How I saved $80 a month on my cable and Internet bill

I was reviewing my cable bill last month and was floored that I was spending $120 a month for a DVR, cable and Internet access. This blew my mind, and I set out on a quest to lower my bill without losing access to quality content (I like to watch educational shows and documentaries). I had a couple of requirements prior to heading down this road:

1. I needed to be able to view shows on the major TV networks.

2. Internet bandwidth needed to be sufficient to stream movies from Hulu, Netflix or Apple.

3. Wanted to be able to access on content on demand.

None of my requirements called for cable tv, so the first thing I did was cancel my cable and return the cable box. I replaced my cable with HDTV over-the-air service, which I am obtaining through a Leaf indoor HDTV antenna. This paper thin antenna works great, and I am able to pick up crystal clear reception from the major networks, as well as a number of other stations I didn’t know were available. Can’t beat free!

Cutting cable saved me $60 a month, but I started to wonder if I could do more. I went back to my bill and noticed that I was being charged $7 a month to lease a modem, and my Internet service was running me $43 a month. After a bit of research I realized you can purchase a modem, so I picked up a Motorola SB6121 SURFboard DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem (if you decide to buy your own modem make sure you get a model that works with your cable provider) for $40 and returned the modem I was leasing. This purchase will pay for itself in 6-months, and after that I will begin saving $7 a month. Nice!

So with two relatively minor changes I was saving $67 a month. Could I do more? Well it appears I could. I went out to a competitors website and started looking at their Internet rates. They have a plan similar to mine that was $13 less a month, so I called my cable provided and told them I was going to switch. They transferred me to their retention department who offered me the same plan as their competitor, which chopped another $13 off my bill. So if I you add up the $60 I saved from cable, the $7 I saved by purchasing a modem and the $13 monthly reduction in Interent service I’m now saving $80 a month! I still need to find a good way to stream movies and documentaries, and ideally I would like it to work with the roku digital video player. How are my readers watching movies and documentaries in the digital world?

Locating good hosting providers

I have been trying to locate a high quality hosting provider now for 3-months, and my first two attempts have failed miserably. Dreamhost had cool features and great support, but their infrastructure was not very realiable. 1and1 also had some useful features, but their support was horrible (I was getting 500 internal server error messages for 1/2 a day, and when they finally answered my ticket 24-hours later, they closed it saying my site was working fine.), and their infrastructure was less reliable than Dreamhost. Since I wanted my site to be up and operational 99% of the time, I decided I needed to do some research to find a reliable and trustworthy hosting provider.

My reserach took me to two web sites. The first site was hostsearch, which allows you to view reliability ratings and peoples feedback for numerous hosting providers. Their site is located here:

http://www.hostsearch.com/

The second site I used was hostingtalk. Hostingtalk is a large online forum for people to discuss hosting providers, and their searching capabilities are great for viewing the problems people had with a given provider. There site is located here:

http://www.hostingtalk.com/

After reading numerous reviews and talking to people about the providers I was thinking about using, I finally decided on Pair Networks. Here are the reasons I chose to go with them:

1. Reliability is the the most important thing at Pair Networks, and hopefully this will show over time (I can’t vouch for this yet, but will update this post once I know more).

2. Pair Networks provides problem and maintenance notifications by email.

3. The Pair Networks support staff seem to be extremely competent, and have been able to answer all of my questions so far.

4. The server prefetch.net is hosted on runs FreeBSD, which has a long track record for being extremely efficient and stable.

5. I have ssh access to the server my site is hosted on, so I can login and adjust content on the fly.

My “Advanced” hosting plan does have a few drawbacks. The plan costs $8 more per month than the other two providers, and provides considerably less bandwidth and disk storage. Luckily I don’t need 80GB of transfer or more than 1.5GB of disk space, so this isn’t an issue for me. Hopefully (fingers crossed) this provider pans out!

Dreamhost outage

I had my first extended downtime with Dreamhost today. According to my cron job that runs content-check every minute, my site was down for close to 30 minutes. I hope this is an isolated event, and plan to evaluate other providers in case I need to move my domain again. If anyone has recommendations on stable and reliable shared hosting providers, please feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section.

Switching hosting providers

While chatting with one of my friends a few months back, the subject of hosting providers came up. My friend has been hosting content with Dreamhost for quite some time now, and he has been extremely happy with their service. After reviewing their service plans, I decided to give them a try, and prefetch.net is now being hosted on AMD Opteron servers running Debian Linux. If you notice any problems, please let me know.