Updated October 16, 2004
The first step in installing Movable Type is making sure that your web host meets MT requirements. In addition to the basic requirements there are many other factors to consider, in particular the quality of support, the reliability of the service, and the degree to which the host's staff is familiar with Movable Type. Which web host you choose can make a big difference in terms of the ease with which you install and maintain your MT weblog.
What to Look for in a Host Provider
1. Ability to run custom CGI scripts
2. Perl installed on server, version 5.004_04 or greater.
3. MySQL (although MT works with Berkeley DB, MySQL is much more powerful and stable)
4. PHP (necessary for many customizations)
5. CGIWrap or suEXEC (for added security in shared server environments)
Very Good to Have:
6. Image::Magick (for photo thumbnails)
7. Cpanel or PhpMyAdmin (to do powerful edits of the database, including backing up the database)
8. Ability to perform cron tasks (for scheduled posts)
9. Ability to add .htaccess files (for many things including password protection)
10. Server-Side Includes (an alternative to PHP for including the contents of one file into another)
11. 24x7 support, fast response time (if something's not working on your site, don't you want to fix it right away?)
12. Familiarity with Movable Type (a host whose tech support staff is familiar with Movable Type can make all the difference as you install the program, update it, and customize it.)
Other considerations. My website was once hosted at Sirius Connections in San Francisco which was bought out by another firm and went bankrupt, leaving thousands of customers in the lurch. Financial stability of your web host is important. Owning and operating its own Network Operations Center (NOC) is also an indication of your web host's size, stability, and commitment to quality of service. If your weblog is a business more than a hobby, the added costs of going with a larger, more professionally run outfit may make sense. Another consideration is price. Many people look for "free" hosting. From what I can gather from the MT Forums regarding the experiences of people with free hosts, you get what you pay for. None of the following recommended web hosts are free. All offer a variety of pricing plans.
LMT Web Host Survey Results
In the first weeks of October, 2004, LMT conducted a survey of Movable Type users regarding their web hosts. The survey had 234 responses and participants were drawn from visitors to Learning Movable Type, the MT Support Forums, and the MT Professional Network. The 234 responses represented more than a 130 different web hosts. Of these web hosts, only 20 had 2 or more responses. For the purpose of identifying the most MT-friendly web hosts, I have chosen to focus on those web hosts that had multiple responses (3 or more), to help give the resulting data more relevance.
Of the 234 respondents, 90% were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their web host, and 90% would be very likely or somewhat likely to recommend the web host to another. There was very little differentiation among satisfaction ratings for the most popular web hosts. However, there was a wide range of responses when questioned specifically about reliability, support responsiveness, and MT-focus.
The following chart shows the average response score for the reliability and support questions for all of the responses:
"They are just amazing at Hostmatters. Often my support tickets are answered in less than five minutes."
"Total Choice Hosting is the best host that I have been with. I have no reservations in recommending them to everyone."
Total Choice Hosting offers Movable Type support through its active community forums. Several forum moderators are highly knowledgeable about MT. Note that TCH's help desk does not officially offer support for Movable Type and other third party programs.
Blogomania was an often mentioned web host, with 10 responses. They are by reputation very MT-friendly, though it appears support response time at one time suffered due to a small staff. Christine, who runs Blogomania, acknowledges past issues and and asserts that those issues have been resolved. A clear benefit of Blogomania is the personal, knowledgeable support from Christine. If you have a question about installing MT, you will not get directed to ask your question in a forum; your question will be addressed directly by someone with a deep understanding of Movable Type.
"I know that some people have recently had trouble with Blogomania, but personally, I have been very satisfied. There was rather extensive support for my original MT installation two years ago and Christine was extremely helpful. Response times have been somewhat slower in the past year, but my service has been smooth enough that I have not had to worry too much about tech support."
Blogomania has been fantastic to work with and I am very pleased with their service!
Pair Networks was rated above average on most elements. In addition to the 7 respondents who identified Pair Networks as their web host, there were two other respondents who had left Pair Networks for their current web host.
"I teach web design at a university and recommend Pair to my students even if it is more expensive than other hosters. My second recommendation is Total Choice Hosting. Many of my web design clients have come to me with nightmare hosting situations and I always port them to Pair."
DreamHost was by far the most mentioned web host, with 25 responses representing more than 10% of the total. Where DreamHost falls behind is in two critical areas: responding to requests within 2 hours and the accuracy and helpfulness of the responses. DreamHost is a large commercial host that owns its own NOC.
"I was very happy with Dreamhost until I upgraded to MT 3.11. The Apache module of PHP doesn't support the .htaccess file necessary for the dynamic page generation. I can compile PHP as a CGI module on my account but that is over my head."
"I suspect they view MT users as a nuisance."
"Very down-to-earth business. Very open with their communications."
Media Temple - "Downtime and slow server speeds have become a thing of the past with MediaTemple. Even throwing out these factors, their support system is excellent!"
ICDSoft - "Fastest ticket support answers i've ever seen (under 20 minutes usually)"
PowWeb - "I really like Powweb because you do get a lot for your money. The support is a little iffy at times, but I have had very few problems in the 2.5 years I've been with them."
TextDrive - "This is a different kind of hosting and I cannot recommend them highly enough."
Two frequently mentioned web hosts, DotEasy and 1 and 1, scored below the average. In addition to the 6 respondents who identified 1 and 1 as their web host, there were 3 other respondents who had left 1 and 1 for their current web host. All three noted dissatisfaction with 1 and 1. The main reasons cited were the need for better tech support and better compatibility with Movable Type.
The survey asked questions regarding features and support methods. I've compiled the answers for the most popular web hosts. I checked the websites of each of the following web hosts to check on the accuracy of this table and in some instances made changes if I could find no evidence on the host's website to support the feature claim. Note that certain features only come with higher levels of service plans, in particular phone support. There may be inaccuracies with this data; I recommend checking with the web host directly to ensure that it offers the features and capabilities you desire.
Regarding pricing, the following graph charts the prices that respondents pay for their web hosting:
There were many other hosts (a couple hundred) that aren't detailed in this summary. Unfortunately I only had time to review the results for the most mentioned web hosts. So just because a host is not mentioned here doesn't mean that it isn't an MT-friendly web host. Hopefully the criteria detailed here will help us all make better decisions regarding which web host to choose.
Six Apart hosting partners for Movable Type - Six Apart is partnering with web hosts to offer Movable Type hosting.
Webhostingtalk.com - a forum about web hosts.
Changing web hosts? Make sure to check out: Moving Your MT Blogs To A New Server.
Full disclosure: I currently host LMT and my other elise.com weblogs at Hurricane Electric. Mine was the only survey response that mentioned HE. HE would have scored quite low on the scales mentioned; their website docs are old and out of date, their website difficult to navigate, and they don't offer Cpanel or PhpMyAdmin. They expect everyone to know and use shell. However, they are financially stable, they own their own Network Operating Center (NOC), and they provide 24x7 phone technical support with all of their plans.