Thursday, June 3, 2010

Purchasing web hosting

Here are some comments and advices for those who want to purchase hosting, based on my own experience with miscellaneous hosting.

- Avoid low priced offers
Never go for a hosting company that offers you too much bandwidth and space for a small amount of money. Some hosts may even offer you infinite space or bandwidth. They will bitterly disappoint you. Reason? The hardware of a server is limited. You can't offer infinite hard drive space. Not even for a huge amount of money.
Additionally to this point, I will add a new advice: don't purchase hosting for a full year. Buy only one or two months. If something goes wrong, you just move your site to another company without loosing the payment of the full year. Companies promising you huge discounts if you buy a full year (or even two), are trying to get you into their trap. If the first two months are ok, then you can go for a 6 months plan and that for a full year.

- Make sure that there are absolutely no hidden charges.
If you purchased hosting and you find out along the way that there is a hidden fee, than you should prepare yourself for a bumpy road with this company. Host a backup of your web site on a free hosting server. In case your original host creates you problems you can switch to the backup until you move the whole website to a better place. Hidden fees are a 100% indicator that something is wrong - and it is true not in the web hosting world but in every commerce and e-commerce business.

- Hosts charging 'one time setup' fees MAY indicate a possible problem.
The setup of a new account is made automatically b the server's software. So, a setup fee can mean only 2 things: a) the companies tries to get some extra money from you (not so bad) or b) the company is trying to 'trap' you - many people are going to stay with a mediocre-to-bad hosting company because they already paid once the 'setup' fee and they don't want to pay it again if they move to a new company (this is more bad than point a)).

- Support - the worst thing that my happen to you is poor support. Every time something needs to be changed to your server or every time your site has problems, you will contact the support team. If they don't have a 24 of 24 hours per day support (ja-ja… they all pretend to have 24/24 support but it isn't always true), then you will have to wait until the support team came to the job and drink their morning coffee. It is easy to check this: make three phone calls at different hours (morning, day, night) and see who will answer: a machine or a person. Also send emails using different email addresses and see if you get answers in less than 2-3 hours (you can ask silly questions about their services and servers).
- Check the Internet and see the ratio of positive/negative feedback/comments. You will never find a 100% positive feedback for a company but it will be easy to see who the winner of 'negative feedback award' is.

Another few advices at the end:
- Inquiry if the host is flexible. Some hosts allow you to choose a customized package that will suit your needs in the best way. However this comes with a nice price attached. Ask for it only if you are running a big site that needs specials customizations. In this case it may be more suited for you to rent a full server and to do whatever you want with it (though you will need some Linux knowledge).
- Location: if your customers are from Europe, don't host your site in America - and vice-versa.
- Go for Linux instead of Windows. Linux never was a good OS for desktop users. However it is magic when we are speaking about servers; also it is fully customizable and very stable.
- Always choose well know and all-over-used technologies (even if they are obsolete) instead of new/unknown ones. For example you will have a much greater community for PHP than ASP. It will be easier to move you site to a different host is you choose MySQL over MSSQL …

Reference List:

Kivlehan, C. (2005) How to Select Your Web Host [Online], University of Liverpool, Penton Publishing. Available from: (Accessed: 21 April 2008).

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