Picture of a frustrated person

InMotion Hosting’s Frustrating Backup Manager Release

InMotion Hosting recently released its new Backup Manager service which replaced its previous paid backup options and courtesy backup options. Frustratingly, InMotion charged its customers for this service after a 90-day trial unless they manually opted out.

InMotion sent me two emails about the service before charging me. Neither of the emails’ subject lines made it clear that I would be charged for an unexpected service unless I took action. Web hosts commonly send promotional emails and other communications that are unhelpful or unimportant. I assumed both emails from InMotion were of that sort, so I initially ignored them.
I expect many of InMotion’s other customers did the same.

The first email came in April and had a spammy title: “Your Account has been selected.” There was nothing special that caused my account to be selected. Every account like mine got selected. The content of the email also had a spammy feel:

Screenshot of an email from InMotion

Only in the fine print of the email was there an indication that I would, by default, be automatically enrolled for a paid service:

Opt-out trial subscription is a common way to try our products before you buy them. You are not charged anything during the trial. During that time, you have access to all features of the product. If you benefit from Backup Manager, you can continue to use all features until the end of the trial period. Automatic billing will occur once the trial period has expired and billing will occur to the form of payment listed on your InMotion Hosting account for the remaining months of your hosting agreement.

In May, I got another email. This email’s subject line was “Your Backup Manager is active! Here’s what you need to know.” The subject line didn’t have the spammy vibe of the first email, but it still was not clear that I was going to be charged for something.

The content of the second email was much more helpful for understanding changes InMotion was making:

Historically, qualified hosting accounts were backed up as a courtesy and only for disaster recovery purposes, with additional paid backup storage options available…we made the decision to replace our current courtesy and paid backup solutions with our new Backup Manager service. We understand that not all website owners will have a need for the new Backup Manager service.

The email went on to explain that users would automatically be charged for the service unless they manually opted out:

We have traditionally introduced new products and services on an opt-in basis. This basically means that you, our customer, must initiate the order associated with new product or service. However, with the Backup Manager service, we decided that due to the added protection the Backup Manager service allows, an opt-out approach would be more appropriate.

I think InMotion is right that backup service may be more appropriate for automatic opt-in than many other services. That said, I’m inclined to believe InMotion’s decision to release Backup Manager in the manner it did was largely motivated by a desire for more revenue. If InMotion had emailed me a few days before charging me with a subject like “Unless you opt-out, you will be charged shortly”, then I might feel differently.

I reached out to InMotion’s support team after being charged for Backup Manager. Fortunately, they agreed to refund the amount I was charged for Backup Manager. I expect InMotion knows that most people who were unexpectedly charged won’t bother to reach out for a refund. I probably wouldn’t have done so if I wasn’t running a business evaluating web hosts.

Most Websites Are Not Resource-Intensive

I think many customers shopping for web hosting dramatically overestimate how demanding their website will be on a server.

Most individuals and small businesses create content-oriented websites that serve text and images. These websites usually only have modest numbers of visitors. They’re often built on content management systems like WordPress and Joomla. Neither system is particularly demanding.

Let’s use as an example. The hosting environment includes a WordPress installation, plugins, images, an email account with about 1,000 messages, and a few MySQL databases.1 Total disk space used: under one gigabyte.

My homepage has a size of about 300 kilobytes. Let’s pessimistically assume that every page view requires all the content to be loaded (no files are stored in visitors’ browser caches). How many page loads could occur with 100 just gigabytes of bandwidth? Over 300,000.2 Admittedly, my homepage is fairly lightweight. It’s not that unusual though. Wikipedia’s main page came in at a similar 350 kilobytes when I just tested it.

How about my Mobile Phone Service Confusopoly page that has a couple of images? It comes in at about 900 kilobytes. With 100 gigabytes of bandwidth and no caching, the page could be loaded over 100,000 times.3

Why Almost No One Else Recommends Namecheap Hosting

Namecheap is one of the few web hosts that I strongly recommend. Namecheap’s prices are amazing, the product is solid, and the company is transparent.

Despite all that, hardly any websites with web host reviews or rankings recommend Namecheap’s hosting. Why?

I believe the best explanation is simple. Money.

Namecheap offers awfully small commissions compared to competitors. A typical commission on one of Namecheap’s shared hosting packages will probably be a few dollars.1 The commission on other companies’ shared web hosting packages will regularly be in the $50-$100+ range.2

If you Google a query like top web hosts, you’ll find a bunch of bogus evaluation websites offering lists of recommended web hosts. Typically, these websites have relationships with all the hosts they recommend. You won’t find Namecheap on their lists.3

Even entities that do actual testing and data collection almost never include Namecheap in their evaluations. It’s unfortunate for consumers.

LoadImpact Test Results – February 12, 2019

Test background

On February 12, 2019, I ran a series of LoadImpact stress tests across my test websites that I use for collecting performance data about web hosts. All tests involved simulating 100 virtual users (VUs) for a duration of 10 minutes with requests originating from Ashburn, VA.

In these tests, the number of VUs was gradually increased to 50. At that point, the number of VUs was held constant for a few minutes before gradually increasing to a peak of 100 VUs. The load was kept at 100 simultaneous users for a few minutes before gradually dropping back to zero.

