AN Hosting Review: My Experience With Drupal Hosting

It's me!

So, you're looking for Drupal hosting (or just hosting in general), and you don't want to get ripped off. You've probably already read a bunch of forum posts, hosting review sites, and top 10 lists. And you probably noticed most of them didn't seem very trustworthy.

Unfortunately, many of the reviews out there are fake, written by hosting company employees, either to brag about themselves, or to trash their competitors.

Fighting back against hosting review spam

With all the spam out there, it's hard to know who you can trust. My best advice is to do your research, and know who you're dealing with. With that in mind, allow me to introduce myself:

Hi, my name is John Forsythe, and this is my hosting review.

My name is John Forsythe. I started making websites for fun back in the 90s, and in 2006, I quit my job in Tech Support to become a full-time entrepreneur. Today, I make my living building websites and writing about it.

You might be familiar with some of my work. I'm the creator of DrupalModules.com, Drupal's largest independent community site. I also do technical reviewing for Packt Publishing, one of the biggest Drupal book publishers. If you're not familiar with Drupal, it's a popular content management system like Joomla or WordPress.

It's all about database speed

If you're running a modern, dynamic website, you need a server with fast database access. Every time a visitor loads a page on your site, your server has to make dozens of database requests. If your database is slow, your site will be, too. Like a lot of people, I learned this the hard way.

Back when I first started working on this site, I signed up with a web hosting company that claimed to be "dreamy". You've probably heard of them. It only took me a few minutes after installing Drupal to see that something wasn't right. Drupal was slow. Really slow. Pages took forever to load, or didn't load at all. Even getting into the admin section of the site took almost 10 seconds, when it should have been instant.

I installed some debugging tools, and narrowed it down to the database being really laggy and overloaded. A quick Google search showed I wasn't the only one having problems, and there didn't seem to be any way around it.

It's hard to get any work done when every click results in a long delay, so I cancelled the account and started looking for a new host.

After about a week of research, I finally settled on a company called AN Hosting. I signed up for an account, installed Drupal again, and wow, the difference was incredible. Check out this graph:

Drupal Hosting: Slow vs Fast

Page loads went from over 3 seconds to under 0.2 seconds! It's shocking how much faster things run when you have a good database server.

Another thing I noticed right away was a big increase in download speed. My site is full of music and photos, so fast downloads are really important to me. With my cable connection at home, I can download at over 1200KB/s from my site. That's the kind of experience I want my visitors to have.

Dealing with traffic spikes

If you've ever had your site land on Reddit or StumbleUpon, you know the real test of a host is whether they can handle sudden bursts of traffic. The last thing you want is a host that pulls the plug on your big day.

Just recently, one of my articles hit the front page of Reddit and Hacker News on the same day! A week later, the same article went viral on StumbleUpon. The traffic spikes were massive. Here's what it looked like in Google Analytics:

Drupal vs The Reddit Effect

At peak, my site was getting hundreds of requests a minute. Amazingly, the site didn't even slow down. One of the advantages of shared hosting is the massive amount of resources the servers have. You don't have to worry about running out of ram like you might with a low-end VPS.

Questions?

So, now you know why I like AN Hosting so much. It's fast, it stays up, and it doesn't slow down. This is my fourth year with AN, and they're still the company I recommend to family and friends.

If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help. Send me an email: john@blamcast.net. Or, if you're in Ottawa, Canada, you can usually find me at the local Drupal meet-ups. Don't be afraid to say hello!

Drupal Hosting FAQ

Here's a quick FAQ for anyone interested in using AN for Drupal hosting:

Do Clean URLs work with AN Hosting?

Yes, there is full support for Clean URLs, and they work right out of the box with the default Drupal settings.

Does Drupal's multi-site feature work on AN Hosting?

Yes, I've set it up and tested it myself, and it works well.

Does AN Hosting support Drupal 7?

Yes, Drupal 7 runs great on AN. In fact, I recently ran some benchmarks against a popular cloud hosting provider, and AN came out on top in terms of pure performance.

Does AN Hosting offer shell access?

Yes, SSH is included. If you're like me, command-line access is a must-have feature.

Can I increase the PHP memory limit on AN Hosting?

Yes, you can use a custom php.ini file to change memory limits as needed. I've set mine to 64M without any problems, and I've heard from others using 128M.

Are there any discounts available?

AN has a deal on where you can save 25% if you sign up for 24 months. Monthly plans are also available, if you just need something short term.

Conclusions

Overall, I think AN Hosting offers some of the best Drupal hosting around, especially if you're just starting out and don't want to deal with running your own server. AN Hosting has a 30 day money back guarantee, so give it a try, and if you have any questions, let me know.

Posted by John on 2012-11-19