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Understanding various web hosting criterions & features

By Staff

With over 16,000 web host companies on the net, it is easy to be overwhelmed when trying to choose one to suit your needs. Adding to the difficulty are things like price, services offered, features and reliability level. In essence, it is not as easy as you think to find just the right one.

The reason for this is the tons of bad host providers on the net carefully mixed in with the good, solid, reputable ones. You have a better chance of getting a lousy provider than you have finding a good one the first time out.

Because the Internet is a virtual place where you can’t actually see or get to know the person you are doing business with, it makes the perfect environment for unscrupulous businesses such as host providers to take your money and run.

Here are a few tips that may be able to help you weed the good providers from the bad and aid in choosing a reputable provider to fit your needs. Let’s take a look at the things that you should be aware of and avoid at all costs.

         Avoid providers that make unreal promises of unlimited bandwidth or data transfer allowances. Usually it is in reality too good to be true, therefore doesn’t exist. It is virtually impossible to get unlimited bandwidth or data transfer allowances because these providers like all the others only have a finite amount available.

         Avoid providers that view site creation and hosting of the site as a package deal. These providers are basically going to hold your site hostage and force you to allow only themselves the ability to make changes to your site. Your access to your own site will be restricted.

         Avoid any company that rates hosting providers. These are totally false ratings that are bought with advertising dollars. The more advertising dollars they get from a provider, the better the rating they are given. The ratings have absolutely nothing to do with reliability, reputation, or the stability of the provider.

         Avoid providers that insist that you sign a contract that locks you in for a year or longer especially if you have to pay in advance. This type of plan is designed to benefit the provider, not you. You have no way of knowing how they will perform or respond to your web site needs over the long-term and this gives them an opportunity to take your money and not provide the services promised. Since they rely on gaining new customers all the time, they are not necessarily interested in providing top not service to the customers that they currently have.  Worst of all, after you pay a year in advance, you may find hidden in their terms of service the fact that you can’t get a refund, no matter what the reason. Basically you are stuck with them or you will be out of money. The one thing that you don’t want to happen is to be stuck in a bad situation especially when it involves your business on the net. The absolute only time you should consider entering into a yearlong contract with a provider is if you are getting a dedicated server. Providers who offer dedicated servers are proven to be committed and reputable and most do require a 6-12 month commitment.

         Avoid providers that don’t openly display their Terms of Service on their site. If a provider does not have their terms posted, don’t even consider signing with them. You can’t wait until after the fact to find out that the unlimited services that you thought you would be getting in fact have very definite limits.

There are many other factors that need to be considered when searching for a good host provider. In addition to the things that you should avoid as previously mentioned, there are several other factors that you should be aware of to help make an informed decision.

1.      Never judge a book by its cover. Appearances can be deceiving so don’t make a judgement based on the appearance of a provider’s site. You will find that some of the worst providers have very attractive and inviting sites that give the appearance that they are above board and provide top-notch services. Their sites are created this way for the purpose of impressing you enough to sign with them. The truth is that many do not even provider the services or equipment to sustain a business web site, so caution is the word here. You need to check them out thoroughly.

2.      Take their claims with a grain of salt. Many providers do have testimonials on their sites, but keep in mind that they are from some satisfied customers and not necessarily representative of all their customers, especially their disgruntled customers. They can make all the claims in the world regarding their proven record of quality service, exceptional uptime and unlimited resources, but unless you know for sure, you can be duped into thinking that they are right for you.

3.      If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is! You’ve heard this 1000 times or more but it is absolutely true. There are providers out there that offer money back guarantees but never honor that promise. As a matter of fact, some providers after they get your credit card number will over charge you. So the key to remember here is to get everything in writing that is clearly spelled out.

