Please note that it has been several years since the experience with HostPapa that I describe below. I have no idea what service is like now with hostpapa.ca or hostpapa.com. (Updated Mar. 1, 2013)
The hosting market is a jungle. There are tons of hosts offering unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage space, unlimited email accounts. But when the rubber hit the road, all I wanted was small-scale service I could count on.
I've had great personal experience with 1&1; maybe I can write more about them another day. But I was helping a client migrate from an unreliable host, so I was very concerned about customer support as well as reliability. I've read horrific reports of 1&1 customers trying to get help over the phone from someone in India, which is nowhere close to the actual data centers. In spite of my good experience with 1&1, critical reviews made me nervous.
So I started searching for Canadian hosts, and HostPapa seemed to come highly recommended. They're a relatively new host but seem to have a very loyal and satisfied client base. Having run a successful business in the UK, they decided to open up a base in Ontario. Among other encouraging offerings, they promise 99.9% uptime, a state-of-the-art data center, and that they purchase "green energy" credits according to their energy consumption. Their technical support is also located in Ontario, which reassured me.
I was sold. I signed up for three years of service.
On day one I started transferring my client's Web site to the new Web space. Before all of it was transferred, I got an error about exceeding available disk space. I phoned customer support and quickly discovered that, truly, the server was out of disk space. Apparently another user had decided to take them up on their offer of unlimited disk space and filled up the whole server. So I had to wait for a day for them to sort that out.
The next day I was able to get the Web site up.
I was designing a Web app for this client that would not be hosted at HostPapa, so I needed access to the DNS records to set up a subdomain for the external app. I soon realized that the admin interface used by HostPapa would not give me this degree of control, so I contacted support to see if they could add a DNS record for me. I gave them the address of my other host and they said that they could.
At least four days later, the subdomain was still not working. I asked support about it, and they said they were still working on it. Later I received an email saying that my ticket had been resolved, only to see that support had created a subdomain for a folder in the
public_html directory of my HostPapa account. Definitely not what I had asked for.
(As an aside, 1&1 allows you do this easily using their admin interface; the new subdomain and DNS entries are sometimes functional within minutes.)
So I decided to transfer the domain away from HostPapa to a DNS server that I could control. During this wait, I had created all of the employees email accounts by uploading a CSV file with email addresses and passwords. I then I transferred all the mail from the old host to the new accounts using imapsync.
Web site and email were transferred, up, and working better for my client than they had in months. For a day or so. Suddenly email was down because of some certificate inconsistency on HostPapa's end. This problem persisted for most of a day, and I was becoming more and more nervous that this was a taste of the 99.9% uptime that I had signed my client up for.
To their credit, HostPapa's technical support was always very easy to contact and transparent in addressing problems. After the first two weeks of madness, my client settled into a very reliable experience with the host...
... until last week, when there was some massive hardware failure on HostPapa servers. Mail was recovered, as well as Web files, but the MySQL database that stored not only the content of my client's Web site but also all of the HTML and CSS templates was lost, leaving the home page a white screen with a database error message.
I'm trying to give an objective account of my experience with HostPapa. No host is perfect. Obviously I've had months of seamless service. However, migration and initial setup was brutal, and within one year of service, I've lost my database. There are tons of complaints online about big hosts like 1&1. I can say two things:
- I've been with 1&1 for at least five times as long as HostPapa and have never lost any data due to their fault.
- I'd rather have service that just works than great customer support to help me handle all the problems.