Shared Plans

My A2 Hosting Review: A Look at Crucial Elements

Over the course of the last two month I’ve been experimenting with A2 Hosting, so it’s about time to put my thoughts on ‘paper’.

I signed up to test the Swift Shared hosting service as I think this is the most widely used service.


The shared hosting that I’ve tried offers basically all the standard features that we can get from most web hosts, and there are features that distinct them.

The fact that they utilise Solid State Drives (SSDs) for example is such, but we shouldn’t forget about the free backups either.

Depending from how deep we look at the services, we can find other as well which makes them unique – but most of the time difference comes not from a different service but from the services being delivered in a different way.

Customer Support

Customer Support OpportunitiesSupport is one good example to this. Besides being US based, they also have a priority support for a flat fee as detailed in a review on Webhostingsworld.

This is ideal for individuals/businesses who want to make sure they are on top of things all the time. Obviously wait time is cut down even during peak times when conventional support for the masses can be stretched to the limit.

The live support is a blessing, so is the live network status monitoring. This is really helpful in case there is an issue and clients would like to know if A2 Hosting are working on it already.


As mentioned earlier, they have global coverage with data centers around the world. This ensures the same user experience for all visitors around the globe depending from which data center we choose as target depending from customer base.

The Swift plan would be the most widely used in my view, not offering above the average performance boosters, so it gives a good opportunity to test like to like.

Based on this I can say that running on WordPress it is about 50% faster than most the similarly priced plans that I’ve tried with other web hosts.

If you’re going to go with shared hosting, I’d say definitely choose Swift at least. The small difference in fee gives a significant difference features.

With this being said, the difference between the shared plans can be seen in the below table.

  • Plan
  • Websites
  • Databases
  • Turbo Servers
  • Email
  • Optimized Site
  • Performance
  • Cores
  • Physical Mem
  • Virtual Mem
  • CldFlareBasic
  • CldFlare Plus
  • Railgun Opt
  • Backups
  • Addon Domains
  • Lite
  • 1
  • 5
  • No
  • 25
  • No
  • No
  • 1
  • .5GB
  • 4GB
  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes
  • No
  • No
  • Swift
  • Unlimited
  • Unlimited
  • No
  • Unlimited
  • No
  • Yes
  • 2
  • 1GB
  • 8GB
  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes
  • Yes
  • Yes
  • Turbo
  • Unlimited
  • Unlimited
  • Yes
  • Unlimited
  • Yes
  • Yes
  • 2
  • 2GB
  • 8GB
  • No
  • Yes
  • FREE
  • Yes
  • Yes

Money Back Guarantee

A2 Hosting has a pretty decent trial period and they actually give customer’s money back without hassle which cannot be said about a number of well-known web hosts.

This is valid for 30 days and it is not applicable to the domain and other features that are included for free but would be charged independently otherwise.

A Big Plus

One of the biggest advantages besides speed is the fact that they make sure clients can use the latest versions of web technologies. So you can use the latest version of PHP, MYSQL, APACHE, PERL and PYTHON among others.

cPanel is also a tool that I’m fond of and used to working with it, so I like that they provide that as well.

Briefly, this is what I think about the service I’ve tried.

I understand I haven’t used the service to its fullest, and there could be more to cover. However these are the most important elements that the average user will use in my opinion.

TMD Hosting

TMDHosting Review

The web hosting world is full of scams and fake reviews. I have decided to write a *positive* review of a hosting company, namely TMD hosting. I have added some references where other people on the internet match my account.

Choosing the wrong hosting company signifies an online business failure as your visitors will always be discouraged from visiting your website again after having the first bad experience. The need to have a high-quality web hosting service has therefore made TMDHosting to be very popular on the internet.

A Great Journey

TMDHosting is a popular web hosting company based in Los Angeles, CA. The company is one of the industry leaders and has been operating since 2007. After having built a solid reputation for customer support and reliability in the shared hosting market, the company has now delved into other areas like dedicated, reseller and VPS hosting.

Since then, TMDHosting has been growing every year with different parts of the world. The company also runs a call center in other parts of the US with many satellite technicians here and there.

