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New Web Hosting Preview - Details

Ianwild
Grafter
Posts: 3,835
Registered: ‎05-04-2007

New Web Hosting Preview - Details

Summary
As per the recent web hosting announcement, we're planning to restructure how we deliver our advanced web hosting services in the new year. This will impact all users of services associated with the CGI Platform, which includes Frontpage Extensions, MySQL databases and CGI server based web hosting.There will be further specific communications for customers using these services later in the year, but the preview being announced here will allow all Plusnet customers try out the new platform, and if they wish, begin the process of moving their websites sooner rather than later.
Details
In order to allow people to test, feedback and begin using the main element of the replacement service, we are offering all Plusnet customers the opportunity to create and use an account based on the current PAYH service. At this stage in the trial we are offering this option for free, although because of the manual nature of creating these accounts, we must ask that people only request access if they intend to actively use the service. We will close down completely untouched accounts, and we reserve the right to make a one-off £5 set-up charge if people later wish to request another PAYH account where we have done this.
This preview service shares the same underlying infrastructure as PAYH, as will the eventual new advanced hosting platform. However we do plan to do a fair amount of work to the service before we withdraw the CGI platform. As such, the service now won't be exactly the same as when it is formally launched, especially where look and feel is concerned. That said, to all intents and purposes this should be close enough for customers to understand the final solution, and this does represent a good option for anyone who uses CGI now and wishes to continue hosting their website with Plusnet. Customers choosing to migrate from the CGI platform now will of course be able to retain their new sites in the same format once all the the changes have been made.
New Products
At the time of writing, we are planning to launch four products for Plusnet customers on the PAYH platform. These are:
Residential Options:
* £0 per month - 250Mb Storage, 1.5Gb Data transfer per month, 1 MySQL DB, Standard Apps. Community Support Only
* £2.50 a month - 350Mb Storage, 2Gb Data transfer per month, 3 MySQL DB, Standard Apps + Premium Applications (when available). One month free trial to all customers choosing this option.  Telephone / ticket support available on PAYH number.
Business Options:
* £0 per month - Community Support Only, 500Mb Storage, 3Gb Data transfer per month, 1 MySQL DB, Standard Apps
* £5 per month - Telephone support, 750Mb storage, 5Gb data transfer per month, additional features. Telephone / ticket support available on PAYH number. 3 MySQL DBs, Standard Apps + Premium Applications (when available). One month free trial to all customers choosing this option.
Platform Features and differences
There are a number of key differences between the CGI platform and the Plesk based service. An FAQ will be published which details these further, but some key items are:

  • Support for Perl [5.8.8], Python [2.4.4], PHP [5.2] and ASP [perl based]

  • Ability to pay for additional MySQL databases, storage space and data transfer.

  • Supports SSI, Suexec, log files, HTAccess, Custom error documents and CGI-BIN amongst others.

  • A new web based control panel and file upload tool is available.

  • SSH / Telnet access to a shell on the new service will not be available.

  • Support for MS Frontpage extensions is no longer available as the product used by providers to supply this is end of life and no longer available. Microsoft have replaced Frontpage with MS Expression.

Differences between the preview and the final product
Website addresses
During the preview / feedback period, you will be able to use any of your own domain names that are hosted on your Plusnet account. However we are unable to offer hosting for Plusner sub-domains like www.username.plus.com and ccgi.username.plus.com at this stage. We do plan to offer hosting for these names in the final product.
If you don't have a domain you wish to use with the service, you can arrange for a domain of username.plushost.co.uk to be hosted on your account if you do not have another domain you wish to lose.
Look and feel
We plan to improve the layout of the Plesk control panel and 'plusnetify' it somewhat. We will also try to simplify the control panel and remove the unnecessary icons which are currently displayed.
Plusnet account Integration
We will automate the account creation and management process so that when a new account is created it's not a manual process for us, and so that day to day administration of Plusnet accounts is more efficient.
Preview success criteria
We are looking to achieve a number of objectives by offering this preview now:

  • Prove that for the vast majority of customers, PAYH represents an appropriate alternative to CGI.

  • Identify what further changes we can make to improve the PAYH service when being used by Plusnet customers, and generally as a hosting platform.

