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Choosing a hosting provider

Discussion in 'Hosting' started by stealthhosts, Jul 31, 2005.

  1. stealthhosts

    stealthhosts New Member Webmaster

    Choosing a webhost:
    You have written your first (or 101st) website, you want the whole world to see it and you want it quick. Stop for a second and take a look at what you are wanting. From 10p to £1000 a month there is a lot of choice. Most people tend to be swayed toward one webhost by someone else that has used them; do they look for the same things in a webhost as you?

    Free Hosting:
    Free hosting is the term applied to the likes of geocities, Lycos, tk etc. It costs nothing to have your pages up on the web for all to see. This is wonderful for someone who has done a simple HTML page and doesn’t mind being quite limited with regard to interactivity. Limitations include:
    Advertising which you have no control over, limited languages, limited or no server side scripting, no ftp access, no ssh/terminal access, no cgi-bin (so no perl or cgi apps), can’t have your own domain name, daily bandwidth limits. This list is a brief overview of some important factors and is by no means exhaustive. In short, there are a lot of limitations, some people can live with them, and others can’t. In my opinion, it is a good place to start if producing your first ever website but most people quickly learn that they need something else.

    Paid Web Hosting:
    This is a minefield, we all work hard for our money and more and more people are becoming acutely aware of online fraud, so we want to be absolutely sure that our hard earned cash doesn’t end up in the slimy pockets of a Nigerian scamster. There are varying reports of $1(60p-ish) a month web hosts, yes they exist, if your site isn’t too important to you then they may be exactly what you are after. The truth is that the hardware and connectivity required to host websites to the world costs money. If you think that by a modern equivalent of turning anything that’s touched into gold, you can circumvent these costs then think again. For example, search the internet for domain name purchasing. Some will charge 50p and others £25. Great you think, I’ll have the one for 50p. So you start signing up and there are a couple of charges as you go through: £5 administration fee, £10 processing fee etc etc, so you end up paying whatever amount say £15 and you think great, I saved myself a tenner. Then look at what happens if you want to transfer it to another company: £25 transfer fee. All that glitters is not gold so do your research.
    Things to look for in a “good†webhost…..
    Reliability: Above all is reliability, check how long their web servers have been online; ask for third party verification (such as netcraft). Look when the last reboot was (this may be recent so look at the one prior to that). Do they make a claim to 99.9% uptime, if so, get them to prove it and ask what happens if they breach that (this should be covered in their contract).
    Scalability: If your website does really well, you want to make sure they can deal with it, what options do you have to change plan, how often and at what charge. Investigation now could save you thousands later.
    Support: The most contentious issue on the internet. Can you contact them? The easiest way of ruling out a potential hosting provider is can you contact them by phone? Forget the latest online java real-time chat, yes it is useful, but what do you do if there isn’t somebody online when you want to ask a question or report an issue? Email is great but there is nothing to prove that your email got through, that they read it, that they action it or that they reply to it. Get them on the phone! Give them a call prior to signing up; get all these questions out of the way. No webhost should be unprepared for any of these questions, even the smallest of web hosting companies should have heard these questions from the day they started trading. Don’t accept any fluid answers such as: we try to do this; we like to offer that, we attempt this. It’s leaving yourself open to getting ripped off; ask for evidence of what they say.
    Communication: This is linked to the support section, I won’t repeat what is above, make sure that open signing up, you get a written, signed contract through the post which you are asked to return. IT IS FOR YOUR PROTECTION. Any legal contract must be signed, if your host decides to shut your website and you lose a lot of money, if you haven’t signed anything then there is no way you can do a thing about it. Get that paperwork and return it prior to launching your site.

    There are also virtual dedicated, dedicated, virtual private, managed/unmanaged and collocation providers, all of the paid section points should indeed apply.
    If you are in any doubt what you should look for then WAIT! Take a step back and assess what you are looking for and how best it should be provided to you. You should not be compromising on service, find a web host that suits you, not one that you must bend your own rules for.
    You get what you pay for at the end of the day, If you save money you cut service, the host has to make their money somewhere. You will find that hosts offering large amounts of scripts, space, bandwidth and service will cost a reasonable amount of money. Some do survive at $1 a month, but even with 20,000 clients, they can’t afford to offer you a total solution to fit your needs.
    Talk to a potential host and find out if they offer additional services which are not listed, they may be open to existing clients only (discounts etc), see if you can barter at all, see if they offer referral schemes. If you open that communication channel they will remember you and this is half the battle when it comes to support queries. Get to know the names of the people you deal with and refer back to them. Praise them when they do things write and complain like hell if they do something wrong.

    I hope this helps

    If anyone has anything to add from personal experience then please let me know, I will add it if I think it is relevant.

  2. Paul_KY

    Paul_KY New Member Webmaster

    Free hosting/sites s*ck! So why are the SERPS flooded with them? I never understood that.
  3. Robster

    Robster Guest

    Some good advice there Lewis. I've learnt some of what you were talking about the hard way.

    Its too true what you say about most people learning quickly that they need more than free hosting, but its surprising how hard it is to convince people who are just about to start out that they would be better off going with an entry level paid solution from the start. I know quite a few local bands and most of them have started off on .tk/bravenet etc but in the end they get frustrated and go for a proper hosting package, at which point they have so start promoting their new web address. I think there is a certain misunderstanding with many people that having a domain name with hosting is expensive and compicated, but it doesn't have to be.
  4. I started off on free webhosting and it certinly has its placeon the web, but if you're running a business and it is even slightly sucecssful you need to get at least $50 /yr hosting to insure the stability of your website.