Important Stuff

This is one of the TMDHosting reviews you need to read because some important things are revealed here. These are some of them:

  1. Quality of web hosting service – TMDHosting has many web hosting packages for both small and big businesses. You will also come across packages for e-commerce and multi-media, in addition to the hosting for information/educational sites. If you are just starting online, the company has shared hosting to host unlimited websites. If you have a lot of businesses, TMDHosting also has dedicated servers to meet your requirements. If you cannot afford that, there are many mixed hosting options in-between.
  1. Reliability – We discovered that TMDHosting is a reliable web hosting company. The reason is that the company is generous with its data transfers and storage. This means that your website will never be down, or would you need to be afraid of security breaches.
  1. Every web hosting package of TMDHosting comes with software worth more than $800.00. The software includes the ones to create a photo backup, your own logo, and many other cool tools. There are tools that also enable you to update your website from any part of the world.
  1. Control panel tools – TMDHosting provides hosting with control panel with different scripts to create and manage your websites. Some of them are Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby On Rails, SSI and Customizable error pages, in addition to the Fantastico script library which enables you to install the different software suites. You will also have software for blogs, forum, content management, guestbook, project management auction, wiki, classifieds and so on.
  1. Cheap – TMDHosting provides shared, reseller and dedicated hosting plans that are very cheap. You will always have a nice value for your money. A hosting plan starts from as low as $5 per month and you will always enjoy the service. Of course, there are some other companies with cheaper rates, but the service is what makes the difference. TMDHosting provides rich packages backed with excellent infrastructure, in addition to excellent customer service and support. For the cheap price, you will get highly skilled and talented employees who are ready to attend to your needs.

I have written this review after careful study of what the company provides. If you really want to have a profitable online business, you should always look for the company that provides the service that will meet the challenges of your business.

The secret to success starts from choosing a reliable web hosting service, and that can be found in TMDHosting.


CSS and PHP: Switching Themes

A couple of years ago I was asked to provide a very interesting feature to a mobile website. What I was asked to do was create in interface that would allow users to create their own themes. The catch was that it wasn’t just about loading different stylesheets, it was about each user having complete control over the look and feel his/her area on the site. This meant that I had to consider quite a few interesting questions.

How could I make a css file dynamic?

Would I use a database to store the theme information?

Was this even possible?

After some intensive thought I finally found the solution. In the two years that have passed since then I have thought a bit more on this topic, and the simplest and fastest version of this system will be discussed here.

How it works

The way this system works is very simple. In essence, any site that has registered users or members will assign something unique to identify that user. Usually this is a username or an email address, and almost always a database user ID is assigned to a user. Thus you have a distinct way of identifying a user that has logged into your site, right?

So now we have a way of identifying a user – let’s say by the username. So we can say that when a user – let’s call him “John” comes to the site, we can load the “John” css stylesheet. The “John” stylesheet will have the user- specific information in it, and we will assume for these purposes that the stylesheet is called john.css, and that john.css resides in the ‘/css’ directory.

Now let us for simplicitiy just assume that the username of every logged in user is carried through the url, in the form of:


so, we can then tell our script to look for the stylesheet if the user is logged in by saying something like:





$cssFile = $_GET[‘username’];




$cssFile = ‘default’;





$cssFile = ‘default’;


What will happen now is that if the username is set, the script will check if a stylesheet relative to that username exists, and if it exists we assign it to the variable $cssFile. If the username is not set or the file relative to the username does not exist – if /css/john.css does not exist – then the $cssFile variable will be assigned a value of ‘default’, meaning it will load the default stylesheet. Note that you might be getting the stylesheet name from a database, or a session variable, a cookie or a post value – it does not really matter.

Just a Website

What Makes a Website Trusted?

You wouldn’t design your letterhead without your name, address and phone numbers, so it’s surprising how many business web pages don’t even include the company name, logo (if any) and contact information. Business or site identity and contact information should be included on every page. In addition, you may wish to include phone numbers and the company address, if you are attempting to reach customers in your immediate area.

Every business should also consider some sort of tagline that can help identify your industry and target market. According toSteve Krug in his bookDon’t Make Me Think, “A tagline is a pithy phrase that characterizes the whole enterprise, summing up what it is and what makes it great.” Krug discusses taglines in some detail, but he emphasizes that a good tagline is clear, informative, conveys a disctinction and benefit to the customer and is “just long enough” (roughly 6-8 words) — this should sound like familiar advice by now.

