DreamHost vs GoDaddy vs local… webhost pros and cons

Well this time around I am going to write about the choice of webhost platform. Web hosting these days can be a lot cheaper than it might have been in the past as there is a lot of competition. In New Zealand you can get quite reasonable web hosting with 150 GB of disk space for around $6 per month with no bandwidth limitations, or 500 GB around $12 per month (it’s possible the servers are offshore because some hosting platforms are a lot dearer for the same sort of value). For the purposes of this discussion I’m assuming a typical shared hosting package with a LAMP stack, but without root access (virtual hosting) or a domain included. These packages are the likes of Hostpapa and Crazy Domains who are trying to compete head on with international resellers and in all probability these are introductory prices for just the first year.

Then there is the likes of a big US company called GoDaddy which offered an introductory package at a large discount for about $1.50 per month (it worked out to NZ$21) for just the first year, renewals were $11 per month after that. GoDaddy has a New Zealand office and you can get pricing and make payments in our currency. Now it so happens that I did have previous experience of being a webmaster. Back in the 1990s when the internet was in its infancy relatively speaking and there was no such thing as social networking (Yahoo had a presence, as did MySpace, but Facebook and its peers were unknown) people did their own web sites for various things, and we also used Blogger on Google’s platform a fair bit as well. I had some free hosting mainly on the likes of Trainweb for my various rail interests, and also a hosting package with Godzone Internet Services. So I thought I knew a reasonable amount about web hosting and there would be no real surprises.

This time around (2020), things were pushed into being by the desire to set up NZ Rail Maps with something proper. The webmaps idea was not even on the radar at that stage or was thought to be too difficult or expensive to implement. Maps such as they were, were static images put into various types of web photo albums like Flickr. The latter was sold by Yahoo and its free option became a lot smaller. So from there it was a simple step to SmugMug, the new Flickr owners, and using one of their paid plans with the nzrailmaps.nz domain I had registered, began in May 2020. At the same time the development blog moved from Blogger onto WordPress, but it was still a free blog account with a wordpress.com subdomain.

After about four months I discovered the XYZ tiles export functions in Qgis and then found out about using the Leaflet javascript library to provide a web maps user interface. I then decided to go for a full web hosting platform and found GoDaddy appeared suitable and cheap. nzrailmaps.nz was migrated to GoDaddy within a few weeks and then in October I signed up for a second GoDaddy package for converser.nz and that is really where the latter got going the way it looks today.

GoDaddy was pretty simple to set up but I soon discovered a big difference from my previous web hosting experience. Nowadays every website is expected to run on a secure server, whereas back then only people who were using e-commerce and so forth really needed to look at this option. So then I started casting around to see how much it would cost to buy certificates for the sites. The initial blog setup chosen for converser.nz was a subdomain for each of the blogs. It turned out this would need quite an expensive certificate to handle multiple subdomains or a number of individual certificates which would also add up quite a high annual bill in the range of several hundred dollars. So as a workaround the converser.nz blogs were changed into subdirectories which should have worked with just one certificate for converser.nz although it seems it never did work properly. I then managed to find out about Let’s Encrypt but GoDaddy did not integrate this into their control panel so I would have had to manually renew certificates every 3 months as LE only issues certificates up to that lifetime.

With the fact I would have had to maintain and renew certificates manually for both sites several times a year, and since I would have to pay a big increase in hosting costs at the end of the year with GoDaddy and that would work out to around $250 a year for the web hosting (plus about $60 separately for two domains as was planned at the time), I was keen to see if I could find another option and after looking at a few, DreamHost looked like it was worth considering. Their first year would cost $85 and $170 after that but the package would be able to host both sites together and split the converser.nz subsites back into subdomains again, and each site would be able to get its own LE certificate that would auto renew for no cost and no inconvenience. So it would work out dearer for the first year than GoDaddy but cheaper longer term.

And so here we are.

I will try to dig into more of what I like about DreamHost where I think it does a lot better than GoDaddy in coming weeks as I get to know it a bit better.


Blogs all up now (almost) – again

So here I am doing my second blog migration in only two months. This time I’m shifting everything onto DreamHost from GoDaddy. I’ll explain the reasons behind that choice in my next post. For now, although there has been a bit of a learning curve because of the differences in site implementation, most of the blogs are now working with just two or three that need a little work.

The previous post contained various detail that I don’t want to repeat here, pretty much everything in it is the same and works the same, with the master feed still at converser.nz and for those of you who subscribed by RSS, this should all be working as before although you would have seen an apparent large number of new posts. But most of them would have been previous posts re-imported from the newly migrated blogs.

One of the reasons for the migration is that DreamHost on the plan I subscribed to is fully integrated with Let’s Encrypt, which is the Linux Foundation’s free SSL certificate program. The benefits of this will be documented in the next post, but having these certificates available for every site and automatically renewing makes for a big maintenance advantage and has directly influenced the decision to migrate so soon after starting to use the GoDaddy hosting platform.

One difference from the GoDaddy hosting implementation is that Christchurch Transport Blog will have its own site and domain which is a domain I registered 18 months ago and which I have decided to keep for use with the blog.

Blogs all up now

After getting the SSL certificates installed for both sites, final customisations have been completed and layouts set. Each blog now has a distinct unique colour scheme and all have the same layout with the placement of widgets in the sidebars and footers.

When a post is made on a subblog, a plugin installed in converser.nz picks up the new post and copies it to converser.nz. Therefore, a reader who wants to read all the sub blogs together has only to subscribe once, to the email or RSS feed off converser.nz.

However, if a reader does not want the full feed, they also can choose individual blogs to subscribe to, using the links and forms at the bottom of the individual blogs, which are the same as the ones on converser.nz but only receive the posts from the individual blog they are attached to.

We are currently hosted on GoDaddy. This hosting provider does not have any integration with LetsEncrypt to automatically renew certificates after 3 months. Therefore, it is possible we will consider switching to another hosting provider such as DreamHost when our prepaid first year of hosting on Godaddy is up. This will be investigated around the middle of 2021.

For now, we have a number of articles in draft form on the various sub blogs which are waiting to be picked up and posted, as well as other planned topics. So readers can expect to see the pace of things pick up from here on converser.nz blogs.