Simple Helix Magento Hosting Review

May 8, 2009

Right, so after over a month of putting this off I’m finally going to start writing some Magento Hosting reviews. The first is for Simple Helix. You might remember way back in April when I said I would be reviewing a few Magento hosts, and also running a free Magento hosting competition.

The competition is now over and I will be announcing the winners shortly, thanks to everyone who entered! I’ll compile the list of hosting annoyances you sent in and post it here shortly too. Just to re-iterate my thanks to the two hosting companies that put up prizes, A2 Hosting and Nexcess Hosting.

Enough about the competition, on to the Magento hosting review of Simple Helix hosting. I look at an installation from the point of view of someone doing them all the time. There are a few things I really like about hosting providers in general, the first is SSH access, especially the kind that’s granted by default when signing up. Simple Helix thankfully provide simple clean SSH access (not the ugly cPanel style java applet), which is something that I really appreciate. The other thing I find really helpful is the welcome email – hosting providers always send a welcome email. From a technical point of view I just love it when hosts lay out all of the hosting information in plain text, so I can easily copy paste it, without trawling through screens of fluff. Simple Helix scores points on both of these factors. But I’m sure if you don’t sign up for hosting every month, these kind of things are one off and you don’t really care!

I bet what you do care about is speed, disk space and bandwidth (and possibly support?). So here’s my take on those factors. My initial reaction to the speed question was wow, good – their server pulled the Magento install down at 6MB/s – that’s close over a 10Mbps pipe, so I can tell right away that they have decent internet facing bandwidth. Another indicator of speed is the unzip of the Magento package. If it’s almost instantaneous then you know the hardware is modern, with Simple Helix this was the case. So I knew they had a decent connection and decent modern hardware. The only other question is: how many people do I have to share with! Because that really decides what kind of performance I will get.

Being in New Zealand it’s always difficult to judge exactly how quickly a page will load for users in the Northern Hemisphere. That said, I found the Simple Helix pages loaded really quickly even way down under, and I know there are reports of that not being the case for everyone. One thing to consider is that some users may forget to enable caching for Magento, which is a sure fire way of slowing it down 3-4x, so always enable caching on production installations!

Database setup was incredibly easy, they do not use the standard cPanel style interface, so the usually 3 step process was made simpler and much easier, probably really helpful for people doing their own installations that are not familiar with hosting panels.

The last thing I noted was that Apache mod_rewrite was enabled by default, which I know may seem like an absolutely obvious thing for a hosting company, but I have been surprised by the number of them who do not do this! It is important for Magento SEO to have the rewrites enabled, and to use them, it’ll mean your URL’s can be of the form yourdomain.com/my-keyword-loaded-product-name.html which will help (hopefully).

The price and specs of their plans; $20 for 50GB bandwidth and 5GB of storage and $50 for 100Gb of bandwidth and 25GB of storage are definitely at the upper end of the shared hosting spectrum. In fact for $75 per month you can actually get an Amazon EC2 server, which is what I do personally and highly recommend. I am working on an EC2 AMI for a pimped out version of Magento (with extremely high performance, data security and ease of use) – details to follow in the next couple of weeks.

So what’s my conclusion, Simple Helix Hosting seems professional, modern, speedy and well configured for Magento. Their plans are $20 or $50, which is on the higher side, but it seems to me they’re worth it. If you’re in the market for Magento Hosting, Simple Helix are well worth trying out.

Update: I just want to add that this review and my recommendation of Simple Helix is based on the short time I spent setting up and testing Magento on their platform. I have since read a fair bit of negative feedback about the stability of their hosting and I can’t really comment on this because I didn’t experience it. So please keep this in mind when you are considering my review. Also, I will add that I’d always recommend doing your own backups and not relying on your hosts backup support.

Ashley

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Hi! I'm Ashley Schroder, a Software Engineer from New Zealand - this is a collection of notes on my experiences with Ecommerce Web Development, particularly Magento Development.