Other essential information is your navigation. As much as possible navigation should remain consistent throughout the site. It’s possible to have a different navigation system on your home page, but your interior pages should be the same — the same navigation in the same place and distinct from the general text or graphics. Plus you should include a text-only based navigation method on all interior pages. The visitor should always be able to find home and, on sites of more than 10 pages, some form of help or site map.

And last, but hardly least, I consider a call to action an essential piece of information on a business site. Make it clear to the visitor what action you want him or her to take after viewing the page. It doesn’t have to be big or dominant, but it should be present.


No Nonsense iPage Web Hosting Review

iPage has some major advantages over other shared hosting providers in the same price range. Both email AND toll free phone support are available 24/7. They have no setup fee, even if you only want monthly billing (most cheap hosts only waive the setup fee if you pay yearly). And since they are on a Windows platform, you get both PHP/MySQL and ASP/Access with up to 5 data sources. CGI/Perl is also available, as is the ASP.NET platform. It is very difficult to find all of that being offered by another hosting provider for $7.96 per month.

The amount of disk space, bandwidth, email accounts, and FTP accounts you get with the iPage Basic Plan are far beyond the needs of the average website. You can check a couple iPage reviews to see what customers say about about the plan. The minor shortcomings of this account are that no FrontPage extensions are available, and there are no pre-installed shopping carts for Ecommerce. However, this plan can certainly be used for Ecommerce with any shopping cart that can be setup on a Windows hosting platform (shared SSL is included and private SSL certificates can be installed). The Basic Plan from iPage is by far one of the best low cost Windows hosting accounts available today.

Data Center

Located: Nyack, NY

At iPage, we maintain our own Data Center located in the same building as our corporate headquarters. This allows us to quickly assess and resolve any problems that may occur and monitor our systems to the highest degree to keep our network running at maximum potential. All of our Windows web hosting accounts come with a 99.9% uptime guarantee.

Company History

iPage, Inc. was founded in 1998. Since then they have grown into a full scale Hosting / Ecommerce company, expanding our facilities and customer base. Over the years their fast and reliable service has attracted a large local customer base, but they have now expanded their reach to the entire nation and are growing more rapidly than ever.

What Sets them Apart

Experience and knowledge of the Internet, Web Hosting, and Ecommerce is their specialty. Management came straight to iPage from running an Internet Service Provider since 1994, giving iPage over 7 years of real world experience in the industry.

How to Build an Online Community

Last week, we looked at designing pages to promote an individual book or a series. One of the most effective ways to promote a series, and the author, is by building an onlne community around the series, the author or the subject area.

Community Building Enhancements

Like any other business, writers, particularly series or genre writers, are creating a relationship with their customers (their readers). An online community is the best way to enhance that relationship, not only between yourself and your audience but among the audience members themselves. But like any relationship, it requires some kind of commitment.If you are extremely busy, you might be able to draft a supportive family member or friend to help in the maintenance.

A community also requires interaction. It is not a one-way street.

Chat Rooms, Bulletins or Messages Boards, Email Lists

The Internet is essentially a communications media and people love to communicate, hence the success and popularity of chats, boards and lists. But with the growing use comes saturation, abuse and banality.The more unique the focus of the board and more closely tied to an author’s identity or series theme, the better. In addition, public postings must be monitored regularly and you must decide how much control you plan to place on postings. Chats, boards and list consume a great deal of time to be effective (which is why I haven’t put one on this site — yet!), but they are key in building an online community. Just be sure you are willing to support the relationship between you and your community.

Blogs, Weblogs, News, Op-Ed, Rumor or Gossip

According to Blogger (, the mothership of blogs, a blog (or weblog) is a web page made up of usually short, frequently updated posts that are arranged chronologically — like a what’s new page or a journal. Weblogs like the Open Source stalwart Slashdot, post information and news and then allow site visitors to add their comments and discuss the issue.

There are communities built around opinion, rumor and gossip sites on specific topics such as Apple Computer Co., car designs, and celebrities. The difference between a community-building information page and a standard information (or opinion, rumor and gossip page) is the ability for the community to interact and provide visible feedback. Otherwise, what you’ve got is a following, instead of a community.

