Monday, March 4, 2024

Changing Web Vendors ...
and Winding Up Where You Started!

I've been using my current web provider, Network Solutions, for over 20 years. They provide hosting for my two domains, plus privacy protection, email and SSL. But prices seemed to be rising, so I began looking at other sites to see if I was missing savings.

I had a consulting website. But once I retired, what remained was more of a repository for family pictures and a way to keep my hand in coding. I was spending far too much money each year for that family use.

So, I created a wish list of needs and started looking around. Figuring out what you need is probably the first step.

My wish list:

--Support for Classic ASP (Yes, it is an older technology.)
--SSL for each domain
--Email Support (for minimum 5 emails per domain)
--Hosting for at least two websites.
--FTP Support
--Adequate bandwidth for visitors
--Adequate space for content
--Daily backups, if possible
--Reliable, timely Customer support (optimally with a live person)
--A strong computer network with very minimal downtime

Understanding how I work may help. I code HTML, ASP and JavaScript in Textpad, which is just an ordinary editor like Notepad, except for a few bells and whistles. I have an IIS local website where I build and test. Then I FTP the page(s), images, folders, individual files up to the server using an IP address. And I'm done.

The first item on my list, Support for Classic Asp, cuts out a lot vendors. Most support Linux-based servers with cPanel interfaces for site handling. They also offer editors like WordPress, Wix, 10Web, Shopify, Website Builder and others that contain pre-designed templates and drag-and-drop features. You can get a site up quickly by choosing a template and editing text and images.

Perfect if you're just beginning or if that is what you want. Most of these drop-and-drag editors make it difficult to almost impossible to add you own HTML, JavaScripts or customization. Though WordPress seems to be the best if you want to introduce your own changes.

Hosting platforms tend to be either Linux or Windows. Linux is open-source, while Windows still has licensing which the vendor pays. As a result, sites built on Linux platforms are usually less expensive. When I checked, these hosting vendors did not offer classic ASP support: Hostinger, BlueHost, DreamHost, AccuWebHosting, Shopify, ScalaHosting. Note: there are many more vendors I did not check. I did find classic ASP support at GoDaddy and HostGator, but pricing was high at both, comparable to Network Solutions.

I tried three smaller vendors who I'd recommend. I purchased minimal time on each and built out my website to the point of previewing it online.

Accuweb Hosting: The chat salesperson continues to say they support classic ASP, but my website refused to load and support told my they do not support classic ASP. I had ordered hosting for 3-months, which they did refund when I canceled.

What impressed me the most was how upfront they were about pricing. The pricing page lists the entry discounts and the actual renewal prices, so you know exactly what you are paying. My ASP.Net hosting plan offered monthly, every 3 months, annual or triannual billing. There are a range of hosting packages including Web Hosting, WordPress Hosting, VPS and Forex. Free basic SSL is provided with the option to purchase premium SSL.

Think I would have been happy there, except it didn't work.

Interserver: I was more cautious and started a 1-month subscription. Support was via email and I had unresolved issues previewing the site. Canceled and refunded. This is a small company specializing in classic ASP and And they have a 60-day FREE trial! So, you can build your site and preview the results before locking into a quarterly, 6-month, yearly or longer plan. This is a smaller company buying shared computer resources from other companies, which may be more common than we know. Kind of like telephone companies sharing the same lines. I was impressed by them, though they didn't offer automatic renewal billing. They do send renewal notices.

What did I finally do?

I stayed with Network Solutions, moving from a premium plan to a less expensive plan suiting my current needs. But I learned a lot along the way.

Note on SSL (secure socket layer certificates) : I found 4 types during my research.

1. Let's Encrypt: free SSL open-source certificate, only validates domain, no subdomain validation; identity of the website is not verified to the same extent as a website with Extended Domain Validation; re-issuance every 90 days.

2. Single Domain SSL Certificate: applies to one domain and one domain only.

3. Wildcard SSL Certificates: are for a single domain and all its subdomains.

4. Multi-Domain SSL Certificates (MDC): lists multiple distinct domains on one certificate.

The three that you pay for are usually 1 year with auto renewals and have easier installs with vendor support. Level of security you'll want probably depends on the function of your site. Financial institutions like banks and traders will want the most secure. If you don't receive any payments via your website, Let's Encrypt is probably fine.

There is also the whole issue of migrating or transferring a site.

In a nutshell, you may choose to transfer the "whole kit and caboodle" -- domains, hosting, SSL and email to another vendor. Or, you may have domains with one vendor and hosting (some form of SSL) and email with a second vendor. Both instances involve changes to the DNS server.

If you are lucky, the vendors will do this bit for you. Otherwise, you need information from your current vendor and your new vendor for the values to be inserted into these records. These are kind of like traffic cops. They connect domain, website and email wherever you have them maintained. If, for example, your domain is at one vendor and your website at another, you need someone to direct traffic from your domain to where your website is stored.

These records include:

NameServers: Contain the DomainIPs of vendor maintaining the domain.

The A, CNAME, MX and TXT records are all related to email.

A: Address records which direct domains or subdomains to an IP address, i.e. pointing the link "" to whomever is hosting that site. The 3 records below each take the IP address of the vendor hosting the website. Sample IPs are shown.

AWWW 123.45.678.9

CNAME: Cononical Name points one domain or subdomain to another. Sample names are shown.

MX: Mail Exchanger (MX) entry records directs emails to a particular mail server. Again, sample entries shown.

TXT: Text records offer descriptive domain information in text format, ome of which can aid external servers in managing outgoing email.

TXT@string provided by vendor

SRV: An SRV record allows a user to locate a specific service on a network rather than a specific machine. Service could be a printer, FTP or other similar device.

SRVstring from vendor string from vendor

You'll also need to rebuild the websites at your new host and potentially copy over emails, unless you decide to just start fresh with emails. Many vendors offer migration help, doing this work for you. There are also programs that will copy email over for you, such as

Think this covers most of the information I garnered during my research. Time for a breather (and Happy Hour!).