I've been hosting with A Small Orange for quite a while now (more than 5 years, if the whois records on my original domain are to be believed). Generally, they've been pretty decent - barring one or two issues with migrating accounts. Their only real drawback (for me), is that they're based in the States.
Why does that matter? Well, response times on the servers aren't great from here. And, there's a bit of lag when SSHed into the server. So, I was a little bit annoyed with this and decided to start searching for alternate hosting in South Africa. If anything, the results mean that I will put up with a little bit of lag, especially considering how much value ASO provide.
It must be said upfront, that I don't have beef with any of the hosting providers mentioned. They're just the major players that came up from doing a few quick Google searches for hosting providers within South Africa. I was also looking at their hosting plans in a similar price band - around the R50/month.
Afrihost seem to do ADSL really well. I have my ADSL account with them, and I encountered absolutely no hassles in setting it up. It literally took perhaps all of an hour to get set up with them. They were my natural first choice when looking at South African hosting.
|Control panel:||cPanel 11|
|Programming:||PHP 5.2.7 / MySQL 5.0.91
Not sure how many databases are allowed.
|Drawbacks:||No addon domains (allows for hosting of only one site).
Their support staff are initially helpful, but are frustrating in that they only half answer your questions.
Could only find a simple DNS editor in cPanel, which rules out the use of my Google Apps account for mail.
Hetzner is like the old grandaddy in the South African hosting setup. They've been around forever - almost everyone has heard of them. However, having to work with them almost every day, I am slightly biased against them, as I don't always receive pleasant experiences from them.
|Control panel:||Proprietary KonsoleH|
|Programming:||No PHP / No MySQL|
|Drawbacks:||Ummm... the lack of programming ability. That's a biggy.
I'm pretty sure you can only host one domain on this plan, but I'm not 100% certain.
I must admit, I've never dealt with Cybersmart at all before. Their radio adverts have always entertained me though. Considering they're making a name for themselves with ADSL provision, I thought I would take a look at their hosting offerings.
|Control panel:||cPanel (Version unknown)|
|Programming:||PHP 3.4.4 / MySQL 5.1.52|
|Drawbacks:||Haha. Need I mention the PHP version? Can that even connect to MySQL 5.1!?
The lack of ability to manage DNS for Google Apps account support.
RSAWeb have always been, in my mind, a premium hosting provider. To me, this means that you'd pay more in the long run, but your service would be that much better. Doing this research, I discovered that they're not that different when it comes to the lower-end hosting packages they offer.
|Control panel:||Proprietary MyRSAWEB|
|Programming:||PHP 4 & 5 / MySQL 5|
|Drawbacks:||Only 1 MySQL database.
No .htaccess support.
No cronjob support.
No SSH access.
A Small Orange
So, ASO are based in the States. Not ideal. But, what is ideal, is the value they provide for what you pay for. The table of offering really speaks for itself:
|Control panel:||cPanel 11|
|Programming:||PHP 5.2 / MySQL 5.0|
At even a bad exhange rate of R8 /$, this means it costs R200 /year.
Unlimited sub-, addon-, and parked domains.
Unlimited email accounts.
Unlimited FTP accounts.
Advanced DNS control - I'm able to integrate Google Apps easily, as and when I feel like it.
As another comparison, paying what is the equivalent of R40 per month, will get you 750MB storage with 15GB traffic.
This, dear friends, is why I will continue to host outside of South Africa. Hosting inside South Africa - although faster - is far more expensive than elsewhere; especially considering what you get when you pay for it.