    I took one of those $10 /yr solutions and after about a year my website just dissapeared! Not making that mistake again.
  5. stealthhosts

    stealthhosts New Member Webmaster

    As I said, reliable business hosting is costly. UPS, Fire suppressants, Security staff, Secure racks, administrators, direct pipelines, peering partners, redundant backbones and a whole host of other stuff.

    If you think about it in terms of what you get.......How far would $50 a year go towards that lot? I know how much that stuff costs a year, therefore, I know how many people they must be shoe-horning into their servers. If it works for you, then brilliant. Businesses relying on their hosting for business critical systems would be expecting to pay a whole lot more!

    I know you were agreeing with my point with regards to cost, I think it is worth pointing out though that businesses should be looking at dedicated business hosting if they wish to rely on their website for their company. Personal hosting companies have little to lose if their systems go down.
  6. Pentarix

    Pentarix Guest

    absolutely correct, you really pay for what you get in this area.
  7. TWD-Tony

    TWD-Tony Guest

    Another thing to consider is that if your hosting is cheap then the only way for the hosting company to possibly make a profit (or even break even) is to cram lots and lots of website's on a single server - this slows the server down and can lead to downtime in cases of heavy load
  8. Duke

    Duke Guest

    I've had tremendous amounts of bad luck in this area even though 2 of the 3 webhosts I settled on had positive reviews.

    If I can add one tip, don't believe everything you read on webhosting company review sites. Chances are there all biased because they seem to be pretty inacurate.

    The best thing to do when you find a potential webhost is to go to google, type in the name and add reviews after it, then read what comes up. You'll get a good idea of how the webhosting company is thought of by it's customers in no time at all.
  9. stealthhosts

    stealthhosts New Member Webmaster

    I think (and this is a bit weird) that you are more likely to have good experiences for hosts who have little good feedback but their bad feedback has positive responses.

    I did say this would sound strange....
    the truth is that if a hosting company does something incorrect then someone will shout about it, sometimes to the point of a vendetta, if they do something good, most people will be quiet, subconciously thinking that its the service they are being paid for.

    The trick with any company is not to avoid mistakes because we all know it isn't possible, but to deal with them quickly, effectively and to the customers satisfaction.

    When dealing with complaints (whether customer instigated or not - in the example of downtime) communicate to your clients. If your host cannot be bothered to let you know that your server went down due to a hardware failing, what else can't they be bothered to do? Update your kernel? Backup your box? Let you know when scheduled maintainance is booked in?

    It's something we encounter all to often from people who are referred to us (even by other webhosts!!?? go figure) after bad experiences. Most people can be appeased with a quick note detailing:
    What went wrong
    How did it affect their services
    When it will be rectified
    How it will be rectified
    What gesture of goodwill they get (depending on severity).

    The best method by far of choosing a webhost is personal referral. If your friend, brother, cousin whatever uses them you can ask all sorts of probing questions, you can also attempt to get a discount based on a number of you using the services. It's a 'foot in the door' if nothing else.

    All IMHO
  10. Interesting thread. I've had some shocking experiences with hosting companies which basically came down to bad technical expertise and bad customer services. They were both compounded by a moronic attitude to a) recognise the problem and b) condier doing something about it. So I went and found a truly excellent reseller host (which arelight years ahead of the old host in both respects) and am have now spent a few months studying options in order to set up a niche hosting site (for blogs and community based sites).

    I also agree about the money side of things. I absoluetly love paying more as long as I know that I'm going to get an excellent product and excellent customer service.
  11. Duke

    Duke Guest

    I upped my expectations when I upped the money I paid. It turns out that these guys just didn't want to take any responsibility for helping me get through buggy software that was installed as a power tool that they provide. At the end of the day, they told me, hmmn, sounds strange, maybe contact Fransisco Burzi and ask him how to fix it because we're too dumb.

    Oh, and by the way, any more questions in regards to how stupid we are will result in us charging you an extra $100 USD.
  12. stealthhosts

    stealthhosts New Member Webmaster

    This is all too common I'm afraid. With the advent of reseller accounts and multi-domain hosting packages, it makes it all too easy for any tom, dick and harry to start a hosting 'business'.

    I am not privvy to the in's and out's of your situation but on face value I would say it depends whether or not they state the 1st line support is included only. Script modifications (and only modifications) may well be chargeable validly. If a script does not function and it is provided by the host it is their duty to repair the script FOC.

    We provide 1st line support free of charge although to date (since 1999) we have not charged for a single support issue even at 3rd line. It boils down to customer service. Our approach has worked quite well, we will inform the customer that this is going beyond their allowed 1st line support but that we will continue working with them as a gesture of goodwill. I find that this makes the customer feel good that we are willing to go that extra mile. I also would say that whether being paid for support or not, the biggest and most powerful tool in a webhosts support arsenal is communication. I find that 90% of customers are happy if they at least understand what is being done to help them.

    Maybe give me a call the next time your hosting is up for renewal. (shameless plug /end)
  13. stealthhosts

    stealthhosts New Member Webmaster


    Answered yours above as well duke, how anyone can charge £50 for a script installation fix is beyond me.
  14. Duke

    Duke Guest

    I'm still patiently waiting your response to the last PM's lol.
  15. stealthhosts

    stealthhosts New Member Webmaster

    I know, I am looking into it, I am waiting for a response from our upstream provider with regards to expectant bandwidth consumption.

    I'll follow with a PM with more details. My understanding was that it wasn't a priority, is that not the case? PM will probably be tomorrow late afternoon.

  16. Paul_KY

    Paul_KY New Member Webmaster

    Rackshack Rocks!
  17. Duke

    Duke Guest

    Sorry man, I thought you forgot about me.

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