Compare options for outsourcing your NT Web site

Given a copy of Windows NT and an Internet connection, anyone can create a Web site. But in today's fast-paced markets, building and maintaining a Web site usually means outsourcing: Your company pays someone else to host your site. Shared-hosting services put many different Web sites on the same servers, so the sites share resources and costs. By outsourcing your Web hosting to a service, you outsource most of your administrative and maintenance costs.

Web hosting services do regular backups, often hourly. The companies have 24 X 7 staffs that keep their servers running to guarantee uptime. In addition, hosting services handle bureaucratic administrative details such as registering your domains and obtaining digital certificates. Some services also offer e-commerce systems that provide secure online markets for your customers. Third-party services host some of the largest Web sites on the Internet, such as Yahoo!, Lycos, and SportsLine.

The Web hosting market has been growing rapidly, and NT-based site hosting has been growing even faster. NT hosting accounts are usually more expensive than UNIX accounts because Linux, BSDI, and Apache are free and NT is not. However, the cost difference between an NT and UNIX account isn't huge, and you can easily justify the expense if NT is your Web applications' native environment. Forrester Research predicts that NT's share of the shared-hosting market will grow from 6 percent in 1998 to 20 percent in 2003. The dedicated-hosting market is even more NT-focused: Forrester Research predicts the NT dedicated-hosting market share will grow from 29 percent in 1998 to 45 percent in 2003.

The increase in the number of Web-hosting services has created a market for third-party products for NT ISPs. For example, 123 Go Global, CrystalTech, Interland, and Media3 all use Ipswitch's IMail. Some ISPs also recommend products to their customers, such as which external authentication manager to purchase. I suspect that some of the services I tested based their administrative control panels on third-party products, but the services never gave me a clear answer. Microsoft ships a barely adequate product for administering Internet Information Server (IIS), and this inadequacy creates a value-added opportunity for Web-hosting services.

My research confirms Forrester Research's results: I found that many Web-hosting services, including many of the largest services, offer NT hosting. However, many services offer NT hosting on only dedicated servers because of the security concerns that hosting an NT-based site presents, especially in a shared environment. When a site supports powerful applications (e.g., Allaire's ColdFusion) in a shared environment, the hosting service must lock down privileged resources, such as Registry access. (For more information about Web-hosting security concerns, see the sidebar "Security in a Hosted Environment," page 138.)

However, some Web-hosting services use security concerns as an excuse for their lack of useful administrative features. For example, some inferior services offer Telnet access and command-line utilities to manually change your files' and directories' ACLs. Some services offer the standard IISADMIN page that comes with IIS. Quality Web-hosting services provide a secured Web page in which you can manage users, ODBC connections, and directory access.

I discovered that, pricing details aside, the administrative features a service provides differentiate it from the competition. If your site supports a nontrivial Web application that talks to a database or requires secure pages that users need a password to access, comparing administrative features is worthwhile.

I reviewed eight NT shared-hosting services. To select these services, I looked for services that support sophisticated NT applications and provide the flexibility for your site to grow. All the services I reviewed support upgrading your site to a dedicated server, provide 24 * 7 support staff, and let you use Active Server Pages (ASP), Perl, Common Gateway Interface (CGI) programs, ColdFusion, and Microsoft SQL Server. Many services I tested bragged about their 99 percent or greater uptime, but a little math reveals that these numbers don't merit bragging rights: 99.5 percent of a 24-hour day is 1432.8 minutes, which means that these services average 7 minutes and 12 seconds of downtime every day.

To test the Web-hosting services, I wrote an application that maintains the member list and a contractor database for a neighborhood association. Users can add new contractors, create contractor references, and edit contractor records, including the types of work a contractor does. The application uses five tables in one database, and I tested it with both Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Access. In addition, I wrote identical versions of the application in ASP and Perl and tested each version on all the services. For more information about the test application, see the sidebar "The Test Application and Posting Process," page 140.

