Best Web hosting service/software for a family Web site

The server for is just about dead.  Fortunately this comes at a time when one of my nephews, last name of “Greenspun”, is reaching his 11th birthday.  I’m planning on shutting down the outsourced online community component of, which is these days better handled by Yahoo! Groups, and replacing the whole server with a family Web site.  The question then becomes where to get it hosted and what software to run.  I want the 11-year-old punk to administer the service; I will keep my own content primarily on

It would be nice to have the following:

  • email for the family, e.g., to forward wherever
  • places for family members to create personal Web sites, in the pre-Weblog days I would have said that these would be subdirectories off the root
  • RSS feeds to which interested friends can subscribe; it would be nice if someone could say “I want to see new stuff by Benjamin and Harry but not from Philip” or “I want to see everything new”
  • easy to upload and update content in various formats (text, photos, sound, video) by young family members using Web browsers alone
  • long-run potential for doing some scripting and database programming (though this will not be an online community-style site; the Internet is too full of spam these days to make that worthwhile at a family level)
  • if there is scripting it should be done in some tools that are likely to be popular in 2015 or 2020 when we are likely next to examine the server
  • an annual cost of under $250 (Uncle Philip needs to save up for his turbine-powered helicopter)

Where to host this and what software to run?

35 thoughts on “Best Web hosting service/software for a family Web site

  1. Check out Basically, hosting for hackers by hackers (in the old-school, best sense of the word). They seem to have a clue. They just debuted Strongspace which is pretty nice for e.g. personal backups.

  2. from the Movable Type guys runs $150/year for the pro version, which allows unlimited weblogs, each of which can have their own domain map, so presumably you could do and etc. The system has special features for photo galleries, weblogs, lists, comments, etc. There are pre-designed templates which are fully customizable, and you can drop down to the HTML level either for templates of even to upload raw files. RSS is automatic for each weblog, so people can just subscribe to who they want to subscribe to. (Note that because “weblog” in this context just means “Web page with a special template,” you can post “regular” Web pages through this system quite easily.)

    You can layer on top of this, which for $15/year lets you do the email forwarding and will route your subdomains to TypePad servers as needed (I think each map is ~$5).

    You can put up to 1GB on the account, and upload whatever files you like

    The system seems ideally suited for admin by a youngster because you can do so much through the Web interface.

    Nevertheless this setup isn’t going to allow scripting and db access, you would need to add on another account for that.

    For programming/Web dev I use which gives you your own private Linux Kernel on a monster Dell server with gobs of processor and disk. You get root and to pick your own Linux distro. I pay $40/month for 128MB, I have heard of other folks running comfortably with a mail server, Web server, database and scripting in this amount of RAM but personally I have zero desire to push it beyond just the Web server, compiled-in perl interpreter and a database. Of course this is the “build it all yourself” option.

  3. Are you really determined to do some scripting / database programming? I think you would find that a service like TypePad (as Ryan mentioned above) would do 99% of what you need and the pain involved in reading through 1000s of lines of someone else’s sourcecode would make the extra 1% note worth custom development.

    Running your own server hasn’t become significantly easier since you wrote Chapter 8 of ‘the book’. An 11 year old would struggle to keep modern web and database servers running (experiened sysadmins do!). This involves trouble-shooting random web-server / database problems and keeping all the software up to date.

    Of course there are thousands of companies like Rackspace that will take care of this for you. The cheapest of these are awful and the expensive ones are going to cost more than $250/year. Unless you really need the flexibility of being able to create your own / modify an existing open-source blog system then this would just add complexity to your life.

  4. I’m a fan of You can then install Movable Type or Word Press and mySQL and all the other bits.

  5. There are plenty of hosts that offer this sort of hosting plan very cheaply (less than 10$ per month). I have a reseller hosting set up myself for my web design clients ( with plans starting at 7.99$ a month (no setup), however there are many such options available, such as Dreamhost, as mentioned before. I would go with something other than Typepad since generally speaking any other option will allow you to easily install various web applications as well as different database options. Many hosts such as mine offer Fantastico, which is a simple and easy script installation service for installing several applications like Gallery (ironic), WordPress, osCommerce, etc.