And yes, Elements will be adding community-building features very soon. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with your questions, comments or suggestions.

This was longer than I expected and we’ve only scratched the surface. Look for more features on each of these points down road. Next week, we’re look at using your web site for “Promoting a Writer’s Work to Publishers & Agents.”


Instant Graphics — Royalty Free Image Sources

Poor quality, cheap graphics reflect poorly on your business — and they’re completely unnecessary. There are a number of excellent sources for reasonably priced, high quality images for your site and collateral material.

You want “royalty free” artworks and photography. This means that you can use the images on your web site or in your print material without having to pay per each use. Pay once and use as needed with the following exception; you can’t resell the material or use it in a way that constitutes redistribution of the actual image for others to use.

The largest choice in royalty fee images are stock photography. The photographs may be used along or as part of custom art work. I’ve used stock photography both ways here at Elements. The premiere issue used collapsed while the last two issues have used stock photography as part of customized art work. Upcoming issues will be using stock illustration for graphics. Stock illustrations can give a customized, high impact look without the in-house graphics designer price. It’s also possible to take stock photographs and manipulate them in a graphics program, such as Photoshop, Painter, Corel Photo-Paint, Deneba Canvas or Deep Painter, to appear as if they were illustrations.

It pays to buy good quality images, but you don’t have to pay too much. Several of the larger, professional companies offer individual image prices. The average for a single, low resolution image is $32. If you have a need for a number of images either at one time or on a regular basis, it’s more cost effective to purchase a CD collection by the same source. Remember, you want a consistent look-and-feel to the images of your web site. Using a single illustrator or photographer can help create this consistency. These collections can run from US$10 – US$495 depending upon the source, the quantity and quality of images included, the number of formats or resolutions included and their popularity.

A brief word of caution about the inexpensive, large collections of images. Some of inexpensive collections can be used effectively and creatively, but you must choose only images and fonts that are good quality and are consistent in style and tone. For example, do not mix 3-D and flat images, or contemporary and retro images, or humorous and serious business. It can be made to work with a great deal of effort, but the effort isn’t worth the cost.

These images aren’t the worst on the web, but finding a consistent style will be difficult. And compared to the graphics on the right, these guys look very pedestrian. The images above convey dull, dated and tentative while the ones at the right are dynamic, compelling and confident. Which image would you rather have?

Royalty Free Graphics Resources


They recently went entirely illustration — all of it by top professional artists. Artville is also sold through various umbrella sources such as and (see below).If you are planning a site or re-designing a site, one approach is to select a collection of illustrations from here and then design the rest of the site graphics around that style. It may drive your web designer insane at first, but can save mistakes down road and reduce the number of necessary design meetings. Individual images are available for US$24.95 for low resolution , US$79.95 medium resolution and US$149.95 high resolution. Not all images are available in all formats. Collections are approximately US$299.


These are free (yes, you read right — free) high-quality photos and line illustrations. They also offer some collections for US$29.00. The site is a promotional center for assorted young illustrators and photographers. The illustrations tend towards the juvenile (I did say young and I should also mention male), but there are some good directional and digital object graphics. The photos are mostly of things (buildings, landscapes, household objects) because photos of people require legal releases, but if you need something contemporary and “hip”, you can probably find it here and at a price that’s hard to beat.

Corbis Images

You’ve probably seen a banner ad for Corbis images. There are some incredible images here available for both web and print use. Many are photos you’ve seen before in historical or photojournalist series. The individual images cost US$29 and up for low resolution. The collections run US$249 – 399.

The “Super Store” of professional graphics resources such as fonts, photos, illustrations, clip art, video footage, audio and more. The work with a number of sources, including Artville and PhotoDisc, and offer a free online publication of tips, techniques, amusements and artists profiles as well. You can purchase individual downloads for varying prices depending upon resolution and artist as well as an incredible number of fine collections.Individual downloads start at US$19.95 and head up to US$69. Collections start at around US$149 and continue into the thousands. Eyewire will now give you credit towards the purchase of a collection CD if you’ve purchased any single image from that CD.