Response times, requests per second, and request statuses were tracked during the tests. That data provides insights about how well different shared web hosts can handle intense, short-duration server loads.

This was the first time I ran identical LoadImpact tests across all of my test websites. I think the results are useful enough to be worth sharing, but there’s room for improvement in my methodology. Many of the test websites hit their peak capacity well before 100 virtual users were reached. I ran the tests over a couple of hours (rather than simultaneously), and it’s possible that some hosts had advantages related to the time of day the tests took place.

Note that these test results won’t necessarily relevant to all website owners. An awful lot of websites have very modest resource needs. If you run a basic, low-traffic website, these tests may be of little use for evaluating web hosts.

Performance degradation during these LoadImpact tests could be the result of (a) pushing servers to their limits (b) triggering safeguards that prevent any one shared hosting user from consuming too much of a server’s shared resources or (c) triggering safeguards that specifically limit the activity of applications like LoadImpact. At this time, I don’t feel as confident as I would like about what is occurring in some of the cases where I see performance degradation.

I expect that my methodology—as well as my ability to interpret the results of LoadImpact tests—will improve in future rounds of testing.

Graphical results & comments

1&1 IONOS – Business Plan

HTTP errors started to occur with fewer than 10 VUs. The failure rate rose as the number of VUs increased.

Trouble viewing? Open image in new tab.

A2 – Lite Plan

Almost half of the HTTP requests to the site’s domain failed. I’m not sure when during the test these failures occured.

Trouble viewing? Open image in new tab.

Bluehost – Basic Plan

HTTP requests failed once their were more than about 10 VUs. Requests continued to fail until the end of the test when the number of VUs dropped significantly.

Trouble viewing? Open image in new tab.

DreamHost – Starter Plan

HTTP failures became common at about 25 VUs and the failure rate increased gradually as the number of VUs rose.

Trouble viewing? Open image in new tab.

FatCow – Original Plan

About 10% of HTTP requests failed. I’m not sure when during the test these failures occured.

Trouble viewing? Open image in new tab.

Hawk Host – Primary Plan

Performance declined gracefully after about 50 VUs. No HTTP requests failed during the test.

Trouble viewing? Open image in new tab.

HostGator – Hatchling Plan

Performance seemed steady until about 25 VUs were active. At this point, HTTP request started to occassionally fail. Failure reached 100% while at 50 VUs.

Trouble viewing? Open image in new tab.

Hostinger – Single Plan

No readily apparent issues.

Trouble viewing? Open image in new tab.

InMotion – Launch Plan

As the load increased, thoroughput appeared limited. HTTP errors were common.

Trouble viewing? Open image in new tab.

iPage – Foundation Plan

A small portion of requests resulted in HTTP errors. Response times appear stable until exeeding 50 VUs.

Trouble viewing? Open image in new tab.

Namecheap – Stellar Plan

No readily apparent issues.

Trouble viewing? Open image in new tab.

SiteGround – StartUp Plan

Performance appears stable for most of the test. Stability was maintained with 100 VUs, but response times increased rapidly towards the end of the test. Stability was regained when the number of VUs dropped to about 20. About one-third of 1% of request resulted in errors. I expect those errors occured during the period of high response times.

Trouble viewing? Open image in new tab.

Shared Hosting Introductory Rates vs. Renewal Rates

This post didn’t go public until early 2019, but the data in it is from the middle of 2018.

It’s common for shared web hosting providers to advertise introductory rates that are far lower than the long-term rates for hosting packages. I figured it would be interesting to try and quantify how big the difference is between the introductory prices and the prices upon renewal.

I couldn’t find a good third-party list of the most-used shared web hosting service, so I created a list of 10 popular web hosts off the top of my head:

  1. GoDaddy
  2. HostGator
  3. BlueHost
  4. DreamHost
  5. InMotion
  6. iPage
  7. FatCow
  8. A2
  9. SiteGround
  10. Yahoo1

I figured that the difference between intro rates and long-term rates might differ between a single provider’s plans, so I pre-committed to relying on the most prominent plan displayed on each provider’s website. If you want to verify my work, the links in the list above all direct to archived copies of the most relevant web page for each company.

Here’s what I found:

CompanyIntro priceRenewal pricePercent difference

Renewal rates were on average 2.28 times as expensive as introductory rates.5

In many cases, the best discounts on the regular rates were only available with long-term plans. For example, Hostgator offered its 60.5% discount with a 36-month billing term, 55% off at 24 months, 33.52% off at 12 months, and no discount with shorter billing cycles.6

The data in the table above might understate the difference between the initial rates people get and the long-term rates. As I closed out of a BlueHost page, I received an offer dropping the introductory rate from $3.95/month to $2.65/month. I expect that consumers frequently use coupon codes that lead to rates in the first billing cycle that are even lower than the advertised rates.

It’s worth noting that listed renewal rates might not match what customers purchasing packages today will actually pay for renewals—hosts may change renewal rates in the future. On FatCow’s webpage listing renewal rates, this possibility is mentioned explicitly with a note that “prices are subject to change.”7