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I have been searching for a good website hosting company that can offer me all the services that I need for hosting my PHP & MySQL based website. Now this is a community based website and users will be able to upload pictures, etc. The hosting company that I have in mind, currently lets me do everything... let me use mail(), supports CRON jobs, etc. Of course they are charging about $6/month. Now the only problem with this company is that they have a limit of 50,000 files that can exist within the hosting account at any time. This kind of contradicts their frontpage ad of "UNLIMITED SPACE" on their website. Apart from this, I know of no other reason why I should not go with this hosting company.

But my issue is that 50,000 file limit is what I cannot live with, once the users increase in significant number and the files they upload, exceed 50,000 in number. Now since this is a dynamic website and also includes sensitive issues like payments, etc. I am not sure if I should go ahead with this company as I am just starting out and then later switch over to a better hosting company which does not limit me with 50,000 files. If I need to switch over once I host with this company, I will need to take backups of all the files located in my account (jpg, zip, etc.), then upload them to the new host. I am not aware of any tools that can help me in this process. Can you please mention if you know any?

I can go ahead with the other companies right now, but their cost is double/triple of the current price and they all sport less features than my current choice. If I pay more, then they are ready to accommodate my higher demands. Unfortunately, the company that I am willing to go with now, does NOT have any other higher/better plans that I can switch to. So that's the really really bad part.

So my question(s):

  1. Since I am starting out with my website and since the scope of users initially is going to be less/small, should I go ahead with the current choice and then once the demand increases, switch over to a better provider? If yes, how can I transfer my database, especially the jpg files, etc. to the new provider? I don't even know the tools required to backup and restore to another host.

  2. (I don't like this idea but still..) Should I go ahead and pay more right now and go with better providers (without knowing if the website is going to do really that well) just for saving myself the trouble of having to take a backup of the 50,000 files and upload to a new host from an old host and just start paying double/triple the price without even knowing if I would receive back the returns as I expected?

Backup and Restore in such a bulky numbers is something that I have never done before and hence I am stuck here trying to decide what to do. The price per month is also a considerable factor in my decision.

All these web hosting companies say one common thing: It is customers responsibility to backup and restore data and they are not liable for any loss. So no matter what hosting company that I would like to go with, they ask me to take backup via FTP so that I can restore them whenever I want (& it seems to be safer to have the files locally with me). Some are providing tools for backup and some are not and I am not sure how much their backup tools can be trusted considering the disclaimers they have. I have never backed-up and restored 50,000 files from one web host to another, so please, all you experienced people out there, leave your comments and let me know your suggestions so that I can decide.

I have spent 2 days fighting with myself trying to decide what to do and finally concluded that this is a double-edged sword and I can't arrive at a satisfactory final decision without involving others suggestions. I believe that someone must be out there who may have had such troublesome decision to make. So all your suggestions to help me make my decision are appreciated.

Thank you all.

EDIT:

I appreciate all the responses, but so far I haven't seen any replies that can tell me about the file Backup and Restore tools. Did anyone ever actually get a chance to Backup and Restore the files in their web hosting account? If yes, please mention the tools and their relevant website links so I can check them out. Thanks!!!

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Can you provide more information on these "sensitive" requirements regarding payment. Does your application handle credit card details, including the PAN, expiry or security codes? If yes to any of these, you need to be looking for a dedicated server, not a shared environment, if you ever hope to achieve PCI-DSS compliance, and any level of tangible card security. –  Tom O'Connor May 16 '10 at 7:31
    
@Tom Thanks for the reply. I am not storing Credit card numbers, but I am asking them for some of their personal info like address. Sensitive data regarding payment would be like Paypal email details (& hopefully bank details in future). Do I still need the dedicated server or am I good with shared for now? Since I am just starting off and not collecting highly sensitive data like bank details etc. for now, what sounds like the best option in this case? –  Devner May 16 '10 at 22:55
    