My testing and research proved that some services are clearly better than others. Although price and quality of administrative features affected my assessment of a service's overall value, testing revealed that the accessibility of a service's features is also an important factor. Overall, Interland earned the Editor's Choice award because it provided the best service at a competitive price.

Some people argue that conventional application software is dead and Internet-distributed programs are the future. If this prediction holds true, Web-hosting services will definitely play a central role.


123 Go Global
123 Go Global is a group of hosting companies that includes 1st Choice International and 1st Host International. Unlike most hosting services I reviewed, this company focuses more on NT hosting than UNIX hosting.

123 Go Global offers six NT hosting plans: NT-0 through NT-5. NT-0 and NT-1 are minimal plans that don't offer many NT features. The best values start at NT-3, which costs $25 per month and includes ASP and ColdFusion support, 50MB of disk space, and 4GB of bandwidth per month. You can also order Microsoft Index Server support, VPN connections, and hourly system backups for all 123 Go Global's plans. The company provides unlimited Microsoft FrontPage subweb support, and it generates excellent WebTrends traffic reports for your site. In addition, 123 Go Global gives you raw log access. To create an e-commerce site, Microsoft Site Server 3.0 Commerce Edition is available for $200 per store. 123 Go Global also provides a 24 X 7 toll-free technical support number. I ran into some problems with 123 Go Global's hosting services, and its technical support staff responded well.

123 Go Global lets you create a pretty good Web site for a reasonable price, and its Web-based email is especially appealing. (123 Go Global is one of four services that use IMail, which lets your users send email from a Web page, as Screen 1 shows.) However, its lack of an online control panel made development more cumbersome than development using the other services I reviewed. I had to contact customer service to get Data Service Names (DSNs) and usernames and to set privileges on specific files and directories. 123 Go Global supports ASPLogin, which you can use to create a user database. Many applications manage users and access rights using their own software logic based on their user directory. If your applications work this way, 123 Go Global will work for you. However, if you want to manage users and access rights outside your application, consider a company that provides a good administrative page.

I was surprised to discover that 123 Go Global requires file DSNs for database access—it was the only company I reviewed that had this requirement. File DSNs, which contain database-connection information in a file, are plain-text files, so ODBC won't store a database password in them. In addition, you can have only one file DSN in a domain.

123 Go Global's other drawbacks include the lack of both a redundant backbone connection and streaming audio and video. Also, it was one of only three vendors that don't support SQL Server 7.0. Despite these shortcomings, 123 Go Global isn't the worst value of the hosting services I reviewed.


CrystalTech
CrystalTech offers six pricing plans, Plan I through Plan VI. Plan I provides 1GB of transfer, 20 POP accounts, and almost all CrystalTech's standard features (e.g., 24 * 7 technical support, Perl support, WebTrends reports, and Access and ODBC support) for $19.95 per month, but this plan doesn't support SQL Server, Index Server, or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Plan II doubles transfer allowance and disk space, and gives you 30 POP accounts and SSL for $39.95 per month. However, to gain SQL Server and Index Server support, you have to spend at least $79.95 per month for Plan III. In addition to Plan III's features, Plan IV offers 6GB of transfer, 400MB of disk space, and 40 POP accounts for $109.95 per month. Plan V, which costs $189.95 per month, and Plan VI, which costs $259.95 per month, are too expensive, and prospective customers should consider spending another $100 for a dedicated hosting service (so that you're not paying to compete with other sites for system resources).

One of CrystalTech's main features is its configuration Web page. (The company promises to upgrade this page soon.) The existing configuration page starts with an excellent FAQ that was helpful during development. Next, the configuration page includes a daily updated WebTrends site statistics report, as Screen 2 shows, that is similar to the reports 123 Go Global, Interland, and Media3 provide. The configuration page also offers an unimpressive list of links to Web resources, mostly various Microsoft pages. Most of the other vendors I reviewed provide a better resource list.

