Free web hosting providers and picking the right one for you

I’m reviewing features offered by 3 free web hosting providers – 110mb.com, freehostia.com, and byethost.com. I picked byethost.com just this month and have been satisfied with it so far.

I had been using 110mb.com from 2004 to 2010 and have been fairly happy with the service. I use the words ‘fairly happy’ because I had to move to a different provider beginning of this month, to Byethost.com. The two biggest reasons I moved my WordPress blog away from 110mb.com were 1) constant web timeouts, and 2) Akismet spam servers were obstructed. I also looked at Freehostia.com and although it was more stable with no web timeouts, Akismet spam filtering was blocked.

When I first signed up with 110mb.com, it was purely a free service. Then they asked everyone who use their mySQL service to become upgrade members otherwise access to the database will be dropped. It was a one-time upgrade of $10 and that allowed me to keep my WordPress blog. It worked well for osCommerce as well, but my biggest issue with it is the constant web timeouts. Sometimes, only text would show up with none of the javascripts executing and this made my site look so unprofessional. I emailed the 110mb tech support each time I ran into text-only or ‘mySQL connection refused’ errors in order to keep track of the issues. I must have sent hundreds of tech support emails. There are no responses to my emails but the issues do get resolved so I assume they must be doing something to resolve my support requests.

The second reason I moved my WordPress blog away from 110mb.com was because the spam filter service used by WordPress – Akismet – did not work with either 110mb.com or Freehostia.com. I tried to make do without spam filtering but I was spending a lot of time weeding through legitimate comments on my blog. For me, having a blog means you must have the spam filter service enabled to block useless comments that you get mostly to trick you into backlinking to their websites. I’m not too fond of these spammers.

One followup I had to do after making the name server changes for my domain to point to byethost.com’s was to redo all my MX records. The upgrade to the latest version of WordPress was also manually initiated but that was easy to do. Overall, the move to byethost.com has been positive.

What free web hosting provider are you using?

Important thing to consider when picking Windows7 Pro 64bit OS

We are working to resolve a major issue one of SOHO client’s is experiencing after we replaced his computer with a brand new HP 7100E MT I5650 (VS693UT#ABA) with 250GB hard disks and 3GB DDR3 memory. The operating system installed on it is Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.

The main issue is with transferring older software to this new computer. This SOHO client has a few DOS-based and 16-bit software that will not install. I tried using the Windows 7 compatibility mode on the installation software and had no luck. Here are some software that he is concerned about that is currently installed on his old Windows XP Professional computer that will not port over:

1) DVDCAM camcorder software suite for a Hitachi M550A. It comes with myDVD 4.0, and DVD Movie Album SE 3.
2) Wine-label program
3) Wine-making software
4) Brother multifunction scanner/fax software

There are other programs that we couldn’t transfer to his new computer but he wasn’t concerned about those. The business applications including VPN were also challenging to set up. It is mostly with personal/family applications that do not currently work. We had to purchase a USB floppy drive to allow him to install older software that came in floppy disks. That’s how old these programs are.

The whole experience is unpleasant for the user who expected his older software to work seamlessly with Windows 7 on a 64-bit architecture. We haven’t tried 32-bit but I believe we will have more success with that. Unfortunely, downgrading to 32-bit will cost him more time and money and I adviced that the best alternative right now is to keep his older Windows XP computer to run his older software until we can find compatible upgrades for them.

One thing I have learned from this ordeal is to take a step back and have a write-up of things that we need to accomplish from the computer upgrade. This is the one important thing to consider when deciding on Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. Migrating older software is not an easy task especially when data conversion is also involved. The write-up will need to include all the critical software, compatibility matrix, and upgrade path.

We are still working through this ordeal and if you have any sugestions, I’d love to hear it.

A free mail relay server solution for internal email-enabled systems

I posted a tweet months ago asking what others used to relay mail out to their internet email provider using non-standard SMTP ports. This applies to many small-to-medium business that don’t host their own email servers, but have many internal systems like UPS or network copier machines that have simple email-enabled alerting features. Enabling the email-features are easy and only require filling in the mail host and the FROM fields. Most of these systems by default expect SMTP port 25 and have no authentication options for the mail host, and because of these reasons I needed to find a local mail relay software. I’m happy to say I may have found it.

I was looking for free software that allowed me to send emails out to Electric Mail or to Google GMail, using non-standard SMTP ports other than port 25. It needed to allow SSL and TLS protocols and be able to authenticate. Other options I looked at was enabling SMTP component in IIS but that affect production web servers and I wasn’t ready to explain the risks and mitigations for that.

I searched around and found Mercury Mail Transport System by the makers of open-source Pegasus Mail. Here is a description from their website http://www.pmail.com/overviews.htm: “Mercury is a free, standards-based mail server solution, providing comprehensive, fast server support for all major Internet e-mail protocols.” I installed it on one of our less critical computers running Microsoft Vista 64bit Ultimate Edition and it works great. Installations was easy and I simply needed the relay feature, disabling the rest.

I am now able to receive alerts from UPS outages and Drobo-FS disk failures. If you need help setting it up, let me know.