@Everyone I appreciate everybody's effort to help me out here. While I see everyone recommending me to go with a dedicated plan already, I would like to know if it is really that hard to start out with a basic shared hosting and later migrate to a dedicated server? One optimistic thought for going with the shared server for now is that if I do this, I will at least get the experience of backup and restore to a different server, based on which I could be more careful with my decisions in the future. I will get to learn something new. That's what I have thought so far. Anyone agree with me here? –  Devner May 16 '10 at 23:14
    
As long as you're not storing any details directly associated with credit/bank payments, then it is my understanding that you do not need to be PCI compliant. IANAL etc. You should still review your data protection policy, and choose a hosting provider who has a similar one. –  Tom O'Connor May 17 '10 at 8:24
    
@Tom Thank you. I will keep that in mind. –  Devner May 17 '10 at 9:03

4 Answers 4

up vote 0 down vote accepted

EDIT - based on your comments.

I have reached the following conclusions: - You (at least think) that you have a reasonably good deal now. - the file limits worry you, but are still more theoretical than real. - money is tight or you are unwilling to pay upfront in exchange for no migration later.

Given those constraints, my recommendation for you differs from what I would do.

You should stay where you are until you are forced to move. At that point, you can make the decision whether the revenue (or potential) merits the bigger expenditure. This also give you the time to find the permanent home and to obtain (or contract for) the technical skills to move and manage that home, in whatever form it takes. A good starting point might be reading about the hosting/server travails for this site and it's sisters on http://blog.stackoverflow.com/.

BTW, is the site grows as you think it will, I expect you will be forced to move by performance/response constraints before the 50,000 file limits become a problem.

As to the Backup and Restore ... you should be worried about it for more reasons than the possibility of moving later. You should have a conversation about how your site is recovered if the shared server fails with every host you consider, and plan accordingly for the chosen host.

I would also make sure to keep your own copy of the code, and to dump MySQL and the uploaded files once a week or so, perhaps to Amazon S3. The host might be able to recommend a tool, or search on this site with the specific platform of the host and the destination.


ORIGINAL ANSWER
I would go with a provider that you know can scale with you. If this provider only does shared hosting, then your site will outgrow the provider anyway. I think you can start with shared hosting, but you should go with a provider that has an upgrade path.

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Thank you for the reply. Yes, I do want that flexibility of upgrading but the costs are killing me. Just spoke with one of those good providers. Their costs about 3/4th the current cost. No restrictions but at the same time no support. Zero. Zip. They say I have to manage my own server. I have never done something like that. If I need support, their prices are about $175+ a month. Yeah! An overkill! What do you say? –  Devner May 16 '10 at 23:05
    
In the above it should have read 1 + 3/4th. i.e I pay the current price and 3/4th more. Well in fact, I calculated it and it's no less than a direct double! And no support!! –  Devner May 17 '10 at 10:13
    
You are almost right with your conclusions. Funds are an issue as I am using that out of my savings, that I have been saving up for a rainy day. In fact, I sacrificed many things (includes social life) to work on this project. Yes, apart from the 50,000 file limit, the host does a pretty good job at everything else. Also I just wanted to get a hold on using backup and restoration tools so that it will add to my experience. So in a way, I thought that this host is good and not totally bad. Thank you for all your helpful comments. –  Devner May 18 '10 at 7:41

My shared web hosting provider is about double that cost but has unlimited storage with no file limits. The catch is that the files have to be accessible through the website, it can't be used simply for remote storage. It has PHP & MySQL support, along with Python. I've even gotten it to handle running Ruby on Rails though that isn't officially supported currently. The other nice feature I like about the service is that while it's shared web hosting it is actually clustered across multiple servers so very redundant setup. Even the MySQL server is a fully redundant cluster solution. I should know as I helped build out most of it while I was working for them.