The configuration page also contains a link to CrystalTech's network status page. This page is unique among the vendors I reviewed because it lists any server downtime in recent months, details about each downtime, including which servers went down and why, and uptime percentage reports for all its servers. However, CrystalTech reports uptimes by server number (i.e., 1 through 20) instead of server name, so I couldn't figure out which server my test site was on. The uptime reports showed that 3 of the 20 servers had uptimes of 99.3 percent, 99.4 percent, and 99.4 percent—all uptimes that fall short of CrystalTech's promised 99.5 percent uptime. However, I don't know how these numbers compare with other vendors, because only CrystalTech reports this data about its own server downtime.

The last item on the configuration page is a link to IISADMIN, the standard Microsoft Internet Service Manager (ISM—CrystalTech plans to replace this link with a control panel). You can use IISADMIN to set directories as executable or scriptable, turn indexing on and off, and set default documents. In addition, IISADMIN's security page restricts user access to a directory by specifying authentication based on a particular domain. However, IISADMIN can't manage users in a domain, so unless your Web hosting service provides an alternative way to manage users, IISADMIN's security feature is useless.

CrystalTech also offers IMail to administer your email system. The administration page is plain but effective and lets you create and manage accounts, mailboxes for accounts, and aliases. Clients can use IMail to read their mail both on the Web and using a conventional POP3 client.

For developers, CrystalTech supports several environments, including FrontPage 97 through FrontPage 2000, Microsoft Visual InterDev, ActiveState Perl, ColdFusion, and Elemental Software's Drumbeat 2000. CrystalTech also provides a good selection of standard components, including ASPMail, ASPHTTP, and ASPPOP3. However, CrystalTech charges $10 per month when you run a different ASP or ColdFusion component. CrystalTech doesn't support customer-added Perl modules, but it supports serverside Microsoft Java.

CrystalTech's NT service plans provide some good features. However, its software and pricing isn't the best of the services I reviewed.


DeZines Web Hosting
DeZines Web Hosting is a bare-bones service. Only DeZines and Media3 offer no metered limit on bandwidth from your Web site, but DeZines' minimal features don't compare to other services' features. For example, DeZines' high-end NT-EXPERT service includes only one POP mail account, albeit with unlimited aliases. NT-EXPERT costs only $59 per month and includes 75MB of disk space. You can buy 10MB of additional disk space for $10 per month and additional POP accounts for $4 per month, which make this basic service fairly expensive.

DeZines also has an NT service that includes 40MB of disk space and an NT-PRO service that comes with 50MB of disk space. Although this amount of disk space is short of what other services offer, it's a lot of space for a Web site. Both of these plans include ASP and FrontPage support, but many basic features cost extra. For example, DeZines provides only one ODBC DSN with its NT and NT-PRO accounts, and you have to pay a $45 setup charge and $15 per month for additional DSNs for an NT-EXPERT account. SQL Server access has a $59 setup charge and costs $25 per month. Support for ColdFusion and CGI programs, including Perl scripts, costs $15 per month with a $25 setup charge for NT and NT-PRO accounts, but DeZines includes this support with NT-EXPERT accounts. DeZines also includes SSL support with only the NT-EXPERT plan.

Clearly, only the NT-EXPERT account offers adequate capabilities for nontrivial Web sites. Furthermore, DeZines bills all plans on a biannual basis; most services bill you monthly, quarterly, or annually, and give discounts for long-term commitments. However, DeZines says it can waive the setup fee for annual commitments.

DeZines doesn't provide an administrative page for you to manage your site. Instead, the company gives you Telnet access and some command-line utilities, as Screen 3, page 142, shows. For part of my test, I restricted a user's access to certain Web pages. Most vendors required me to call their technical support staff and have them perform this operation. With DeZines' service, I used Telnet to log on to the system and the CACLS utility to modify the ACLs for the directories I wanted to restrict. Whether Telnet and the command-line utilities are power user tools or a step back to the Stone Age is a matter of personal taste.

