Beware of hosting company practices

Fastest WordPress hosting

I had a troubling exchange with a hosting company yesterday that I feel is worth sharing. A new client with a smaller site has been paying ~$60 monthly for a 4GB (RAM) virtual private server. It’s large for her use (compared to the 2GB server that I run my own sites on). She pays for it a year in advance. I found that its backups were not configured, and when I set it up it’s only full server snapshots not the usual restore options. All of that’s semi okay, but strikes me as odd.

I had to chat with their technical support due to problems with her cPanel server:

  • CentOS 7 is out of date and cPanel / WHM suggests an AlmaLinux 8 upgrade path before EOL in about six months time.
  • WordPress is complaining that the MySQL service MariaDB 10.2 is well out of date.
  • PHP 8.0 is the maximum available version and this hits EOL in just two months time.

It made sense to chat with this hosting company to figure out their upgrade options. I believe that I could find root access and conduct the server upgrade myself, but I consider the hosting company the maintainer of the cPanel environment and wouldn’t want to charge this new client for sysadmin work that’s unnecessary for her type of site.

I live chatted with a technician over about an hour. I explained the situation. Then came the sales pitches. He indicated that a plan change was required to get the server software upgraded. With five months already paid on account we must upgrade VPS to a larger size in order to get a “discount” and avoid additional fees. I asked about a lateral change of the same server size or smaller, but he said those would be more expensive since there’s no coupon applied. He also said that the server IP address would change unless we upgraded directly, requiring DNS access as well.

My interpretation is that in order to have a current server, I must take an upgrade, which may not cost anything today given the coupon, but down the road would become more expensive, naturally.

I seemed to get the answer that the hosting company only patches software and does not upgrade it, and that the clock is ticking on the software faster than the prepaid billing cycle. Further, I found that they were in transition. They offer newer non-cPanel WordPress hosting, called Platform-i.

I prefer more native server architectures and cPanel is quite large of a control panel and application overhead for a WordPress site. However, I would stick with a more current version of cPanel if it means utilizing the term that my client has prepaid. If I were to downgrade to a plan lower than her existing ~$60/mo, then it would align billing cycles and we would be losing the difference and would have to change IP addresses.

Towards the end of the chat the agent gave me the location of where in their user account these options are laid out for me. However, that seemed to create more questions than answers. In the end, my head still spins on this one!

All-in-all it seems easier to stick things out with the older server for a bit then move my client to another hosting company. Their pricing seems to be gamified, service offerings a bit of a mess, and migration work required for just about any reasonable fix path. I’ll have get the site onto a host that I can trust.

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