  6. What you probably want is a hosting provider that provides a web-based control panel, along with auto-installer scripts for common web packages. So, look for a provider that offers either “CPanel” or “DirectAdmin” control panels, then either “Fantastico” or “Installatron” auto-installers, which function as plugins to the control panel and let you easily install blog/photo-gallery/whatever software. Should be about $20 a month from places like and many others.

  7. I am having very good luck with They use cpanel, which will allow your punk to spend very little time having to figure out how to keep it running, while at the same time it won’t stop him if he wants to learn the service a bit deeper. You can get a decent package for about $10-$15. A $15 account will let you host unlimited domains with 7GB of space and 75 GB/month of traffic, each one with its own stand alone control panel.

    The bloggers in your family can use WordPress or pretty much anything that can run on Apache 1.3.33, PHP 4 and Mysql 4.1.

  8. Don’t know about Windows hosting, but $10 a month can get you a whale of a package with LAMP, and install a package like Blogger or any file manager type thing. For $30 a month you can get a virtual server, where you can have all sorts of fun. If you want everything driven from a web browser, it makes sense to look for hosting providers that offer a decent UI to be able to setup/administer emails/offer FTP, etc.… or you can install the tools yourself…

    What tools will be popular in 2015 or 2020? I dunno, sometimes it seems we’re stuck in server evolution, though Ruby on Rails (or other application server frameworks) seems to be the trendy thing these days… …JSP-a-likes still abound, but Java still sucks…

  9. Regarding scripting, 2015 is way too far to predict for sure and 99% of web scripting solutions suck anyway. My advice is to do as little web programming as possible by yourself (buy COTS, outsource it to the far east, whatever), as that will save a lot of frustration in the long run.

  10. We compiled a list of hosts that don’t suck here:

    Including Dreamhost and Textdrive which have been mentioned already. If you go with someone like Dreamhost or Bluehost setting up a new WordPress blog is a click of a button.

  11. I had to set up a website for my fiancee.
    ( I use my own server, but this setup works well for rented shared hosting too.

    For her photos, she uses Picasa and all she needs to do there is “export as web page”. I have set up a “synchronize” task in WinSCP and that is all she needs to call to upload them to her website. The only custom job I did was in index.php that checks and sorts all the subdirectories and creates an index on the fly.

    To put some text up, I simply used Blogger. Everything is editted on their servers, but you give them an scp login on your server and they dump static pages there.

    This way I have no software to maintain and she has nice interfaces to work with.

    Another solution could be to simply install PHP blogging software and Gallery for images.

  12. I have to second that on the Dreamhost nod. The web based administration is fantastic: creating/managing e-mail boxes, multiple accounts, multiple web sites with access grantable to selected admins, scripting support for PHP, Perl, Ruby, et al, and as has been said WordPress for blogging/RSS features. And base plans are VERY inexpensive. Did I mention their bandwidth offerings are generous? No, I’m not spamming here – I really am just a satisfied Dreamhost customer.

  13. A question: I once looked into OpenACS and saw lots of packages to do things like weblogs and RSS. Have you considered using this? (It is of course descended from your own ACS.)

    Oh, and I haven’t tried running WordPress on but that might be a nice option.

  14. Ryan: I think the problem with OpenACS is that it isn’t supported by any of the budget hosting services. That’s fine for a medium-size organization with a budget or a young computer nerd who wants to maintain his or her own Postgres installation but maybe not for a family site (I think my nephew has better sense than to get into IT as a career so he is not on track to be a database/system administrator).

  15. I also use DreamHost (just starting year 2). They offer a lot for the price, and in fact have upped the storage/bandwidth twice in the past year.

    The one area in which I think they are weak is antispam. They provide a version of SpamAssassin, but (IMO) it’s inconvenient to use. (You have to enable antispam on an entire domain, and quarantined messages can only be managed via webmail.) But you can install your own copy of SpamAssassin, which is what I’ve done.

  16. I’ve used Dreamhost for five years, $9.95 a month. It offers everything you would need for that price, unless you draw significant traffic. (Be sure your nephew gets a day job before launching a popular Web service.)

