Host With The Most

“What it's looking like increasingly is that the Web is connecting us back to ourselves.”
    Eli Pariser

The Web has changed dramatically since I registered lumen-perfectus.com and created its first site back in 2001. The site has changed, too, a subject about which I wrote (in hindsight, somewhat embarrassingly) on the domain's tenth birthday. But what was once a fairly typical photography site has, by today's “standards” become quite primitive. The design is simple and static. There's no live posting of comments or likes (or the opposite). The site doesn't do things; it doesn't make noise, it doesn't sparkle and fizz and move, there are no filmstrips or videos or animations, all things that are expected today.

Sunset at Glacier National Park's Lake McDonald, September, 1999

One of the first images posted on the lumen-perfectus.com Web site.

The world has moved on to portable devices, but the site isn't mobile-friendly. Largely bling-free, it concentrates on the simple presentation of photographs. Prints can be purchased via the site, and sometimes people do, for which I'm grateful. Fancy it's not, but if a photographer doesn't blog, tweet, or have a Facebook or Instagram account, he or she still must have a Web presence.

None of the above is likely to change anytime soon. This is the sort of site I know how to create and maintain (which I do, adding new photos weekly and an article a month), and continuing with the old-fashioned guy theme, I do this manually. The entire site is hand-coded using a simple text editor (currently, BBEdit from Bare Bones Software). Jpegs of the photos are prepared one at a time with Photoshop; I process raw files (from the camera) as if I'm going to make a print, and from that master file I make jpegs in the sizes needed for the site. It's all rather labor-intensive, and much of it could be automated with batch processing, Photoshop “actions,” and any of the myriad Web development tools available. My excuse for my methods is two-fold: I don't want to make time for learning these kinds of tools, and, most importantly for me, I like doing this stuff the way I do it.

Poorly Behaved Guests at the Party

Web sites and email must be “hosted” on server computers connected to the Internet. I registered the domain, and signed up for hosting service with a company called DellHost. A few years later Dell sold the business to Sprint, and then Sprint quickly sold it Purehost, an EIG company. During those transitions the costs remained reasonable and things worked well. Service outages happened, but they were rare and typically fixed quickly. But Purehost has, in recent years, been disappointing. The service has been less reliable, response to support tickets has been extremely slow, often days. My site's not a Big Deal; if it's not available for an hour now and then it's hardly a crisis, but it's still important to the guy paying for it (that would be me). And email has become critical to daily life, making outages something worse than inconvenient. Reporting a problem and receiving no response for two or more days is simply not acceptable.

While I annually paid Purehost for domain renewal, I could not manage the domain (that is, change contact information, update name servers, etc.) via my account's control panel on their site. Purehost said I had to contact the registrar and insisted they weren't it, without telling me who was. A WHOIS lookup showed it to be Network Solutions. But I had no account, no business relationship with NetSol, so how was I supposed to work with them? If I created an account, how would I connect that to my domain registration? This frustrated me and delayed my search for a new hosting service, in part because I simply didn't have time to deal with it.

Another brick in the wall: A couple of years ago when the hosting service auto-renewal hit my credit card, the bill was double what it had been previously. Naturally I inquired about that, and was told there'd been no change (despite all previous bills to the contrary) and this is what my level of service cost. As that's a darned low level for (now) way too much money, I determined to dump Purehost, but one thing or another got in the way and it took a while for me to start that little project. One of the coldest and snowiest winters yet during our years in Montana helped with that; I spent little time outdoors doing photography or anything else, except shoveling snow. I decided to use this down-time to make the hosting change. I read a lot of forum and blog posts and talked with people I trust who have hosted services. A friend in Michigan suggested a service he's used for several years for email hosting. More research indicated others had similarly positive views. I read all of the host's Knowledge Base articles related to moving Web and email hosting from another service to theirs, and about how to transfer domain registration, which I'd also decided to do. I initiated a couple of chat sessions with their support people and felt comfortable that help would be available if I needed it. The die was cast.

One Step at a Time

First stop: Network Solutions. I learned through a chat session with support that it's disturbingly easy to make changes to a domain's registration. I provided scant information about my then-current hosting service (Purehost), and then provided an email address and phone number. With that, the NetSol agent changed my registration from a “wholesale” account to a personal account. A confirmation email followed, to which I had to respond. This apparently provided enough security and assurance that I'm not trying to swipe somebody's domain. It felt a little too easy, but seems to have happened as it should. Almost immediately I started receiving a couple of unsolicited emails (spam) a day from NetSol. Terrific.

Next two steps: Create an account at my chosen new host, and then select a hosting plan and sign up. This was easier than buying a widget from Amazon, and took no longer. The company offers some big discounts for the first year's service. That's nice, but I made sure to determine what the regular annual fee would be after the first year. Still a bargain.

Step four: Upload the content of my site to the new host. Using my usual FTP client software the uneventful upload took about 25 minutes over our slow DSL connection. Fortunately the site is fairly small. With that done, and after searching the host's site for how to set things up so I could browse the site before changing the name servers, I spent some time testing to make sure pages, images, and other content loaded properly in my browser. I found and fixed a number of problems, all of them the result of decisions I made long ago. I'm sure I'll run across a few more.

At the same time I recreated the email accounts to match what I'd had on the old host. These didn't work, of course, because the name servers hadn't yet been changed. A few hours later I logged on to my NetSol account and changed the settings to point to the new host's name servers. This can take a few days to propagate through the Internet's domain name servers, but I found the Web site and email all working properly within minutes.

Next: Transfer the domain registration from NetSol to the new hosting service. While optional, I felt it necessary. The constant spam from NetSol, nearly all offering services both ridiculous and unwanted for a simple site like mine, and nearly always with a subject line like “Important notice about your account” while it never was, coupled with NetSol's high price for a simple .com registration renewal, made NetSol too annoying to keep. I initiated the change in my NetSol account. This resulted in an immediate email from them telling me to call for assistance. I did, waded through their phone tree, listened to irritating music with interludes of NetSol ads, and after about ten minutes got a recording saying I had a fifteen minute wait. NetSol: what's not to love?

Canada geese about to land on icy Flathead Lake, March, 2019.

The first picture posted to our new hosting service. Canada geese about to land on icy Flathead Lake, March, 2019.

I dialed again later, shot through the phone tree with the keys I'd memorized earlier, and got a real human I could understand easily. Her script apparently required periodic breaks in the conversation to try to convince me not to change registrars, or to sell me other services. I insisted I wanted nothing more than the transfer, but undeterred, she stuck to her script and kept trying. Finally we got to the end, and she promised an email with the necessary authorization code, “within 48 hours.” That message arrived ten seconds after I hung up the phone.

Almost done: I logged on to my account at the new host, signed up for domain registration, paid the fee, and entered the necessary info including the authorization code.

The next day I received an email from NetSol saying the transfer would take place within the next six days. During those six days I received more, often conflicting and confusing emails from NetSol, but none required action from me. On day six an email arrived saying the transfer had completed. Later that day an email from the new host indicated they'd done their part. A quick WHOIS check confirmed the new host was listed as the registrar (note that they really are a registrar, unlike Purehost). That morning I uploaded the first new PotD to the site.

A Gracious Host

That was a week ago, and so far all's well in lumen-perfectus.com-land. The site now has a number of features, mostly related to security, that Purehost doesn't offer for the type of account I had. To make up for that, they charged much more. After the first-year special pricing ends, my annual cost from the new host will be a little over 40% of Purehost's.

Yea, I should have done this a long time ago.

March, 2019

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