I was surprised to discover that DeZines has no technical support phone number. You can use email, a form interface on DeZines' Web page, or a form interface to a pager service for emergency paging 24 X 7, but you have to be on the Web to get support. If your Web connection is down, your access to DeZines' technical support is also unavailable.

Although DeZines offers some helpful features, such as unlimited traffic, its products' current prices and feature set don't compare favorably with other Web hosting services. DeZines falls short of the competition.


HostPro
HostPro offers three NT plans: NETnt provides 60MB of disk space, 2GB of transfer, six email accounts, and Access or Visual FoxPro database support for $29.95 per month. NETpro, which costs $49.95 per month, includes 100MB of disk space, 3GB of transfer, 10 email accounts, shopping cart capability, and support for SSL, credit card payment, CyberCash, RealMedia, and ColdFusion. For $99.95 per month, the NETimpact plan includes 140MB of disk space, 4GB of transfer, 20 email accounts, and SQL Server 7.0 and Index Server support. HostPro is second tier in terms of raw bytes for your dollar. In addition, $99.95 per month is expensive for SQL Server and Index Server support, and the number of email accounts HostPro provides is less than the competition offers. However, working with HostPro to set up my test sites was easier than working with most of the other hosting services I reviewed.

HostPro provides a unique Domain Control Panel administration page, which Screen 4 shows. Although you can find most of the information and software provided on this page elsewhere on the Web, the administrative page is still a helpful resource. The Domain Control Panel Resources page contains a handy reference that includes an explanation about how DNS works, tips about submitting your site to search engines, and many links to sites with HTML, CGI, and ASP code you can reuse. The control panel's Help section also has straightforward explanations about how to use HostPro's various features, such as how to post RealMedia files so that the files stream. In addition, the control panel's Tools area provides excellent information about how to create and maintain ODBC DSNs and mail accounts. Another control panel page shows what percentage of your disk space allotment you've used. A page that reports bandwidth utilization would also be helpful, but HostPro doesn't provide this information. Nevertheless, if you spend some time at the control panel page, you won't need to call technical support for much.

The process to password-protect areas on your site is a little complicated unless you use FrontPage, because the FrontPage Server extensions do the work. Otherwise, you can use HostPro's cleverly hidden Web Password Protection page, if you can find it (the main Tools menu doesn't include an entry for this page). This page lets you create users with passwords and assign them rights to directories, but the directories must be top-level in the Web namespace. You have to go through HostPro's technical support staff to protect a lower-level directory.

HostPro's technical support staff are helpful, but the company doesn't offer a toll-free support number. This shortcoming is evidence that HostPro's service needs improvement before it can compete in this market. Although HostPro offers a variety of NT and UNIX hosting plans at fair prices and innovative administrative software, its service falls short.


Interland
Interland stands out from the group of NT Web hosting services I reviewed because it provides the most disk space for the dollar, excellent traffic bandwidth, and the most powerful online control panel. Although this Web service has some foibles to iron out, Interland gives more administrative functionality to the user than any other service I reviewed and was the only company to provide a printed manual about its service.

Interland's disk-storage limits meet or exceed all its competitors' limits, and transfer limits are also high. Although Media3 and DeZines offer unlimited traffic, other aspects of their services pale in comparison. Interland's Feature plan costs $19.95 per month and includes 5GB of transfer per month, which equals about 35MB per day—a lot of transfer for a cheap plan. For $39.95 per month, Interland's Feature Plus plan increases your bandwidth to 20GB and includes support for SQL Server and ColdFusion, which are usually high-cost features. The Business plan costs $149.95 per month and provides 500MB of disk space and 40GB of bandwidth. Interland offers unlimited email accounts in all its plans, and Interland uses IMail, so users can access their mail through a conventional POP3 client or a Web page. In addition, Interland gives a 15 percent discount if you pay 1 year in advance and a 25 percent discount if you pay 2 years in advance.