  • Offer a set of products now that are fit for all purposes and which offers the benefits of the PAYH Product set to Plusnet customers as quickly as possible.

  • Enable people to migrate their sites sooner rather than later to make the final CGI migration itself easier.

  • Start to build a decent support resource within the community site web hosting forum which will mean that customers on free accounts can be adequately supported without access to direct support from the CSC except for service wide issues.


Development Schedule
This preview will run from now until January 2009 without much further additional development. At that  point final decisions will be made in terms of design and development requirements. Customer feedback will be a key element of this process.
We will begin development work proper in the new year and at this stage is looks likely that the closure of the CGI platform will occur sometime around April 2009, although this is subject to change.
Terms and conditions of the trial
By requesting access to the trial via the above mechanism, we are assuming you accept the terms and conditions of the trial hence. These terms are subject to change during the preview period and are additional to those which apply to use of the current CGI service:
1. This is a preview which is subject to some changes during the trial period, although we will endeavour to maintain people's sites and data once customers have created their new accounts.
2. Zero cost accounts which are requested but then not used cost us time and resources. If an account has been requested and is then not accessed within 7 days, we reserve the right to suspend or remove the account. We will make a charge of £5 for re-instatement of a customers access in these circumstances. Please only request a preview account if you intend to use it.
3. We will send quarterly emails to all zero cost account holders asking them to confirm by clicking a link that they still want to use the account.
Preview Support
During the preview period, customer support for zero cost accounts will be via the Community Site Web Hosting discussion forum only. The Plusnet support team cannot assist with queries in relation to these products, and will direct customers to the forum where they need assistance. Queries from customers who choose the subscription products can be dealt with by the PAYH support team, but it should be noted that this team is only available during normal office hours.
How to request a preview account
You can request your preview account on the Plusnet trials page. If you follow the appropriate ticket path and instructions there we will create you preview account for you as quickly as possible. You will need to choose from one of the following products and tell us which you want before submitting the ticket. This can be changed at a later date on request by following the relevant ticket path on the same page.
1. Residential Free
2. Business Free
3. Residential Subscription (£2.50 per month inc VAT)
4. Business Subscription  (£5 per month ex VAT)
A welcome email will be sent with details of how to login and use the new service once your account has been activated. Please ensure the contact address we have for you is correct in the account control panel.
Trial Feedback
Feedback and support is via this forum. Please let us know what you think, ask questions, make suggestions etc here and we will do our best to answer promptly and accurately.
Again, we would stress that this is a preview and entirely voluntary. People don't need to take part now (although sites hosted on CGI related services will at some point need to be moved). There will be plenty of further communications to all affected customers in time, but we wanted to use this moment in time to give all of the 'early adopters' amongst you the opportunity to get your feedback in early, so we can hear that and react while there is still time to change what the final product looks like.
Kind Regards,
Ian
134 REPLIES 134
Be3G
Community Veteran
Posts: 6,111
Thanks: 1
Registered: ‎05-04-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

I'm not a big hosting user, but I do use it nonetheless and what's described sounds quite good, aside from two things. One, total monthly data transfer: the monthly rather than daily limit is nice, but the reduction from 7-8GB a month to 1.5GB for free residential customers isn't, and the paid option isn't that competitive either.
I do however accept that what's on offer will probably suffice for people who just want to upload a couple of webpages about their dogs or something like that. The thing I'm most concerned about therefore is the issue of customer service on free accounts, or the lack thereof. (I'm talking about when everything goes fully live by the way - I understand that the CSC can't be expected to help out just for a trial.) Now, not offering people advice on, say, scripting, I can understand. But, for example, imagine that I'm trying to set something up in the new control panel, and because it's all completely different to PlusNet's old hosting, I get a bit confused about what does what. Will PlusNet be prepared to help me then if I'm on a free account? The use of the phrase 'service-wide issues' causes me to believe PlusNet wouldn't, which I find disappointing. Or how about if it looks like PlusNet have made an error - perhaps in the configuration of my account? Would I be sent to the forums to plead for a friendly Comms agent to sort things out for me?
Ianwild
Grafter
Posts: 3,835
Registered: ‎05-04-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

