Which Hosting Platform Do You Use?

And by this I mean which control panel?

Experience tells me that most small businesses use a Linux or Unix platform of some kind (collectively called *nix), but I know that many people also use a Windows server because they have some app they want to run that needs Windows.

So if you’re on a *nix platform, which hosting control panel do you use?

My personal choice is cPanel.

#1 – It’s probably the most feature full hosting panel there is.
#2 – It’s the easiest to use.
#3 – If you’re not happy with your host, it’s a piece of cake to move to another cPanel host.

But even though the cPanel software is cheap at only about $100 per year per server (to the web host, not you), some hosts insist on writing their own server software. Maybe if you have at least 500 servers at $100 giving a total of $50,000 / year, then it’s tempting to spend the money having your own platform written, or at least find a cheaper one.

But I strongly believe that this policy damages their business. There are tens of thousands of people in the know who wouldn’t touch a non-cPanel server purely because of the reasons above. Especially people who need a dedicated server.

The problem I think for many users of these hosts is that they don’t know any better.

Think about this one for a moment. When you first looked for a web host for your very first web site, you didn’t have a clue what to do did you? No, nor me.

So you first have to do some research. For many people this consists of nothing more than going into their favourite forum and saying “anybody know a good web host?” – and this is where the problem lies.

People who have an opinion without a rounded experience are usually the most vocal.

The people who know that a cPanel host is the way to go may just about be bothered to say “any cPanel host” which doesn’t help the guy or gal looking for the information.

But the “newbie” users will jump forward and say “I use 1and1”, or “I use Yahoo”, or “I use GoDaddy”. For the majority, that’s all they’ve ever used, and they’re not offering good advice either, all they’re doing is saying what they use.

In marketing this is called “social proof”, and so the poor new guy goes and buys the appropriate hosting depending on what’s been said. Usually, social proof is a good short cut to the right answer, but quite often (1 in 5) it’s not the best method on which to base a decision.

So then the new guy uses the host and thinks that’s what web hosting should be like, and that it’s supposed to be really difficult.

With a cPanel host it’s much much easier to do most things, and often there are things you can only do on the cPanel hosting platform because of #1 above.

And of course once you’re using a host that has their own control panel, they make it very difficult for you to move. Many of them will even offer a free domain for 12 months, knowing that it will be even more difficult to get rid of them once you have both your domain name and your web hosting with them.

In fact, I made the same mistakes when I set up my very first web sites, and I’m pretty much stuck with domain hosting by a company who charge $25 just to look at allowing you to transfer your domain away from them.

I’m not kidding.

(UK2.net will take online sign ups and take your credit card details without a problem. They charge TWICE the domain registration fee per year that NameCheap.com do and their admin panel is dire.

If you want to transfer to another domain host, they require you to send a FAX to their billing and accounts, and also a cheque (check) for £12.99 (approx $25) to them in the post. They only guarantee to look at your transfer, not to actually do it. If it’s disapproved, then you have to start all over again.

You can’t find the pages on their site that explain this, you have to contact them first before they’ll give you the link to the page. That’s what I found out when I tried to move a while back.)

I think that’s sharp practice don’t you?

And I wonder how many other companies do this?

Anyway, we all live and learn.

Hosts that YOU would have to pay ME money (about $1,000 per month per domain is worth the pain) to use are:-

UK2, 1and1, FastHosts, Yahoo, GoDaddy, Dreamhost, and any Helm based host.

(I believe, but don’t know for sure, that UK2, 1and1 and FastHosts are run by the same parent company. I think this may be the case because I used NetStat to look at the connection when I’ve used live support and found I was connected to a 1and1 domain. Maybe they were just buying support services from 1and1, but I think not.)

If you want to know where I now register all my domains, it’s with NameCheap, and my recommended web site hosting is Hostgator, purely because they fully load their servers with just about everything you need to get any script to work.

-Frank Haywood

Posted by Frank Haywood


Darren Critchley

Just a few comments Frank.

