manually create a database) on the new server and click the buttons and, viola, your blog is up and running on the new server in minutes.
Of course, for me, this didn’t quite happen.
Things Are Never As Easy As They Seem
After a lot of research, I settled on HostEasier as my new VPS host. Their VPS-1 plan is $35 per month and provides 1024Mb RAM. You also get 3 IP addresses. Just what I needed, and significantly cheaper than LiquidWeb. So I signed up.
I did a test migration of this blog onto another domain I set up on HostEasier’s server. Worked a charm. I then tried to delete the blog and found that I couldn’t delete any of the WordPress folders. When I contacted HostEasier support, they told me that the folders had been assigned to the “nobody” owner; in other words, the Apache software was assigned ownership instead of me. Installing suPHP would, I was told, solve the problem. suPHP is a tool for executing PHP scripts with the permissions of their owners and can be installed by a webhost on request. It also makes your server more secure.
So the test install had gone perfectly and now I could delete the folders to clean up that test install. Time to migrate the blog to the new server for real and get it up and running again. So I loaded up ImportBuddy (a script that comes with BackupBuddy that looks after installing a backed up WordPress blog and its database) and ran through the simple steps until I reached Step 5 (of 6). The script told me it was importing the database and then just stopped. No warnings, no errors; nothing.
Time to contact support again…told them that importbuddy had worked before suPHP had been installed…they said the script might now be timing out so they extended the execution time for scripts (it defaults to 30 seconds) and they tweaked some mySQL settings.
I re-ran importbuddy. Yay, it seemed to be going ok but this time it fell over on Step 3. So a worse outcome than before. Actually, a few other things happened over the course of 3 days while we tried to get this sorted out but this post is getting long enough without going into even more detail. Suffice to say, HostEasier asked me to contact the BackupBuddy authors to find out if there’s a conflict between BackupBuddy/ImportBuddy and suPHP. I’m still waiting to hear back from them at time of writing.
If Anyone’s Ever Told You Webhosting Was Simple, They Were Lying Or Ignorant!
Yeesh. Since I couldn’t afford to waste any more time with the WebBiz KnowledgeBase blog being down, I had to go looking for yet another VPS host. Some folks in a couple of forums I frequent suggested I try Heroehost. I looked at their plans which range from $7 per month to $25 per month. Very cheap for VPS hosting but, if you want to use cPanel, that’s an extra $15 per month. Their Plan-4 VPS package provides 1024Mb of RAM and is $40 per month (including cPanel). Just a bit dearer than HostEasier. But, before I signed up with them, I asked a few questions about whether their servers could do what I wanted of them. I was assured that they’d meet my requirements. So I went to sign up with them…
…and was told they’d no more Plan-4 VPS’s left. I’d have to wait until they ordered in some new servers. Arrrggghhhh!
Stymied again (ever feel like the Universe was conspiring against you?)
While I tried to figure out what to do next, I logged into the Autoblog Blueprint forum and saw a message that Mike Johnson (the author) had just arranged with Heroehost that AutoBlog Blueprint members could get hosting for $19.95 per month (less if you pay in advance for a year). The VPS’s are configured to Mike’s requirements for blogs, so they’re better than the standard VPS setup. You guessed it! I signed up. The downside is that you can only host 20 domains per plan and they’re all on 1 IP address. But even at $20 per month per 20 sites, that’s still a great deal.
So I finally managed to migrate this blog to another VPS webhost. BackupBuddy didn’t do the job for me, unfortunately (I’m beginning to think that there’s a problem with the backup file itself) and I had to resort to a manual install of WordPress and import of the database and tweaking a couple of settings to get the blog to work.
But the blog is back and it loads faster than ever. So it’s off to a good new start. Now the next step is to migrate my blogs on other webhosts over to Heroehost.
So what can I conclude from all these shenanigans?
- VPS hosting is better than shared hosting, but it’s more expensive.
- Using VPS hosting is not just about replacing a shared hosting company (like Hostgator) with a VPS hosting company like Hosteasier.
- VPS hosting is more technical than shared hosting. You need to learn how to use WHM to set up and manage your accounts (cPanels).
- Not all VPS hosting is created equal. You need to use a server that meets your particular requirements. A 384Mb server will be fine for smaller sites that don’t require a lot of resources. 768Mb is better for more resource intensive sites. But if you want to create auto blogs, 1024Mb is advised.
- Prices for hosting packages differ wildly so you need to look around for the best deal.
- Unless you like poking around in the innards of hosting plans and software, the easiest solution is to go for a Linux-based cPanel, fully managed package.
- BackupBuddy may not be the great tool I thought it was.
After everything I’ve done over the last couple of weeks in relation to webhosting, here’s my list of suggested VPS webhosts:
Heroehost: Best deal available. $40 per month for Plan-4 VPS (cPanel-based and 1024Mb RAM). If you’re an Autoblog Blueprint member, you can get VPS hosting for half that price.
Hosteasier: Despite the problems I had using BackupBuddy on their servers, their hosting plans are cheap ($35 per month) and well specified and their support is fast and responsive. Their base VPS-1 plan is very similar to Hosteasier’s top-line Plan-4, and they provide higher-specified packages than Heroehost with their VPS-2 and above plans.
LiquidWeb: Comparatively expensive for the plans on offer but their support is superb. Their Basic VPS plan only offers 384Mb of RAM for $60 per month. Premium VPS provides 768Mb RAM for $100 per month. There’s no VPS plan offering larger amounts of RAM.
Hostgator: While I didn’t open a Hostgator VPS account, I’ve been pretty happy with Hostgator’s shared webhosting, so I’m happy to suggest them as an alternative. They offer a scalable VPS hosting package that allows you to increase the specification of your plan to meet your needs. I’d recommend starting with a Level 3, fully managed plan with cPanel as a minimum, which will cost $49.95 per month.
Webhost4SEO: An upmarket shared hosting solution rather than VPS. However, in reality it sits somewhere between standard shared hosting plans and VPS (fewer customers sharing the server than on a regular shared hosting account). A bit on the expensive side at $79.95 per month for the lowest specified package, but you do get 10 IP addresses as part of the package.
BackupBuddy: Supposed to be the best tool (WordPress plugin) for migrating blogs between webhosts. Maybe I’ve just been unlucky with it, but it hasn’t worked too well for me. I don’t know if the problems I encountered are BackupBuddy related (a bad backup), server related or a combination of the two. If I get a chance, I’ll do an in-depth review of my experiences with it in a future post, after I’ve had a bit more time to play around with it.
NOTE: BackupBuddy is $100+/year depending on the number of sites you want to use it on. If you buy WP Toolkit ($147 one-time payment), you get BackupBuddy as part of the package, plus a huge number of other plugins and themes.
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