A little less than I year ago I was forced to move to shared web hosting after running my own dedicated web & email servers for years. The reason for the move was purely financial — hardware and internet connection costs simply pushed the luxury of dedicated hosting out of reach. When searching for a web hosting service the usual suspects kept surfacing; Bluehost, Dreamhost, FatCow, HostGator, and HostMonster (powered by Bluehost). I decided to go with HostMonster based on their being one of the oldest and largest hosting companies. HostMonster also offered SSH access. Something not many hosts offer but I desired as I preferred coding in terminal. Yea, I’m that hardcore ;-). In any event I thought I was making the right decision. Boy was I wrong.
Shortly after moving my websites & email to HostMonster I encountered atrociously slow load times and a general lack of responsiveness across all of my websites. Load times of 30 seconds were not uncommon. Worse yet, DNS performance was just as slow. Queries to any of my domains were taking several seconds just to resolve domain names to their associated ip. I contacted HostMonster technical support and their staff was very quick to say my websites were not efficient and I had to optimize them in order to gain the performance I desired. In short they recommended cleaning stale records from the MySQL databases and employing widespread caching on my websites. I would later learn, after researching the issue deeper, that this is a canned response given to any user reporting slow performance, but I happily took their advice, performed the recommended database maintenance and implemented caching. Much to my dismay the impact on site performance was minimal.
As time went on performance for my websites became worse and worse. It turns out the *actual* culprit of all this was drastically oversold (overloaded) servers. When combined with an interesting technology developed by the founder of Bluehost known as cpu throttling, website performance is terribly slow. The idea behind cpu throttling is that a servers heaviest users are prevented from adversely affecting performance for other users by limiting the amount of cpu time they have access to. The proverbial slice of the pie, so to speak, is a percentage of available server resources. Great in theory. Perhaps even in practice when applied properly. Not good on HostMonster’s servers. HostMonster so grossly oversells their servers (meaning they put far too many users on a single server) that there are not enough resources to efficiently run a simple WordPress site. So oversold in fact that when not encountering cpu throttling sites still load slow. Enough with referencing load times. How about some solid figures? Here are the server load averages from the HostMonster server My sites were assigned to, taken while writing this post AFTER moving my sites to the new web host: up 20 days, 20:20, 1 user, load average: 41.30, 42.48, 43.52. This article provides a great explanation of load averages for those of you who are not in the know. In layman terms, the load averages above can be compared to driving on the Long Island Expressway during rush hour before a holiday weekend when combined with a religious holiday. Really really crowded.
After receiving several complaints from family who gave up on trying to view some photos in my photo gallery and numerous complaints from customers (for the software I sell here) I tried contacting HostMonster support again. The chat log from this contact can be viewed below.