4.      Choosing the wring host provider can prove costly in many ways. As stated before, many make promises they simply can’t keep while others may just take your money and run. It is important to do your homework well and steer clear of any providers that give you a bad vibe. You may find some providers that claim that they have an anti-spam policy but in reality they never enforce it. As a result, you may in fact have your email blocked or rejected by servers because your provider is known to tolerate abusers. There is a site that you can check to see if a provider is on the list of abusers, it is Spamhauss and by checking on this site you could save yourself from making a bad decision.

5.      Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Many host providers often boast of having thousands of customers. These are considered the “big” hitters in the industry.  What they don’t tell you is that they may have lost far more customers and have a high turnover rate. The reason for this is obvious, most of the customers they lost were dissatisfied with their services. The truth is that these providers actually make more money acquiring new customers, not keeping existing ones. It also means that they don’t necessarily go out of they way to provide good service or support.  Another problem with the big host providers is server overload. Since they may have thousands of customers, they are all squeezed onto a single server. This can affect your web site tremendously. The so called “unlimited” services therefore are in fact very limited and in some cases your site may get suspended for going over your allowance of space or bandwidth.

6.      Consider a smaller host provider for more personalized service. Unlike the giants in the industry, they can allocate more resources as they have less customers to contend with. This can mean the difference between sustaining an Internet presence  for your business or losing business because visitors can’t access your site.

7.      Know the difference between ISP’s and Hosting companies. ISP’s (Internet access providers) do not necessarily offer hosting programs. They are in business to provide internet access only. Although some do offer hosting plans as well, it doesn’t mean that they are proficient at it. In most cases, their hosting services are severely lacking.

8.      You get what you pay for! This is especially true when you are seeking out lower cost hosting providers. Sometimes cheap doesn’t necessarily equate to quality. If you are planning on running an Internet business, you may be better off seeking an affordable plan that meets all your needs. Just remember that many providers offering cheap hosting plans have an ulterior motive, to get new customers. As mentioned before, that’s how they really make their money.

There are several factors that can help you make a good decision when choosing a host provider. You can look at their features, reputation, reliability, service offerings and cost. Here are some tips to help move you in the right direction.

         Choose a host that you can grow your business with.

         Pick an affordable plan that offers everything that you need to get your business up and running on the net.

         Pick a provider that can help you plan future growth, it shows that they are committed to helping you become a success.

         Choose a provider that has a reputation for good service, reliable servers and is easy to contact. Most importantly, choose one that is very responsive to your needs.

         Take your time and do your homework well. It may be the most important thing that you can do to avoid a potential disaster.

         Key factors to consider include:

1.      Your needs. Make sure that any provider can meet all your current and future business needs. Create a list of your basic needs and one for any potential future needs. Discuss these lists with potential host providers and see which one can accommodate your requirements satisfactorily.

2.      Consider paying a little more for services to ensure reliability. You can’t expect to get this from a free or cheap host plan. On the other hand, be wary of overpaying for hosting service. There are many host providers who over charge for their services. Try to find a happy medium.

3.      The level of technical support is key to keeping your site up and running to avoid any lost business. Many people do overlook this important factor. Good solid technical support is critical to sustaining a business presence on the web. This fact cannot be over stressed. You need to be able to reach your host provider at anytime in case a crisis arises. Remember that problems do occur when you least expect them.

4.      Reliability is extremely important to you and your business web site. If your provider’s servers are down, your business site will be down and customers will not be able to get to your site. Reliability is applicable to not only the reputation of the host provider’s company but also to the services that they offer and the equipment that they use.

 Other factors to consider include a host provider’s guarantee or warranty. A guarantee or warranty is only as good as the company behind it. Just the mere fact that a guaranty is being offered does not mean that the provider is reliable or even credible. Sometimes the guarantee is only offered as an enticement to get your business and is very seldom honored. A guarantee or warranty does not stop a provider from being dishonest.

In addition to all the factors discussed, one other comes to mind that you should look into. You may want to check out providers that provide statistical reporting. This is a good way to track many things such as the number of visitors to your site, what keywords they used to find your business and where they originated. This information may be beneficial to you in that you can change your marketing campaign based on certain results.


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