Tag Archives: Gradwell

Time for a Change: Gradwell to TSO Hosting

Way back when I first got an internet connection I was with Demon Internet on their famous tenner a month account. The company was small, had responsive UK support from knowledgeable techies. Then they sold out to the telecoms offshoot of Scottish Power and things started to go downhill, eventually I got fed up and moved away. When I moved rather than take an e-mail address from my new ISP I got myself a domain name, so it then wouldn’t matter if I changed ISP in future, indeed I have changed ISP several times in the intervening years.

The company I chose to host the domain was again a small company, Gradwell Internet which was headed up by Peter Gradwell, at that time a student working his way through University. The support was excellent, at times you’d even find Peter Gradwell himself handling support calls. Then VOIP started taking off, and the company refocused slightly towards VOIP and businesses, and as time has gone on I’ve been increasingly feeling that the old small hosting customers aren’t really important, the quality of service has dropped. So for example e-mail went out for the best part of a day a while back, general performance of websites was sluggish, I had e-mail that just vanished, and then the real finale earlier this month was they had a fault in their hosting cluster that caused one of my sites to produce errors whenever that machine in the cluster was hit, and whilst they fixed the cluster Gradwell managed to propagate the copy of the website they’d corrupted across all the machines rather than keep the working copy, leaving me having to dig around and restore the site from my backup.

So finally after just short of ten years with Gradwell I took the decision to move on, and interestingly talking to friends who have also been long term Gradwell customers they’re finding the same thing, one is transferring sites away, another has already moved all his sites away and currently only has domains. Taking a look online again there are lots of disappointed Gradwell customers moving away, so the question is where to go?

Initially I took a look at one of the big namesFast2Host who have done well in things like the PCPro awards, and as I wanted the flexibility to host my WordPress based blogs, but also try out some ASP.Net stuff I opted for their Windows based package. That unfortunately didn’t get overly far as although it can host WordPress, it is problematic running scripts like  that I use to keep regular backups of my sites. The support was really good, but ultimately suggested I needed a Linux account instead and swapped me over. Initially I didn’t think that would be too much of a problem, then I started moving my domains over to CPanel.

Now CPanel is pretty much the de-facto standard for many Linux hosting packages, but it has one fundamental flaw in that it was initially written to host a single domain. The way the developers chose to support additional domains is in my view a massive hack, what happens is when you add an additional domain it creates a sub-domain of your main domain, and then maps the additional domain onto that. What that does is put the additional domains into a folder beneath the main folder for your main domain, mixing code for the two domains together, it also means any additional domain can also be accessed as both a subdomain of your main domain, and also as a folder within it. Whilst with some hacking around of access files you can work around that it is still not keeping additional domains separate as I had been able to do on Gradwell.

So I took a look for other hosts that don’t use CPanel, and a name that came up several times amongst former Gradwell users was TSO Hosting. As a company they used to use CPanel, and indeed will still provide an account running it if pressed, but for most customers they recommend their own cloud hosting product. Alongside not being CPanel one of the big advantages of this from my point of view is it’s not tied to a particular platform, they support both Linux and Windows in the same account, so I can host my WordPress sites in Linux, but also play around with Windows and ASP.Net hosting all under the same account with no problems.

I did the changeover over the course of several days last weekend, and now all of my sites are running from TSO Hosting servers, and so far so good. The support has been excellent, even answering a whole load of pre-sales questions on a Sunday morning when Gradwell usually won’t answer an e-mail from a small user like me. I’d certainly recommend them as a good host so far, especially if like me you want the flexibility to work both with Linux sites, or Windows.

If you want to give them a go, they are great for hosting a WordPress blog like this, with a one click install to get you going, and if you enter EXIGENCY1 as a coupon code at the checkout they’ll give you 10% off the price. Click on the banner below to get to their site.


Sluggish Site Performance

Apologies if the site seems rather sluggish at the moment. Unfortunately having done maintenance work on their systems today, my ISP has suffered a couple of hardware failures, and is currently operating on reduced capacity on their server cluster – especially with regards to sites like this one that use a lot of PHP. As a result, although things are up and running, they’re a little slow at the moment. Normal service should be resumed later in the week, once the hardware faults have been rectified.

Peter Gradwell at the BCS

Peter Gradwell at the BCS

Tonight, for the first time in ages I went along to a British Computer Society meeting. Although I’ve been a member for many years, either I’ve been busy elsewhere, or not interested in the topics that the meetings have covered. In general I’ve just not really felt the need to go along.

However tonight was a bit different, as they had invited Peter Gradwell, who runs gradwell.com, the company that hosts both this blog, my e-mail, and the other domains I look after. Over the past couple of years gradwell.com has been moving into VoIP and his session tonight was a whistle-stop tour of the whole subject looking at both small scale single user solutions right up to big multinational corporations. It was certainly a very interesting and informative session, particularly the point that VoIP itself isn’t the reason why call charges appear cheaper, indeed he suggested that in most cases if you called the USA from the UK using a VoIP service in the UK, the call would almost certainly drop back onto the normal phone system in the UK rather than crossing the Atlantic on the internet.

Other interesting bits of information from the evening were that if you’re worried about your calls being intercepted then currently VoIP is the way to go as governments are playing catch-up and can’t currently listen in. Having said that they are keen to try and find a way, as it is believed that terrorists are now using things like Skype to communicate for precisely that reason. He also explored the issues of 999 calls over VoIP and the associated problems, which also included a pretty detailed description of how the location issue was solved with mobile phones and 999 calls.

It was definitely a worthwhile way to spend the evening, my only disappointment was that having swapped a number of e-mails with Peter I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. After the session he was surrounded by people with lots of VoIP questions, so I headed for home.

Aside from being the first BCS meeting I had attended in a while, it was also the first time in a long while that I had been back to the University of Reading. Thinking about it, it is now more than a decade since I graduated. The meeting was held in the Palmer Building, which has been refurbished since I was there. The car parking situation hadn’t improved though. There were also familiar faces amongst the other attendees, one of which was Dr Shirley Williams who taught a number of my courses when I did my degree. (In fact looking at the list of staff it is interesting to note how many of the names are familiar.) What was also interesting was comparing the crowd at the meeting with the crowd of people who turn up to something like the Geek Dinners. Now the basic principle seems the same, get together a load of IT people, and an interesting speaker, however the atmosphere is totally different, with the BCS meeting being pretty dry in comparison to the Geek Dinner. Also whereas in the Geek Dinner situation I’ve met all sorts of interesting people, I really didn’t speak to anybody in the same way at the meeting, despite being a new face. Interestingly the meeting had to move rooms from the 32 seat room that was booked, which does maybe imply that I’m not alone in not going along, and that the meetings are often poorly attended. Certainly I think it might be an interesting experiment for the BCS to try out a Geek Dinner style meeting.