While cPanel these days does rule the roost, there is another called Plesk, which I actually got to learn before cPanel. There was a time I preferred Plesk and it does still have a couple of things that cPanel doesn’t, such as the ability for you to put your own certificates up instead of submitting a ticket – boy to I wish that cPanel would fix that one as some Hosting companies take advantage of people and charge for that. Anyways, all my hosting is cPanel based for the reasons mentioned by Frank.

While hostgator comes up a lot as a “recommended” host, you can have a ton of grief from them. All it takes is a spam complaint and your domain is locked up, your site is down and you are in an arbitration with hostgator.

When researching a new hosting company, as I do move once in a while, I always use the http://www.webhostingtalk.com forums. There you can find an honest opinion by experts on the quality of any web hosting company. I have relied on it twice now and it has not let me down.

Why did I change my last hosting company, you ask? They grew too big. It seems hosting companies start small with good prices and excellent service, and as they grow, they tend to be less effective at the service end of things. I do not mind paying a little extra for a decent host, you should never go with a host because of price. I look for reliability, and speed of service. Right now, my favorite host is KnownHost. They respond on average to a problem within 16 minutes. They have been around almost four years. The price is fairly competitive (there are tons of cheaper places, but price doesn’t do it for me).


Art Speck

Another great article to thank you for Frank.
I’m in the process of transferring all my sites to d9 hosting which is the best I’ve ever found, HANDSDOWN, but I agree with you about Namecheap which I always use for domain registration.

Stuart Elliott

Hi Frank,

Thanks for an interesting article. I agree with your comment about sharp practice. Now forgive me if I’m wrong but I thought ICANN had some powers over the registrars and should be able to help leverage your domain away from UK2.net.

After reading the article and following the link to Hostgator I decided to sign-up as I’ve been looking for a new host for a while.

Despite your recommendation and glowing reports from others I have to say that I was utterly disgusted with the treatment received…

I signed up, paid via paypal and set up a monthly debit. I was then sent to a page instructing me on how to access my account. All great so far.

However I wasn’t able to log on and was ‘talking’ to the live chat person to find out why when she mentioned an email had been sent to me stating why. Funny that… then I noticed an email from Paypal stating my payment had been refunded. “What?”

After another ten minutes an email arrived from Hostgator stating:

“Your account has been marked for a security verification. Because of this, in order for us to host your domain, we will require payment via bank transfer or Western Union.”

What? Why?

No reason given, just instructions how to pay by bank transfer or Western Union and a dire warning to follow the instructions given ‘to the letter’ otherwise payment wouldn’t be accepted.

And I’d been told Hostgator people were friendly! But it gets worse…

I obviously replied asking what was cooking. Their answer was ‘they’d had too many Paypal reversals and bank chargebacks originating from China.’

UHH? So why accept the payments in the first place? Why not state the payment terms on the website to save misleading potential clients?

I stated as much in my return email and then asked why they were treating me like a criminal – security verification indeed – and why couldn’t they word their email in a different way that wouldn’t be so offensive?

I mean a simple “Dear Sir, we are very sorry to inform you that we have been forced to stop accepting pyments via Paypal…” or words to that effect would go a long way in building customer relations and spreading the word. But you won’t believe the reply I got – I was stunned myself.


“At no point have we stated that you are a criminal. However, as any investigator can tell you, when some one claims that they are not a criminal without being accused of being a criminal, that person is either a criminal or planning on doing something that they know to be questionable in nature.”

Can you believe that?

“We haven’t said you’re a criminal but you must be one if you ask why you are being treated so”

Anyway to cut a long story short I shall NEVER use Hostgator and am still waiting for the reply to my complaint about their attitude.

Just thought Id let you know – seems good hosts are hard to find.

Thanks for the info about the forum Darren, you can be sure I’ll be headed over there soon.

Frank Haywood


“All it takes is a spam complaint and your domain is locked up, your site is down and you are in an arbitration with hostgator.”