A negative aspect of Interland's pricing is that the company charges a $40 setup fee for the low-end Feature plan. Although most hosting services charge setup fees, the fees are usually equal to one month of service. Interland's Feature plan must be popular for the company to jack up the setup charge. In addition, Interland offers features like Majordomo and Index Server only in its dedicated server Enterprise plan. This pricing structure seems strange because Interland offers generous amounts of expensive features, such as bandwidth.

Interland's infrastructure and backbone connections are impressive. The company has connections through UUNET, DIGEX, and Qwest. In addition, redundant hardware at multiple levels helps to ensure reliability, and Interland guarantees 99.9 percent uptime. Interland offers 24 * 7 technical support and provides a toll-free number. Another benefit is that if you exceed your transfer limit one month, Interland doesn't immediately charge you for it. Instead, you have the option the next month to move to a plan that provides the amount of bandwidth you used.

Interland's administrative page is simple yet powerful, but it's in flux: I witnessed one upgrade during my testing, and Interland will probably upgrade again before this review goes to print. The administrative page's main user interface (UI) consists of an options list box followed by a lot of poorly organized explanatory text, as Screen 5 shows. Although the organizational scheme becomes more comprehensible over time, the administrative page clearly needs work. The list box options include creating a basic user, a Quick User, or an ODBC DSN. The basic user option lets you create a user to whom you might give rights to a directory or file. The Quick User option lets you create users and give them rights to a directory in one step. Other list box options include deleting and editing user entries, DSNs, and permissions; changing the application settings to none, script, or execute for a directory; installing or uninstalling FrontPage extensions; and viewing a directory's contents. From the administrative page, you can also request that Interland email you a WebTrends site traffic report and you can get a report about how much disk space your site consumes. Several of the administrative page's forms, such as the View Directory form, need browse buttons. However, primitive is a big step above nonexistent, and no other service offers the functionality of Interland's administrator page.

Interland's NT support is extensive and leads the group of services I reviewed. Although Interland isn't perfect—I wish it would fix the inconsistencies in pricing and improve its UI—this company provides great services to build and host a Web application.


Media3 Technologies
If your Web site's needs are simple and you're concerned about traffic limitations on your account, Media3 is the Web hosting service for you. Media3 offers unlimited traffic with its three introductory plans. DeZines also offers unlimited traffic, but its services cost more. For software, Media3 provides IIS ISM, which is adequate but inferior to the software packages that HostPro, Interland, and Verio offer.

Although Media3's $19.50 per month NT Brochure Account sounds appealing, this plan lacks support for ASP, ODBC, and serverside includes, which you would expect in even a basic account. Although this service provides FrontPage 98 support, a CGI directory, and IMail support for five POP accounts, paying for an NT account that doesn't include any NT benefits doesn't make sense. If the NT Brochure Account fulfills your needs, con- sider getting a cheaper UNIX account.

Media3's $29.50 Standard NT account includes ASP, ODBC, Telnet, and ColdFusion support, which is usually reserved for more expensive accounts. Although this account comes with only 40MB of disk space, which is short of the competition, additional 10MB blocks cost only $0.50 per month, so doubling your 40MB capacity costs only $2.

The Developer NT account costs $49.50 per month and includes access to Media3's online control panel, WebTrends traffic reports (you can order this option for $5 per month with less expensive accounts), and mailing list support.

SQL Server support is expensive and optional, even with the high-end Developer NT Account. Media3's low-end SQL Server plan costs $50 to set up and $50 per month, and includes one database (i.e., 40MB of data and 20MB of log capability, which is more than adequate space for most sites), 2GB of transfer to the shared SQL Server system, as many as two simultaneous users, and no stored procedures. Media3 offers higher-end SQL Server plans for $95 and $175 per month, but overall, the cost of Media3's SQL Server support is out of line with the competition.

Media3 is the only service I tested that provides IMAP4 mail accounts as a standard feature. (Interland offers IMAP4 as an added-cost option.) IMAP4 is superior to but compatible with POP3, and the current versions of all major mail clients support it.