Another umbrella source like eyewire. Lots of good art providers like Artville, Rubberball, Corbis, eletraVision, with comparable pricing to Eyewire. My only complaint is that you register to even see what’s available.


The Granddaddy of stock photography which didn’t offer royalty free images until last year. This site has some nice tools for searching and maintaining an account, some freebies from time to time and, if you register, you can order their free image comping CD and catalog to keep at hand while working. The best source if you need something very different or hard to find. Single images run US$29.95 for low resolution, $99.95 for medium resolution and $179.95 for high resolution. Single CDs run US$99 – $329 with 104 images per CD (good value for the money) and Bundles (collections of CDs) run US$387 – $1125.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive graphics and illustration program, a free 15-day trial of Deneba Canvas 7 can be found at


Thinking Differently about Macs

I’ve used Dos and then Windows computers since the 80’s, but I’ve had to work with a number of operating systems and hardware at various companies including several versions of Unix, Linux and Macintosh. The majority of development systems in my office run Linux and Unix, but the graphics and web tools I use daily are only available for Windows or Mac systems. When my expensive, new, state-of-the-art Windows system suffered a Registry-scrambling crash for the 5th time in 3-months, I decided to think differently. Particularly when the only suggestion from customer service and technical support was starting over again by buying the newest flavor of Windows which might help. Oh, and I’d have to buy all new peripherals, too.

My other graphics and multimedia developer friends had teased me about my Windows-bias for years. One in particular stopped me mid-rant and said, “If you’d just try a Mac, you’ll feel differently.” But beyond the higher price of the Mac systems and the arrogance of Apple and its devotees, the cost of replacing my peripherals and software was prohibitively. Plus I resisted buying a computer who’s primary selling point was its “cool factor”. My computers are workhorses, not fashion accessories.

But in frustration I did replace the Windows machine with a Mac. It was a new, older G3 on clearance sale. It was the first Mac I’ve ever bought. It will not be the last. I have more than made up the additional cost of replacing software with greater, more consistent, productivity. And I was able to salvage a number of my peripherals from my Windows system to use with the Mac. Those items I did replace, such as my digitizing tablet, would have required replacement with a new Windows OS anyway.

The Mac system has had failures and freezes, most notably whenever I try to install Internet Explorer 5 for the Mac, however, I have never lost a file or had a non-recoverable failure. My maximum down time has been 4.5 hours; my total down time has been around 10. That’s less than the drive time to the repair shop for my last Windows machine! I’ve been able to handle every Windows document or image sent to me. For those who are fans of Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer, these come pre-loaded on the new systems. In addition, Microsoft has taken considerable pains to make its Microsoft Office 2001 for the Mac fully compatible with its Windows counterpart. And, while I was using my Windows systems for heavy-duty graphics production, video capture and editing, music editing and presentation animation, I’ve had to eat crow and admit that all of these tasks are much easier on my Mac.

As for performance, I know that some buyers equate processor speed with greater performance. I’ve yet to run into any performance limitation. In fact in actual graphics and web production, my 350Mhz G3 is outperforming the 500Mhz Intel system I sold, particularly when you consider the constant stress level waiting for the next “blue screen of death”. Forget the benchmark tests, the reality is how quickly and easily can you actually do the job, how much time do you lose with system down time and the lost time as you rant in frustration about lost files. It’s a bit like cars. Sure, my MGB was faster than my Mitsubishi Mirage — when the MGB wasn’t in the shop. And a Porsche is great — unless you’re trying to move a kayak, then suddenly you wish you’d brought the truck. The machine is only as good as it’s reliability and appropriateness to the job. So far, I’ve yet to find anything my Mac can’t handle — and frankly, I can’t type faster than my 350MHz processor. And if you really want something with style and performance, you can’t beat the new Titanium Power Books!

Perhaps the hardest part has been dealing with the sneers from Windows and Unix users who still equate the Mac with “computers for idiots”. The Mac was purchased for specific tasks — mostly graphics, multimedia, web development and writing. I still look to Unix for programming, however, if the new Mac OS X final release really supports the BSD operating system and libraries, I’ll be able to do everything from one machine. I’ve been totally converted to the USB and Firewire interfaces for connecting peripherals quickly and easily. It’s infinitely better than “plug-and-play” model.