    WordPress is good; I suspect that one or more installations of it will accomplish everything, if your nephew installs some useful plugins. (As you say, a spam-blocking plugin is vital if he enables comments… but the available spam-blockers worked well for me.)

    Dreamhost doesn’t let you write Java servlets. I don’t lose a lot of sleep over that fact.

    Of course, there’s no Oracle or even Postgres. But you can get all the mySQL you want for free, and it’s worth every penny that you pay for it.

    I’m not absolutely sure what Dreamhost’s uptime is — I pay scant attention. It’s probably not enterprise-class, but what do I expect for a lousy ten bucks?

    Larry is right: you’ll probably want your own SpamAssassin installation.

  17. I’ve been using without any problems. They’ll manage domains, emails, forwarding with tons of space for only $50/year. Pay a bit more and you get your hosted linux or windows environment. Very good web-based admin. For moveable type, which is quite flexbile, you have to pay the license.

  18. I had a site hosted on for the 3.95 a month, but you really are gimped compared to other economical hosting plans — you have PHP or perl for scripting but they lock down mailout functions (though you can setup email stuff via panels) and some other POSIX functions that kind of preclude running a lot of the popular blogging/CMS packages. Of course, they’re (godaddy) happy to offer you “upgrades” with those sorts of packages pre-built for your web hosting pleasure, but then it’s not $3.95 a month anymore…

  19. I’ve been using hostgator’s webhosting service for more than one year and cannot be any happier. You can see the hosting features here:

    They have a fancy cpanel, a 11-year kid can operate the whole site all alone without any problem. Installation of popular content management systems like Drupal or blogging tools like WordPress are just several mouse clicks.

    I’m most impressed by their superior service. They have live people 24/7 online with whom you can chat whenever you have questions. Whenever I had any problem and submitted emails for support, the problems were usually solved in one hour. In an extreme case, it took them only 5 minutes to get the DNS issue straight and responded my email. Strongly recommended!

  20. I’ve been with CWI Hosting for a number of years and I’ve been thrilled with the value for the money, features and customer service.

    You can get a ton of space and bandwidth inexpensively with all the bells and whistles – PostgreSQL and/or MySQL, email forwarding, subdomains, multiple domains, complete CPanel access to everything, shell access (though that’s only by request now) – the works.

    They’re enterprise class with onsite diesel generators, RAID and other redundancies, etc. I’ve not had a second of downtime in over 5 years with them.

    I also second the recommendation for Word Press. There’s not much it can’t do and it’s constantly getting better.

  21. If you don’t want to revisit your server decisions until 2020, then a hosting service is the wrong choice. It will be a crap shoot picking one that will still be in business then. Those that are in business will no doubt migrate to the latest and greatest authoring software, which may or may not be reasonably compatible with your original choices.

  22. I have some stuff on Hosting Matters. I am just getting started with it, but it has a lot of stuff, and is priced reasonably. It’s worth looking at. The guys at WizBang ( recommended it to me when I asked who was hosting their Movable Type install.

  23. For a family web site, you might want to look at

    It has many of the features you were desiring with unlimited space and the lowest price for anything similar. It was designed specifically to host a family web site to help keep families in close communication. It has a family photo album, family calendar, family address book, family message boards, etc. It can easily be managed by youngsters (my 11 year old manages our own family’s site).

  24. I’ve been with Hosting for couple of years and I must say that their service is quite satisfactory for me in the whole industry. I will stick with them, don’t see any single reason to look for another company. The most valuable service is the speed of my site, never had any problem with the speed. Some features to mention here are – multiple domains hosting, complete CPanel access to everything, shell access, unlimited email forwarding and many more.

  25. I have used many hosting companies in the past but I have to say that has been the best support yet. They have a free phone number and MSN support which seems to always be online. My experience from the start has been very good. The support has been fast and and informative, the server and ftp have also been very fast and up to any task I have asked of them.

  26. Bringing back up an old post, thought I’d give it some life 🙂 I use a number of hosts for this type of hosting. Firstly, I would recommend either WordPress or Joomla as the CMS. WordPress is easier to use though.

    For hosting, I would recommend HostMonster or Domains at Retail. HostMonster if you run Joomla, and either if you run WordPress.

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