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16 responses to Simple Helix Magento Hosting Review

  1. We have a store hosted at simple helix and it was recently down… FOR OVER 24 HOURS!!!

    To make matters worse, their backup software failed and they lost the entire previous day of backups. So when the restore finally did complete we lost a whole day of orders!!!

    Their rememedy? Our next month of hosting is free… Below is the timeline of events as reported to us:

    —————————————
    Here is a timeline of events. These events are directly from our
    ticket history with GNAX (the data center) as well as our backup
    software (r1soft).

    5/12/09
    1:00am – Server crash – we opened a ticket with GNAX (the data center
    where our servers are located)
    1:30am – Auto FS check failed
    1:30am – Started manual FS check
    6:57am – FS check was stopped by tech due to errors & data was being
    dumped into lost & found
    9:39am – We requested KVM to work on the server remotely
    10:35am – We requested hard drive to be replaced
    12:47pm – Hard drive was replaced – started to rebuild
    2:01pm – Array failed at 63% – found that drive 0 was also bad –
    requested hard drive to be replaced
    2:54pm – Hard drive was replaced
    3:10pm – Reboot requested
    3:36pm – Server rebooted
    3:53pm – Hard drive 01 was removed
    3:57pm – Requested new drive install – replaced 01
    4:08pm – Hard drive was installed
    5:16pm – Download and burn CD was requested (Bare Metal Restore Disc)
    5:19pm – Reboot requested
    5:22pm – Server rebooted
    6:09pm – CD in drive
    6:29pm – Reboot requested
    7:10pm – Server rebooted
    7:35pm – Reboot requested
    7:47pm – Server rebooted
    7:56pm – Server rebooted
    8:22pm – Bare Metal Restore started – ended at 6:44am (241 gigs total)

    5/13/09
    7:00am – Rebooted server to confirm BMR
    7:05am – BMR Failed (bad grub.conf)
    8:15am – Reboot requested
    8:16am – Server rebooted
    9:11am – Reboot requested
    9:54am – Server rebooted
    9:58am – Server rebooted
    10:06am – Reboot requested
    10:11am – Server rebooted
    10:41am – Reboot requested
    10:44am – Server rebooted
    11:03am – Reboot requested
    11:05am – Server rebooted

    Started restore of the server at 7am on 5/12/09 and was cancelled at
    9:31am (only 4.7/241 gigs had been restored within a 2 ½ hour period
    at this rate the restore would take 128 hours. Opened ticket with
    R1Soft and they informed us of a bug that affects restores or archive
    of 100,000 or more files. )

    THE BACKUP THAT WAS RESOTORED WAS FROM 5/12/2009 AT 2PM!!

  2. Thanks for providing some feedback on Simple Helix’s reliability. I’d be interested to hear from others with experiences (favourable or negative) on Simple Helix’s reliability or hosting in general. Constant uptime is not really something my reviews can test for, so I appreciate having the input.

  3. Yeah, Simple Helix really does suck. I’ve been with them for about a year and in the beginning they were impressive, but since then I have noticed how flakey and unprofessional they are. I have a few stories of how bad they suck on my blog. The most recent suckage: my sites (10 hosted at simple helix) were down for more than 2 days. 100% uptime SLA? Yeah, whatever.

    If you do sign up with them and they suck it up, report them to ratepoint. Their reviews are all gamed, I’m sure. File a report with 1 star and stick to your guns.

  4. Thanks for this, I have been looking at a good Magento host if I continue to use the system. I have done a review and analysis of my Magento experience here:

    http://www.pickledshark.com/magento-ecommerce-complicated-bloated-brilliant/

  5. After a server malfunction we were told we had to move to a different server. After the move the support staff has spent 3 whole days, and counting, trying and failing at setting up new symlinks and pointers because they had failed to include these in the backup process.

    They claim their support center responds after 1 hour, they ignored me for 15 hours straight. They have still not corrected the issue, even after claiming it has been fixed.