Media3's online control panel uses IISADMIN, which Screen 6 shows. The advantage of this interface is that it's familiar to NT administrators, which simplifies using features such as default documents on a directory. Although user management is also a helpful benefit of ISM, you can only take advantage of this aspect if you use ISM with other NT features, such as User Manager and Explorer ACL management. These features are absent in Media3's service.

You have three options to manage users in a Media3 account. You can give a list of usernames, passwords, and directory rights to Media3's customer service staff. Although they agreed to perform a few of these management tasks, they told me that they don't want to make a habit of managing my users. You can write directory management code in ASP, Perl, or ColdFusion based on a user database you maintain (this alternative is an option with any hosting service). Or, you can spend $299 on Flicks Software's AuthentiX, a generalized authentication system that doesn't rely on NT users and that Media3 supports.

Media3 claims to have 24-hour technical support with a toll-free phone number. However, I tried calling that number and two of the company's non-toll-free numbers at 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday; Media3 redirected all my calls to individuals' voicemail, with no indication in the message that someone would return the call any time soon. I've worked with Media3's technical support during typical business hours, so I know the support staff exists, but this service doesn't seem like 24-hour support.

Media3 provides some unique benefits, such as unlimited traffic, IMAP4, IMail, and ColdFusion, at low cost. If you can live with its limitations, Media3 might be the right provider for you.

Verio
Verio has spent several years buying smaller ISPs to build a national network. Perhaps the company needs more time to consolidate this growth, but Verio's NT offerings aren't as developed as its competitions' NT services. Verio's growing network instills a false sense of security to its customers at a high cost.

As a Tier 1 ISP, Verio owns its own national backbone network. The other services I reviewed buy bandwidth from other providers. Using Verio, you might infer that your site's performance will be better because backbone providers give better service to their own data than lower-tier customers, and a Tier 1 ISP has fewer routing hops. However, lower-tier customers might buy redundant connections to other bandwidth providers, which might give them a reliability advantage. Verio buys bandwidth from Qwest to supplement and support its network, and the company claims that your site will have "multiple fiber-optic T3 connections to diverse backbones." Verio's data center has multiple redundant T3 connections and UPS and generator backups, and can withstand a category 5 hurricane, but the company makes no guarantees about uptime for its NT hosting plans.

Verio offers only one shared NT hosting plan, which costs $99 per month with a setup fee of $100 and includes 80MB of disk space, an anemic 2.5GB of transfer, 20MB of SQL Server storage, and several DSNs. However, the company limits the plan to five child webs (i.e., a special type of folder in a Web page that is an organizationally separate Web page within FrontPage) on FrontPage and only 10 POP accounts, and at the time I tested, only SQL Server 6.5 support was available. Additional data transfer costs $0.10 per MB, which is a fairly high charge. Verio offers high-volume plans that have more competitive feature sets, but these plans are all UNIX-hosting services. An advantage of Verio's NT service is that the company gives you 2 months free for a 1-year commitment. In addition, Verio provides 24 X 7 technical support by phone and email and in multiple languages.

You administer your site using Verio's administrative program called the HiWay NT Control Center. HiWay was one of the providers that Verio purchased, and you still run into non-Verio domain names in the HiWay system, such as hiway.net and rapidsite.net. The control center is plain but offers excellent functionality. The database tools screen has the best DSN management program of the services I reviewed. Using this screen, you can add, delete, and edit DSNs, and link to useful information, as Screen 7 shows.

The control center's email management screens are less sophisticated than the database tools screen, but they're easy to use. The email-management screens contain a large form that lists all users and the few parameters Verio gives you to manage them, as well as autoresponders. You can view raw log files for usage statistics, but Verio doesn't provide server-based WebTrends reports. Instead, Verio provides a free copy of a WebTrends client-side log analyzer, which you use to download and analyze logs on your system. This client software is more flexible, faster, and more powerful than the typical serverside reports that other services offer, but you can view serverside reports from anywhere on the Web without client software installed. Your needs determine which method is best for you.