When people come to me and ask what kind of computer should they buy, I ask them what they are going to do with the computer. If you’ve got a specific application that you have to use for business and it’s only available for one operating system, then you only have to decide what dealer you want to pay and how much. If you are looking for a reliable, solid system with good price to performance value, I strongly recommend a Mac. In particular, if you are looking for a system to primarily handle e-mail, Internet connections, some basic business activity (wordprocessing, spreadsheets, medium-sized databases, accounting, and so forth) and small, low-key multimedia, consider an iMac. The current price-to-features makes it a good value. I also consider the heavily discounted G4 towers good buys for anyone needing more expansion capabilities. I confess between the USB hub and the firewire connectors, I’ve yet to use my expansion bays. I do recommend getting more memory if you are planning to run heavy-duty graphics or video programs. And, no, I haven’t talked about the Mac’s limitations as a gaming machine because this site is focused on professional tools.

I confess, as a Mac owner in a Windows world, I now have considerably more empathy with the problems of minorities. It takes a little more effort to find software and hardware, but thanks to the web, this problem is easily solved. And I save so much on “repairs”, I can actually afford a few extras for my setup!

While I won’t ever call myself a “Macvangelist” or a “Mac Moonie”, I will admit I was wrong about the machines. My Mac has performed efficiently, dependably and comfortably. I highly recommend them. Don’t tell my programming friends, but I’ve even gotten fond of the interface and its Bondi blue case.

So if you’re considering a new computer system, I urge you to think differently. Look at your actual needs. Consider your lost time and productivity in OS upgrades, system recovery and technical assistance. Then take the time to try a Mac. You may find yourself, like me, delightfully surprised.

An Essential Reference for Webmasters

Webmaster in a NutShell by Stephan Spainhour & Robert Eckstein answers all those geeky questions like server configuration settings, all the valid attributes of an HTML tag, configuring Apache for server side includes and so on. Even if you aren’t planning to actually deal with these arcane issues, it can be handy to know what exactly all of those 505 hits really mean in your web stat report. Or to be able to ask pertinent questions of the hosting services your considering to make certain they know what they’re doing.

This is not a “how-to” book for beginners. It doesn’t tell you how to use the <td> tag, but what are all of the valid attributes. It doesn’t tell you how to apply css styles, but it will tell you that font-variant style your web designer wants to use, isn’t supported by non-Internet Explorer 4+ browsers. It can help have an intelleigent conversation on improving server performance — or at least scaring your techs enough to keep them from feeding you too much BS.

Webmaster in a NutShell is organized in 8 parts:


Covering an overview, HTML reference, instructions on using frames, tables and forms, a listing of all of the character entities (the correct code for things like the copyright symbol © or the ampersand &) and all about color names and values on the web.


An introduction to cascading style sheets, style syntax, properties and a CSS quick reference.


A basic introduction to the next standard for passing business data, XML terminology, a reference, definitions of document types, using an XML Extensible Stylesheet Language, and more.


Everything from a Javascript reference to the details of syntax, Javascript in HTML, forms and the rest of the language use and formating.

CGI and Perl

There’s an excellent overview of how CGI works, details on using server side includes including the pros and cons, the intracacies of the Perl Module and web server programming with mod_perl (common on Apache servers to improve performance).


A comprehensive reference and overview of using PHP. PHP is a popular, low cost solution to creating dynamic web pages particularly when using a low-level SQL database to handle information and transactions.


An excellent look at what is actually happening and what the web server reports are actually reporting for client requests, server responses, status codes, HTTP headers, cookies and media types.

(Apache) Server Configuration

If you are running an Apache web server in-house or using one at your remote hosting service, this sectin can be handy when you need know what exactly is and isn’t supported on your system.

Server Performance

This chapter provides a thorough grounding in what can be done to improve your web response from the server end. Before your site’s code is tight, the images limited and optimized, and you’ve ensured the best Internet pipe accces possible, you need to make certain your server is running lean and mean.

If you are having someone else host and maintain your site, this book is unnecessary, but if you are handling the maintenance in-house or are having meetings about dynamic options and e-commerce on Apache servers, you would do well to add Webmaster in a NutShell by Stephan Spainhour & Robert Eckstein to your essential web reference shelf.