In Quest of the Perfect Drupal Host

My knightLast winter I set off in a quest for the perfect Drupal web host. Originally I hadn’t conceived of it as a quest. My needs were modest:

  • Drupal optimized (as opposed to any old host)
  • Great customer service
  • Reasonable cost – comparable to other shared hosts

Two months later, I have yet to find this holy grail — but I’ve learned enough about Drupal hosts to deem it worth sharing my findings.

Frankly I’m surprised this has been so hard. I’m reasonably good at web research and this host is for a modest site. Specifically it’s a redesign of Gilda’s Club Nashville. This is a small, low-traffic site to begin with, and all they want is a new look-and-feel using a simple content management system they can easily update themselves. Fairly basic Drupal will be more than enough. It doesn’t require any fancy-pants high-end Drupal coding.

My bet is in another year it will be much easier to find the kind of Drupal host they need. But for now, here is a quick summary of the pros and cons of the hosts I’ve looked at.

DreamHost

I have a soft spot for DreamHost — so soft it’s what I use for this very blog. Moreover, my first test Drupal install was on DreamHost. It worked like a charm. Nevertheless, my soft spot defies logic. DreamHost can be incredibly slow with MySQL-powered sites. I guess it’s because they are so much better than my previous host — plus they have excellent customer service and, even better, they are hilarious. One way of framing my quest is as a search for something better than DreamHost. I want a fast DreamHost that specializes in Drupal installs.

Bryght

At first blush, Bryght appeared to be the perfect match. Initially my biggest concern was that it was too dumbed-down. A certain amount of simplifying would be great — thinking of upgrades in particular. But it could easily be too much. So I used their contact form. I tried it a few times, but my sense was the form wasn’t working right. Sure enough. I never heard back from them. That did not auger well. So I crossed them off my list.

(mt) Media Temple

mt has a great reputation. I contacted them and heard back almost immediately. They even offer a one-click install for Drupal. That sounded promising, but it’s still (as of May 2008) only Drupal 4.7. Version 6 (not to mention version 5) has been out for quite some time. Ergo they must not care all that much about Drupal.

DrupalValueHosting

I came very close to going with DrupalValueHosting. They look ideal. In fact, they’re the reason I say it should be much easier to find a Drupal host in a year. My only hesitation with them is that they are very new. Since the host will not be for my own site, for now it seems just a bit too risky.

And the winner is…

pair Networks

pair was highly recommended at PodCamp Nashville, and like (mt) has an excellent reputation. I did discover one potential problem over memory caps in Cheny U’s thoughtful review of Drupal hosts. However, when I reached a sales person (right away) he knew about and acknowledged this issue quite openly. When I explained Gilda’s needs, he was confident it wouldn’t be an issue. He said they host an increasing number of Drupal sites. Also in their favor, he was able to quickly answer my questions about multisite installations (which means they really are used to Drupal), plus they offer a discount for non-profits.

So pair Networks it is — and I will let you know how it goes.

9 Responses

  1. Hi there,

    We actually have a lot of Drupal users and some are in our User Forums, so I am sure you can get help specific to our platform. Although our current one-click install is a little dated we encourage you to try us out.. You can easily get the latest running by following the installation guide on the Drupal site.

    If you need a little help, please contact me!

    Best,
    Arman Zakaryan
    (mt) Media Temple, Inc.
    http://www.mediatemple.net

  2. Hi Anna Belle

    Glad to see you are using Drupal for your site!

    Our “Bryght Light Hosting” service (which is what I believe you contacted us about) is designed for non-techie hobbyists and not completely customizable like the “Bryght Virtual Private Servers.” The VPSs are the better choice for experienced geeks plus enterprises and organizations seeking to publish heaps of info and maintain complete control over everything.

    It’s unfortunate that you received no response to your contact request (!) – we’re sorry we let you slip through the cracks. Though we let you down this time, we hope you’ll keep us in mind for future Drupal projects.

    With Bryght’s recent acquisition by RaincityStudios.com, we are refining our hosting packages and continuing our work to make the Drupal the best CMS out there. Keep an eye on raincitystudios blog to follow along with our Drupal exploits.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me personally if you have any further questions or email support@bryght.com with technical questions. And again, our apologies for not following up to your inquiry.

    Cheers!
    …Roland

  3. Arman and Roland — Thanks so much for your helpful feedback. I’m impressed you found my post so quickly and took the time to explain further.

    And Ross — good to hear.

  4. Good luck, Anna Belle. We switched to Media Temple recently after having security issues with Webpipe. We haven’t used the one-click software yet, but it’s good to see from the comments that we’re not limited to the older versions.

  5. Mark — That’s great that you are Drupaling too! And I hope all goes well with (mt).

  6. Hi Anna Belle, just found your site on a drupal related search on twitter and really enjoy it. I just switched hosts to hostgator. I don’t work for them or have anything to do with them but have really been pleased with there Drupal hosting.

    I have a reseller account mainly for a few clients that only require modest sites and dont want, or can’t be bothered with hosting.

    They do offer a one click install, but I still like installing by hand. They are pretty good at keeping up with the latest versions of php and mysql, and one last thing, you can define your own php.ini which is really nice so that you can determine your own memory limits. They are very developer friendly so great for someone like me that likes to experiment.

    Well great blog and take care, I will keep reading your insightful posts.

    Joel

  7. I came to your website after searching for some recommended Drupal Hosts. Pair.com works for me. They do have a memory usage limit, so if you have a complex Drupal installation, you may be out of luck at Pair. For the garden variety Drupal installation Pair.com is fine.