Verio's service isn't the best deal for developers. You get your own cgi-bin directory, but you're not allowed to add your own ASP or ColdFusion components or Perl modules. In addition, Verio doesn't give ColdFusion developers on shared servers access to Remote Data Services (RDS) or custom tags.

Verio apparently has its hands full building its network and consolidating service from a large collection of small providers into a worldwide service. The company appears to have put off developing its hosting service plans in the process.


VServers
VServers has developed a full line of NT Web hosting plans, but NT is new to the company. VServers' main plans include NT Mini for $25 per month, NT Lite for $55 per month, NT Pro for $95 per month, and NT Merchant for $115 per month. The NT Merchant plan provides support for Miva, a commerce-site tool from Miva. The NT Ultra plan for $250 per month and the Dedicated plan for $750 per month offer higher disk limits and a few more features than the basic plans.

VServers claims that all its basic plans have unlimited data transfer. However, VServers states in an FAQ on its Web site that the company doesn't approve of more than 15GB of traffic on its unlimited plans and the company will work with users that require more transfer capability to find them a more appropriate (and expensive) plan. In other words, the service isn't really unlimited. Ironically, VServers limits the $250 per month NT Ultra plan to 15GB per month, at which point incremental transfer costs kick in. Although 15GB of transfer is a lot, it doesn't compare to the transfer limits of the other services I reviewed.

VServers also offers unlimited email accounts for most of its plans. The NT Mini account comes with three POP or IMAP accounts, and additional accounts cost a pricey $5 per month. But the NT Lite account and all the more expensive plans have unlimited IMAP accounts. In addition, VServers' disk space allocations are competitive: 50MB for the NT Mini plan, 100MB for the NT Lite plan, and 250MB for the NT Pro plan.

VServers offers a variety of additional features, some of which cost extra. For example, VServers includes SQL Server support with NT Lite and its more expensive plans, but it charges $1 per 5MB of database per month. The NT Mini account doesn't provide any database support.

VServers' development support is spotty: ColdFusion support is available with the NT Pro and more expensive plans for $20 per month, but VServers doesn't permit custom tags and components. The company also doesn't let you use custom ASP components or Perl modules.

Emergency phone support is available 24 X 7, but typical technical support is via a Web-based form. VServers claims its data center falls on two power grids and has 5 days of generator capability in the unlikely event both fail, but the company doesn't make any promises about uptime.

In addition, VServers has a site-statistics screen, which Screen 8 shows, based on MediaHouse Statistics Server. This screen is comparable to the more popular WebTrends and is the only online information about your site. VServers provides no administrative screen, and you have to go through its technical support staff to set up a DSN or a user logon. In practical terms, this requirement means you have to homebrew your user support.

None of VServers benefits, with the possible exception of unlimited IMAP accounts, are compelling when you compare them to the competition. For users who value IMAP and whose needs are simple, a VServers account has advantages. However, in terms of cost, VServers can't compete.

Contact Information
123 Go Global
314-861-1210 or 888-394-4678
Web: http://www.123goglobal.com

CrystalTech
623-878-2973
Web: http://www.crystaltech.com

DeZines Web Hosting
410-414-5636
Web: http://www.web-hosting.com

HostPro
888-638-5831
Web: http://www.hostpro.net

Interland
404-586-9999 or 800-627-6839
Web: http://www.interland.net

Media3 Technologies
800-903-9327
Web: http://www.media3.net

Verio
303-645-1900 or 888-438-8374
Web: http://www.verio.com

VServers
425-897-1991 or 877-546-7846
Web: http://www.vservers.com

CrystalTech
623-878-2973
Web: http://www.crystaltech.com

Corrections to this Article:
  • Lab Reports: "NT Web Hosting Services" incorrectly states that HostPro doesn't offer a toll-free support number. The company's toll-free number is 888-638-5831. We apologize for any incovenience this error might have caused.