    When shit hits the fan this host shows its true face. If you rely on your webshop, don’t host with SimpleHelix. I’m moving ASAP.

  6. I’ve been reading the simplehelix bad reviews, it seems like all the bad reviews are from the same 2 or 3 people. It is possible they had a bad hardware failure that would cause one server to go down.

    I am hosting a heavy traffic site there I will let you know what I think.

    I would not be so sillly as to mess around for 3 days. Pay 5$ and get a mirror of your site up on another server until the other host gets its stuff together. There is no sense in sitting there and waiting while your host is down when you can run a backup for small dollars. Do not let your host do you DNS for you. Do your DNS yourself with your registrar. Be a smart consumer and problems like this won’t sink you. Any computer can fail that happens.

  7. Thanks for the feedback Fever, I think you make a good point and it’s advice I follow myself. Do your own DNS, and your own backups – that way there you can just up and move if your host lets you down.

  8. If you checkout the various live Magento stores listed at MagentoHost.info you can compare the load speeds of real live Magento stores for yourself for a variety of hosting providers. In fact, there are quite a few live stores listed that are running in SimpleHelix’s hosting environment.

    This seems like a more realistic way to see the “real” Magento performance in a given hosting environment. I’m certainly not accusing anyone of anything but I’m skeptical that some hosts might host their official Magento demo stores on servers with lighter than usual load. It certainly could be tempting with the stiff hosting competition out there! Ashley – I’m a fan of your Magento email plug-in by the way. Lots of good Magento information coming from you and this blog. Thanks!

    D.W.

  9. They claim to be fast and reliable. Here is the truth.

    My site got hacked because one of their users had a malicious code injected into their site so it effected the whole server and all the websites got the virus.. now that I call reliable! lol. Also they are the slowest host I have ever seen, actually google stopped indexing my site because it was so slow.. take a deep breath if you go with simple helix.

  10. well now that I know that I can post comments here is my two cents. I think we should al stop writing reviews here. I’m pretty sure this guy is an affiliate of Simple Helix Magento hosting provider and all the reviews and / or testing are bogus.

  11. Hi, AY – I have put affiliate links in to this post, but it’s an objective review and I’ll stand by that. All subsequent comments are to the best of my knowledge legitimate.

  12. My current ISP has had issues with one server that has two websites of mine which I monetize with AdSense. I noticed a few months back that labs in Google webmaster tools showed a slowdown on page load speed, and I thought I noticed that too. To make a long story short, I’ve been checking around for a faster ISP, found SimpleHelix, and called and talked with someone over there a few weeks ago. I actually planned on calling them tomorrow to switch ISPs, and then decided to check for reviews. I am so glad I did! What I like the most about this post Ashley, don’t take offense, is the number of comments you’ve received from dissatisfied customers. Plus, your caveat at the end of your post stating you’ve seen the bad reviews. There is no way I can go forward with a company that has had this many bad reviews. So, thank you for helping me make a decision!

  13. I have been hosting with Simple Helix since 2009 and I’ve had no downtime due to their server upgrades nor any poor tech support. I found them while searching for a Magento host. I do wish that they offered more disk storage for the shared hosting though.

  14. Simplehelix.com is NOT a world class hosting solution!!! 10X faster Magento hosting means nothing when your server is down for three days due to VMS server failure. There is no Enterprise Managed Backup in place as promised from the company! Their poor service has caused a major loss of revenue and a halt to everyday business. No e-mail, no data, no working website… This is no minor error on the part of simplehleix.com it is a critical one and I highly recommend not investing in their product and if you have already move to a new host.

  15. Hi Ashley,

    Did you ever get that EC2 AMI project finished? I like AWS as well, but I don’t that the tech skills to set up and secure my own instance. Looking forward to your post on this.

    Thanks!

    Kevin

  16. We used to love simple-helix, but since our site goes down every other day for X/Y reasons, we are forced to switch. Good price, fast servers (mostly), good customer service, bad hosting.