Web hosting has evolved a great deal from when I first got started in the industry about 10 years ago (I can’t believe its been that long). When I started with web hosting I was involved in free hosting and all the ads that went along with it. We embedded banner and text ads on every users page and most of our clients used simple HTML pages to host all of their “content”.
Times have changed. Now hosting is all about the applications that you can host on your site and software as a service. I want to write a little about hosted applications and the challenges that hosting companies face when dealing with hosted applications. For those new the subject, I define a hosted application as some type of script that is more than HTML, that accomplishes something that is beyond the scope and ability of standard HTML. Examples of applications that we host might include WordPress (Blogging software), OScommerce (A popular ecommerce package), phpBB (Forum software), and so on.
Bluehost offers around 50 different hosted applications that are easy to install via a one click install software package that we have available in our backend. That product is called Fantastico. It is a wonderful product that enables many users that normally wouldn’t have the technical where with all to install these software applications on their own.
However, Fantastico and products like it have a fatal flaw in my opinion. The Fantastico installer itself is a program that must be installed on each and every one of our servers. We have over 500 servers for our shared hosting platform which means we have 500 installs of Fantastico. Of course we have Fantastico completely automated and updated on all our servers, but the mere fact that we have to keep it updated is a problem in my eyes. Also, Fantastico itself it often slow to update software that it installs. That is a huge problem when security issues are found in a particular application and no easy upgrade is possible until Fantastico provides an update. These are all big problems, but the #1 problem with Fantastico is that it is platform specific. It ONLY works on Cpanel, and that is its achilles heel.
I have thought for some time that a better option is possible. What if there was a product that ran remotely on a single cluster of servers that had more choices than Fantastico that worked with multiple Control panels like Plesk, Cpanel, Helm, Ensim, and even installed all the popular open source software that wasn’t previously available on Windows hosts. What if you could easily take your WordPress installation and move it from one host to another if your previous host didn’t perform well. What if it was easy to use, completely automated, and integrated with many large hosting companies. What if I told you that even if your web host didn’t support the product that it would still work on their hosting platform even if they didn’t know the software existed. How nice would it be for a web host to use this product knowing they didn’t have to install a single piece of code on any of their servers or update their system on their end EVER.
Of course, I have been told many times how this would be impossible to implement and all the reasons why it wouldn’t work. I remember a few years ago when I was told how ridiculous it would be to start Bluehost because the competition was so fierce. I don’t take well to people telling me something can’t be done.
Of course this is only a rumor, but a little bird has shown me just such a website that currently works with about 10 applications and the list is growing everyday. It sure would be nice if something like this popped up on Bluehost before the end of the year. It would make a great Christmas present for Bluehost customers as well as all those users stuck with a crappy host that doesn’t offer an easy way to install and update software with the click of a button. Maybe, just maybe, something like this might make it out by the end of the year. Keep your fingers crossed
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com