It’s funny you should say that because that’s exactly what people have said about GoDaddy (who I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole).

I’ll let you into a secret. 😉

I recommend Hostgator as I’ve found them to be pretty good for newbies and they load their servers with everything you need to make most scripts work. I guess it cuts down on support issues if everything is pre-loaded.

I *used* to have a dedicated server with them and a reseller account, but I moved both to a different host, not because I was unhappy with Hostgator, but because I’d had a personal recommendation from someone I respect (Richelo Killian).

I have to admit this other host is not as good as Hostgator, and customers can sometimes be regarded as a bloody nuisance, but they have what I would call a “killer feature” on their reseller hosting accounts which is awesome.

I’ll do a write up about it some time.

They’ve also just started doing virtual dedicated servers and I’m umming and ahhing about moving to one of those as everything is backed up across several machines so data loss and downtime would in theory be a thing of the past.

And it’s cheaper.

My original very first host were wonderful and I still think about the service nostalgically. They were small, UK based with US servers and a couple of US contractors and they *really* knew what they were doing. It’s a shame (for me) they decided they didn’t like working 24×7 and they sold up to do something else. The new guy was good too, but after about 6 months he sold up to someone else and that was it.

I tried a couple of other hosts and eventually spent 2 years with Hostgator, and moved to my current host about 18 months ago.


I don’t know what to say really, but I’ll try.

It always gobsmacks me when companies do this kind of thing, and I think this attitude starts with governments and filters down through society.

Then all you need is some jumped up little jerk who’s having a bad day to wreck an entire companies’ reputation.

It beggars belief that a supposed “professional” would say that to a member of the public. Trouble is the first line support drones many companies use are yanked off the street and given scripts. When a script doesn’t cover an unusual situation, instead of treating a potential customer with respect, they start being abusive.

You should follow this up repeatedly with Hostgator until you get an apology. Treat it as a hobby. 😉

In the meantime, write up a standard commentary about what’s happened and save it in a text file, maybe using the words above.

Blog about it. Send Hostgator support a link to the blog post.

When you’re on a forum and someone mentions Hostgator or web hosting, paste your standard commentary describing what happened. Send Hostgator support a link to the forum post.

Continue on like this until Hostgator apologise.

If they’re bright they’ll apologise quickly, if they start a fight, contact TheRegister.co.uk with a link to your blog post – there’s a good chance The Reg will publish the story.

Believe me Hostgator will back down so fast you’ll burst out laughing.

NO-ONE in IT wants bad press on The Reg – even Microsoft have backed down and they’re a major advertiser on The Register. 😉


Tonga Employment

Hi Frank,

Thanks for addressing this important subject. Obviously you’ve learned many of these things the hard way, just like the rest of us did who have been online for some time. If this can help even a few people avoid at least a few of them, it will have served its purpose. 🙂

First, here are my comments about domain registration…

I use 1and1 for most of my domains (80+), and really have only one fairly minor complaint: you cannot make changes/updates to multiple domains. The advantage has been that they were the lowest-cost registrar that I could find, although they have increased their prices recently, and are more in line with the other budget registrars. Yes, I have heard a few horror stories about them, but so far I cannot complain. (keeping my fingers crossed!)

I use NetFirms.com for my other domains, including all my Canadian (.ca) clients. I’m very happy with them, and they’re about the same price as 1and1 is now… and the best prices I’ve been able to find for .ca domains.

I’ve used PowerPipe.com and and was reasonably happy with them — except at the time they didn’t have an auto-renewal option… and lost at least one domain because of that. I believe they may have added that option by now.

I’ve also used GoDaddy in the past, but ONLY because I purchased expired domains through their tdnam.com domain auction service. Even though I’ve never had any problems with them, I transferred those domains to either Netfirms or 1and1 when they came up for renewal… specifically because I’ve heard so many horror stories about how they handle (non-legitimate) spam complaints.

