What makes a good web host?
So - you need a host for your web site.
Where to start? The web is awash with ridiculously cheap offers to host your web site.
How do you tell which ones are legit, and which ones are at best sub-par, or at worse, a scam? Hint: if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Two business models
The hosting industry is basically divided into two business models: hosts and resellers. The two are based on very different philosophies, technical knowledge, and business goals.
Hosts actually own servers or even data centers, and have vast staffs of sysadmins and techies that maintain these. Hosts depend on good customer support, ample uptime, and a deep knowledge of how their systems work to provide their services: servers that are always available, customizable, and stable.
Dealing with hosts usually requires a working knowledge of server operating systems, conventions and protocols, because they're not used to dealing with non-technical clients. Renting a full server from a host usually costs upwards of $400/month and requires you to be responsible for the entire server's workings - there is no hand-holding here. While the host will take care of the hardware (power supply backups, fire mitigation, etc), you're on your own for running the server itself.
The majority of cheap "web hosts" are not really "hosts" as defined above but resellers - entrepreneurs who rely on amassing as many "hosting" accounts as possible onto their reseller accounts in order to turn a profit.
Their business model is to land you on their servers, then hope that you never, ever give them a call. They rent space from hosts, use a "control panel" which allows them to do basic things on the servers without too much knowledge of the underlying systems, and cannot customize the servers to their client's needs. Most technical questions have to be escalated back to the host itself.
Reseller clients are responsible for maintaining their own site, and troubleshooting it themselves. While customer support does exist, it is never pro-active, and relies on you calling them when something breaks to get pointers on how to fix it.
The Lime9 difference
We decided to strike a balance between these two business models.
We rent full servers from hosts, and run them ourselves without actually being responsible for the hardware-level maintenance (that's part of our contract with our host). We customize our client's accounts as needed. Our client's accounts are on shared servers, but they are shared only with other Lime9 accounts - and we control the entire server.
We offer full "hands-off" hosting services - essentially we manage your account for you, and you aren't bothered with the daily details of keeping a site running. There are no long conversations with customer service, for the simple reason that we take on the entire task of maintaining your web site for you - we monitor, proactively apply fixes and updates, and stay on top of performance for all our web sites.
We do not offer our clients control panels like Plesk or cPanel, because we do all that maintenance ourselves, at the command line, without a potentially buggy control panel in the way. Our clients are not expected to know, or care about, technical details.
That is the Lime9 difference, and judging by our client's feedback, it's something they all love.