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Is it Master -> Multiple Slave MySQL, or Multi-Master replication? Or does it actually use a true cluster solution like Tungsten, or MySQL Cluster? –  Tom O'Connor May 16 '10 at 7:36
    
It's an N+1 high-availability solution with SAN backend storage. –  Jeremy Bouse May 16 '10 at 14:10
    
@Jeremy Thanks for the reply & the link. Just checked those guys out but could not find any plans other than the basic hosting. So will it cater to my needs if I wish to expand in future? Like complete control over .htacesss, php.ini, mail() function, cron jobs, etc.? Any ideas? –  Devner May 16 '10 at 23:24
    
@Devner yes you get control over .htaccess and I make use of it on several of my sites running on the platform. You can also setup a custom php.ini, I use FastCGI to run my 2 custom php.ini files. My two Wordpress sites have had no problems sending out emails to me. There are dual shell servers which you can load cron jobs to be executed. I was a Sr. Systems Administrator within Operations for 2 years before leaving, I still use the service myself and still know many that do still work there. Get in touch if you have any specific examples. –  Jeremy Bouse May 18 '10 at 1:03
    
@Jeremy How is the customer support like? I happened to send an email to them with my questions and it's about 2 days and I did not receive a reply. With other hosts, I typically received the replies with 12-24 hours. Any suggestions? And they don't seem to have Managed servers. Or do they? –  Devner May 18 '10 at 19:51

have you considered collocation instead ? It may be more expensive but you will at least control the hardware and thus the hard limits on what your site can use/store. Obviously this is not the most cost effective solution but it seems to me that you have already out grown the typical website that has 'size' limit. Investing with hardware now with adequate fail overs just in case of failure at one point may allow you to grow in the future, with the added freedom to add services to your site as desire.

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I have to agree here, I don't think I can ever sensibly recommend "cheap" shared hosting for any reasonable sized business model. It has too many unknowns, and is largely aimed at consumers, rather than businesses. Either a dedicated server or a purchased box in colocation would definitely offer you a greater ability to grow without as many hard limitations. You'll also get full control over the databases and filesystems, and can just use rsync to backup offsite. –  Tom O'Connor May 16 '10 at 7:34
    
@Scott @Tom Thank you for your replies. I agree with you both that anything other than a shared env. will do. The only issue is the funding as I am just starting with this. Consider the website to be in Beta test-drive stage. Once it is found that we are set and website is working as expected, I am more than willing to spend more money for the better facilities. Any more suggestions? –  Devner May 16 '10 at 22:58

See if the $6 a month hosting provider that you're currently interested in has upgraded accounts that offer more than 50,000 files. I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't. That way you can start with them now and then when you get more popular and get a revenue stream you can upgrade to their advanced account type and stay on that hosting provider.

If they don't have an advertised account that exceeds 50K files, then call them up and ask them if they'll work with you. Everything is negotiable. Just get it in writing with signatures.

share|improve this answer
    
Thank you for the response. I had the same feelings just like you do. I did not believe when they said they do NOT have any upgrade plan. I have 3 proofs to say they do not. 1)They do not have any information of upgrade option in their whole website 2)They informed me the same in Live Chat 3)They sent me the same information in email. So now I have no reason to believe otherwise. They say that because they support only shared hosting, they gotta have that limit as a part of policy. They said they will NOT change it. Any more suggestions? –  Devner May 15 '10 at 20:50
1  
@Devner Wow. Wow. Wow. That sounds like a flaky provider to me. Not one that I would trust, anyway. At this point, I would suggest simply looking for another web host that offers good low-end accounts with the option of upgrading in the future. –  Wesley May 16 '10 at 2:13
    
I was cynical of their ads. I have spent more than 2 days just browsing the net for nice web hosts and chatting with them. Basically they are all the same with different brands. In fact, I found out that some companies have created the same exact copies of their website with minor changes and portray themselves as different companies. The better ones charge double-triple of the current price and offer no support i.e I have to manage the server with no support. If I need support, their prices are about $175+ a month. Yeah! That's way too much for a infant website! What do you say? –  Devner May 16 '10 at 23:02

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