Now on to webhosting…

CPanel all the way!!! Because I have dozens and dozens of website, and because I get outsourcers to do much of my work, I need consistency between all my hosting accounts. For technical SEO reasons, I use over a dozen different webhosts.

I’ve used 1and1 in the past, and while I don’t have personal horror stories, their hosting admin panel is pretty brutal (at least compared to CPanel). I too have come across quite a few people who also wouldn’t touch 1and1 with a 10-foot pole.

I’ve used DreamHost in the past, and had a pretty decent experience with them… but again their proprietary admin panel definitely isn’t as good as CPanel.

As I’ve already mentioned, I use multiple webhosts. Depending on whether they are for money sites or merely linking sites, some of those webhosts cost as little as $1/month. Of course, I had to go through many $1 hosts, before I found about 3-4 that have (so far, over a year) proven quite reliable for me (I use several free services that check for uptime every hour).

Anyways, thanks again for taking the time to write about this key issue.


Anthony Harris

I’ve looked into UK2 in the past, Frank, and I rejected them too. But that’s not the reason for this comment.

It’s important to look at the terms and conditions imposed by these companies, but even if you’ve been ensnared by them, there’s often a way out, especially for those of us in the UK.

If, for example, a company charges for merely considering whether to allow you to move house, as it were, then you might well have a case under the Unfair Contract Terms legislation. And if they charge you and do nothing, then you could probably get a Court Order.

Perhaps it’s worth getting together with other UK2 sufferers to share the cost of action. Oddly, UK2 own a sustantial hosting company in the US (I can’t remember the name offhand)…and I’ll bet you don’t get any of the nonsense you describe over there.

Rip-off Britain is alive and well it seems, and I wouldn’t have my sites hosted here.

Warm regards,


Bill Thosmon

cPanel is pretty common nowadays, though I prefer Plesk too. Coming to the web hosting agencies, well UK2 sucks for sure. And, I’ve also tried my luck with GoDaddy and HostGator, but I liked JusHost, WebHostingpad and a few better than them. Remember, only the subscription of the web hosting package isn’t all that you should be looking at. The type of web hosting (support to both Linux and Windows Web Hosting), the downtime, and the other free goodies like PHPAdmin, Website Builder and other things are also very important considerations. I have compiled a very detailed report about the dos and don’ts on my site about web hosting industry. You simply can’t survive without Linux Web Hosting support if you’re planning to set-up a WordPress blog, and therefore, it is essential to look into the details of the web hosting package that you’re about to buy, whether it is from a cheap reseller, or a costly well-known web host. Lastly, don’t forget to test their support before you put your money on them.

I’ve hosted around 350 sites and I prefer Plesk to cPanel. Plesk is faster for people who are experienced in hosting. cPanel is better for amatures and people who want to automatically add blogs or certain types of CMS driven websites and so forth. Godaddy is great for domain names but their hosting relies on the kind of custom made control panels you refer to and I refuse to deal with it. They made it that way becasue their users are typically first timers and they are expensive becasue of the long phone calls they make to support. I personally use hostnexus for most of my sites and I occasionally use hostgator. Hostnexus has Plesk and rates far below Hostgator. Cheers –

Anne’s Dedicated Hosting

I don’t know if I agree with Jack that Plesk is for “pros” and cPanel for “amateurs” only. I know a lot of people who would be considered well versed with online tools and continue to use cPanel because it is easy, fast, and effective.

Gavin – Cheap Hosting

I agree with Anne, Plesk isn’t necessarily a “pro” control panel. I know several people that use plesk that aren’t pros and they love it. From a usability standpoint, cPanel seems the obvious choice. Even as a web developer I prefer it, but I’m just as happy self managing the server too. However, when looking at it from the client perspective, cPanel is a great way to go.

I feel that an unfortunate number of people get sucked unnecessarily into the dedicated server world when a shared environment is sufficient. Anyway you go you’ll be fine if you have a little patience. But, in terms of efficiency on the management side, cPanel is your best bet.

Great post.