Thanks for that,
We do plan to review the allowance levels again in the future, but for now the ones proposed represent what our commercials allow us to offer based on current usage of the platform. This may well change as we get more customers, and as it is the levels proposed are going to be more than enough for just about all of our current customers. There are some dedicated hosting suppliers who do have much lower cost stacks than us, but we're not in a position where we can offer a product that competes with them all (there are some real cut price guys out there too, along with some horror stories from their customers :-\).
As I say though, once we get a better understanding of how the platform copes with increasing usage, we may well be in a position to increase the allowances, although I can't guarantee that. One other thing to add is that unlike the current harsh treatment customers see when they do exceed the data transfer allowance, the new system with Plesk allows for a much more customer focussed and helpful approach, so if people do regularly exceed the quotas we can work with them to find a positive solution rather than doing something too drastic before we have had a chance to have a discussion.
In terms of support, the situation is no different to today really, in that the CSC will not assist customers with problems relating to use of the CGI service, provided it's proven to be working correctly. There are of course exceptions to that from time to time, but as it is that isn't in the design of the product. All I can say is that there will be more than just the comms team here and willing to help people, and if people do need specific support in using the hosting platform then they can of course pay for it and access the PAYH support team (who are pretty damn good at what they do).
Ian
Be3G
Community Veteran
Posts: 6,111
Thanks: 1
Registered: ‎05-04-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

Hmm. Fair enough regarding the usage allowances, though I'm still not convinced about the support. To me, having to use forums because they're the only means of support provided is never a good thing - it's an increasingly common occurrence these days (even Apple do it if you don't want to pay for AppleCare), but that doesn't make it right. Now, if the free support offered with the new hosting is comparable to the support currently offered, then I have no qualms, on one condition: that some flexibility is exercised though in supporting people with the move from the old hosting service to the new one. It would be cheeky to say to everyone 'right, we're changing your hosting service so it's completely different - oh and by the way, we won't officially help you adjust/adapt to it'.
geewizz
Grafter
Posts: 1,125
Registered: ‎01-08-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

Quick question. I see that the upper traffic limit on the business package is 5GB. Is this just a temporary thing for the trials and is there likely to be a way of hosting a site with traffic levels in the region of 10-15GB per month?
Ianwild
Grafter
Posts: 3,835
Registered: ‎05-04-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

From the off, you would be welcome to move over to one of the PAYH packages with a higher allowance, but we also plan to have options where you can pay for extra usage allowance at what I believe will be very competitive rates. There are still some areas of the plan which need to be decided, but we wanted to get this out sooner rather than later to our customers so that everyone can play a part in shaping what we end up with here and how we prioritise the future developments.
Ian
mal0z
Community Veteran
Posts: 3,486
Registered: ‎02-10-2008

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

Looks good.
To be honest - when I joined Plusnet about six weeks ago - the present PN "free webhosting" confused me somewhat - as I have been using a Apache / PHP 5 / MySql package elsewhere - and the CGI method was alien to me.
Having signed up for a PAYH package - resulted in an easier to use package for me at least.
So I will probably sign up for one of these new "trial" packages and use as my test site intially.
"Look and feel
We plan to improve the layout of the Plesk control panel and 'plusnetify' it somewhat. "

Yes that would help - the standard Plesk control panel has lots of features which I found confusing to start with. Are you going to "Plusnetify" the PAYH packages too - ?? -
xpcomputers
Grafter
Posts: 460
Registered: ‎13-04-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

Quote from: Ian

During the preview / feedback period, you will be able to use any of your own domain names that are hosted on your Plusnet account. However we are unable to offer hosting for Plusnet sub-domains like www.username.plus.com and ccgi.username.plus.com at this stage. We do plan to offer hosting for these names in the final product.
If you don't have a domain you wish to use with the service, you can arrange for a domain of username.plushost.co.uk to be hosted on your account if you do not have another domain you wish to lose.

