The Lunarpages Web Hosting company got its name from a Star Trek episode. I am not sure which episode or series, only that it involved images of a moon, planets and lunar material, if that helps narrow it down. After discovering this trivial fact, I set out on mission to go where no reviewer has gone before: determine whether Lunarpages’ hosting performance is stellar.
I did some probing of Lunarpages and found that the company got its start in the late 1990’s giving out free web hosting on the planet earth. Even when Lunarpages began charging for hosting, the competition was no where near what we see in the web hosting industry today where we see hosts piling up like tribbles. Over the years, Lunarpages began adding dedicated, VPS and Windows hosting to their shared offerings. Lunarpages determined to grow at a slow pace rather than risk crossing the neutral zone at warp speed. Timing and business acumen seem to have been critical factors in the company’s growth. Here is where they stand today:
- Over 100,000 accounts hosted
- Datacenters located in Los Angeles, Riverside and Las Vegas
- More than 2500 servers under ownership
Lunarpages Features/Pricing – The Ferengi Factor
Initial tricorder readings taken on the Lunarpages Basic Plan priced at $6.95/month ($4.95 with a 60 month purchase) indicated enough bandwidth to drive a starship through (Unlimited) and more disk space (Unlimited) than you can shake a phaser at. One thing I learned from doing research for this Lunarpages review was that big, established corporate web hosts purchase large volumes of bandwidth at discount prices, sort of the Wal-Mart effect. A few standard features that came up on the main view screen were:
- Ruby on Rails 6
- MySQL 5
- PHP 5
And some unique features:
- 1 free domain for life
- CoffeeCup software valued at $700
- CrazyEgg tracking/stats
Taking a look under the hood at the dilithium crystals, I saw that Lunarpages is powered by the well-known Dell PowerEdge line of servers, which Lunarpages says is “the most innovative and secure servers in the industry.” PowerEdge appears to be more of a generic name and it’s not clear specifically which models are currently in use. I will update this review if I find out.
Control Panel – Bridge to Engineering
After logging in, I saw a nice and neat tabbed layout of “website information,” “Upgrades/Addons,” “Billing History,” and “Specials” below some big fat icons for “Helpdesk,” “FAQ,” “Tutorials” and “Network Status.” I was relieved to see the familiar cPanel icons from the cPanel X theme. I have grown very comfortable with cPanel over the years and have developed a respect for the package after testing other control panels.
Feeling a bit lazy, I went for the Fantastico icon. In case you don’t know, Fantastico is a third party script library feature that web hosts embed into their cPanel control panels. Each of the popularly known scripts, many open source or free, can be auto installed in seconds with a scant few clicks–no MySQL database setup, no uploading files or chmoding files (all tasks that Vulcans enjoy). A feature like this very much appeals to the programmatically challenged folk like myself–I’m a doctor, not a web developer, Jim. At the time of this review, only 37 scripts were available. I successfully one-click installed and uninstalled 5 of them with no problems. Some important scripts that other hosts offer like Drupal, Mambo and Typo3 were sadly missing from the Lunarpages Fantastico offering. Transporter malfunction?
What about the versions of the scripts listed? Were they current? It is extremely important to have available the most current versions of the scripts. I can tell you from experience that some hosts do not keep these current so users end up installing outdated and less secure versions of scripts. Not good. I poked around in the Fantastico section and found that WordPress and OSCommerce—both scripts that I use—were exactly the same versions as appear on the official web sites.
Lunarpages Support – Hailing Frequencies Open?
Another point that came through in researching Lunarpages was the uncanny emphasis they place on customer support. It seems they go out of their way to make the customer feel that 24/7 support is available if needed. The words “Phone Support,” “Ask a Question” and the support phone number were plastered all over the Lunarpages.com website. The welcome email clearly listed multiple avenues of contacting support.
I took note of this because with some hosts, I get the impression that they are deliberately burying the contact info. Some hosts would prefer not hear my whining. This tactic can backfire with stubborn webmasters like myself who just try all the harder until they find a way to be heard. I never felt that Lunarpages was cloaking customer support; if anything, they were promoting it. Cloaking didn’t work for the Romulans and it won’t work for web hosts.
Email Support Test
I decided to find out for myself if Lunarpages customer support was willing to lower their shields for me. I sent an email support request at exactly 2:53 am before I went to bed saying that at I didn’t see Drupal in the Fantastico package and asking if there were some way to install it.
After I woke up the next morning and logged on, I was glad to have received a response in my inbox at 10:31 am with a ticket number kindly stating that Drupal is not currently offered for installation in cPanel’s Fantastico and that I could manually download and install it. A download URL was provided along with encouragement to contact Lunarpages again if needed.
Phone Support Test
My tests had been going well. Now it was time to turn on my communicator and make the dreaded customer support phone call. This is where web hosts always seem to implode. Come to think of it, most hosts probably don’t even offer phone support. If they do, they tend to force the customer to hold a long time and listen to elevator music interspersed with promotional plugs.
On my first attempt, I held for a musicless 17 minutes and was disconnected. I have no idea if the problem was due to my cell phone or the Lunarpages call center. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. On the second attempt, I held for 10 minutes and was relieved to get a very professional sounding and courteous support rep (I think his name was Josh). I basically asked him why I couldn’t install AWStats through cPanel. He explained that this script wasn’t available through cPanel. I would have to visit the AWStats site and upload/install the current version to my site myself. That wasn’t really the answer I was hoping for, but I certainly appreciated Josh’s courteous and confident manner. He further confirmed my suspicions that the reason many scripts were not available for automatic install in the Lunarpages cPanel was due to security concerns.
Was the positive impression I had about Lunarpages customer support accurate? I’d have to say waiting on hold for 10 minutes was not much fun. But then again, by web hosting company standards, I don’t think that 10 minutes is too terribly unreasonable.
Set a course for the Lunarpages Star System?
I would have given Lunarpages a 5/5 rating if they had offered the full panoply of cPanel scripts and perhaps lessened my customer support hold time a bit. In fact, I may yet upgrade the rating. They appear quite conservative in what scripts are allowed for installation in the control panel. Other hosts do offer more scripts. Unlike some other hosts, though, Lunarpages does not claim to offer features they don’t support.
Sources: Webmasterradio.fm’s Net Income (www.webmasterradio.fm/episodes/index.php?showId=43), hosted by ShoeMoney, Amy Armitage from Lunarpages.
Note: Web hosting reviews are normally performed by independent reviewers. Lunarpages is an excpetion as it was written Clickfire founder, Emory Rowland.