Since this is a test setup, presumably some people will want to use the username.plushost.co.uk domain option whilst they get it correctly working, then switch it onto a domain name at some point in the future. Will it be possible start with username.plushost.co.uk and then add our domain name on at a later date once a working website is established?
Will it be possible to switch any domain to and from the webspace ourselves using the domain management page (in My Account) during the trial period... or only after the trial is finished?
Quote
You will need to choose from one of the following products and tell us which you want before submitting the ticket. This can be changed at a later date on request by following the relevant ticket path on the same page.
1. Residential Free
2. Business Free
3. Residential Subscription (£2.50 per month inc VAT)
4. Business Subscription  (£5 per month ex VAT)

Can residential customers only choose 1 or 3, and business customers can only choose 2 or 4.... or can anyone choose any package?
xpcomputers
Grafter
Posts: 460
Registered: ‎13-04-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

I can answer the question about account types myself....
I just signed up for the trial, and when you go through the process of selecting the account type, it says something like  "Business packages can only be selected by business account holders".
So the only question outstanding is about the domain names allocation, and about the process for updating them later in the trial once a website is all is up and working.
Thanks
geewizz
Grafter
Posts: 1,125
Registered: ‎01-08-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

Aaaaaaaaaargh!
Catch 22. I can't have a business web hosting account because I don't have a business broadband account with Plusnet, and I can't have a business broadband account with Plusnet because they haven't rolled out the promised business accounts refresh yet.
Ianwild
Grafter
Posts: 3,835
Registered: ‎05-04-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

Domains can certainly be added or removed at a later date. It should be possible to allow customers to do this, although there may be some restrictions during the initial stage of the preview. For the moment, just tell us what you need setting up domain wise on a ticket raised via the path at trials.plus.net, and we will sort it.
In terms of the product you choose when setting up the restriction is on the zero subscription accounts. I don't see why a residential customer couldn't choose to pay for a business subscription account if they so wished. I'll make that point clearer in the text tomorrow.
Ian
Mark
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,852
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

Hi Geewiz.
At the risk of taking this thread ot, what do you need from a business package that the current 5 options dont offer?
Feel free to pm me rather than risk a gentle prod from the mods. Smiley
xpcomputers
Grafter
Posts: 460
Registered: ‎13-04-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

Ian,
Thanks for the clarification.
I've now got my username.plushost.co.uk account setup (which was the default by not supplying a domain - so that was easy!) and am ready to plunge the depths of learning required to master this new system.
However, in the meantime, I've discovered what appears to be a mis-configuration of the webspace... (or a mis-selling of the provided allowances!)
In Plesk, I see my account listed as follows:
Disk space  125 MB
Traffic         768 MB/Month
Whereas, in this thread, the Free residential accounts are listed as providing:
250MB of disk space
1.5GB of monthly transfer
Which one is wrong?
Thanks for bringing us the chance to taste this early. I appreciate it is a work in progress....
avalon
Grafter
Posts: 361
Registered: ‎05-04-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

Can you not increase it to the maximum?  I'd assumed it was designed so you could host more than 1 domain name - with a separate website for each - and allocate each a share or increase the default one to use the full space.  Though it'd probably be better if the default was to use the whole lot if you only had one domainname.
xpcomputers
Grafter
Posts: 460
Registered: ‎13-04-2007

Re: New Web Hosting Preview - Details

I assumed that the allowances had been set wrong for the whole of my account by PlusNet.
Spurred by your optimism, I just checked the limits page and sure enough, it let me allocate 250 MB disk usage and 1536 MB/month data transfer usage to the main domain... (these are the maximums on the whole account).
I tried setting higher values, and it told me the values were invalid and had to be 250 MB and 1536 MB/month respectively (or lower), or that I would need to allocate more to the client (me), which is clearly the bit that PlusNet set when creating the account (and the bit I have no access to).
So you were right, PlusNet have only allocated half the space in my account by default to the domain, but the rest is available to me to allocate as I wish.... which I have now done.
As you say, it would make much more sense to have the full disk & transfer quota assigned to the default domain to start with (when there is only one domain setup). People adding a second domain area in the future, would probably know what they were doing, and could shrink the quotas to suit their needs.
Is this a penny pinching idea from PlusNet to hope users don't notice they are shoe-horned into a smaller quota and therefore only use half their allowance?
Thanks for the speedy reply and resolution....