A web hosting service is essential for anybody wishing to do business online and there is certainly no shortage of companies stepping forward to take your business. In many ways this huge range of choices for consumers is a great thing, but, it also means that making a decision on where to host your websites becomes that much more difficult.
The web hosting industry has seen its fair share of companies making big promises and under delivering time and again. The end result is a minefiled of misinformation and disappointed customers who often take it upon themselves to do everything in their power to discredit the hosting company who they feel has done them an injustice.
When you enter the web hosting arena as a new customer, you will often face the difficult task of trying to decide just what is true about the company's you investigate and what is not. On the one hand, there will be aggressive cautions against using one firm while somewhere else you will read a glowing report on their services. If you are new to the whole subject, it often feels as though you are negotiating a minefield and feel like bashing your head against a wall in sheer frustration.
Is there a simple response to the question you most want answered – ‘who is the best web host for me?' Unfortunately, the answer to that is almost certainly ‘no'.
No matter who you turn to for advice, there will always be a conflict of opinion arising somewhere along your avenues of enquiry. Web hosting is like that. It is an industry where some people are almost fanatical in their condemnation of a particular hosting company, and often their anger and resentment is out of all proportion to the situation that brought it on. Sometimes of course complaints are justified – the web hosting industry is far from perfect and faces few controls or official standards. Rubbing shoulders with those crying foul to anyone who will listen, are those who wax lyrical about a company, when, in point of fact, they have no experience of the company whatsoever and whose only interest is in trying to earn an affiliate commission.
Hosting companies and hosting deals come in so many different shapes and sizes that it is impossible to cover them in an introductory article such as this. However, here are a few pointers to help you when entering the very competitive world of web hosting services.
1) It seems obvious, but do your research before you buy. If you find a deal that seems to be just what you are looking for, don't let the odd dissatisfied or negative review put you off. There probably isn't a single hosting company in existence that hasn't had any bad feedback. Use your commonsense – if you find nothing but bad feedback, then it probably holds some water.
2) There is no definitive “best deal” in the web hosting arena. What you should be looking for is a package that bests suits you, both in terms of features and budget. Before you shop around, make a list of things that are important to you.
3) A lot of hosting company's work through affiliates. This should not be seen as a red flag by any means. The hugely competitive market place makes an affiliate program almost an essential requirement for these companies. You will also often find that the only way to benefit from special deals and discount coupons is to go through an affiliate.
4) Don't believe everything you read. Many disgruntled customers who have not chosen wisely, or who have failed to read a particular company's terms and conditions, bring about their own problems. This is very common in the web hosting field, and many customers try to blame their misunderstandings on the company. The more vitriolic the attacks on a particular host, the more often you should look for reasoned and calm assessments of their shortcomings. Obviously if you see nothing but bad press, you should be wary. The larger the company's customer base, the more likely you are to find complaints, but the law of averages will always make this so.
Read through some web hosting forums in search of feedback by all means, but remember that some of the invective posted by users often has little in the way of both sides of a particular story. Pay attention to those who give calm and well reasoned feedback, not those who cuss and rage.
5) If you have questions, ask the company before you sign up. This is also a good way to see how prompt and effective their customer service channels are. A good host will offer various channels of communication for their customers, usually telephone, live online support and email. 24/7 support covers a wide range of interpretations! I
6) As a new webmaster, you may have no idea of how much bandwidth or storage space you are going to need and unfortunately nobody can really give you an answer to such questions. If you are buying hosting for the first time, don't be blinded by huge numbers, because often they are meaningless. Shared hosting deals are usually perfectly adequate for those just starting out. You can always upgrade your hosting plan as your business grows – in many cases you will find that you won't need to do this for some time, so unless you are expecting to see hundreds of thousands of visitors as soon as you launch your website or blog or are going to be hosting huge amounts of data from the outset, don't worry too much about this.
7) If you are hosting a business related site, reliability and technical support are going to be major considerations. Guarantees of uptime are not always reliable, but, a company should have the confidence to be able to offer 99.9% – if they don't, whilst their honesty is to be applauded, maybe they are not the place for your business site. Excessive downtime costs money and loses you customers. Reliability is very important. If you are not operating a commercial site, this may not be quite such a vital consideration but it is reassuring to know that your site is not going to be offline when people are trying to visit you!
8) Cheapest is not always best. The temptation to control your monthly budget is a strong one and there are many very cheap deals on offer. Whilst these should not be dismissed out of hand, for business users they should be studied very carefully. Good quality hosting is not expensive, but neither is it available for pennies a month. You will find, as with most things, that the universal rule, ‘you get what you pay for', applies to hosting too. Good shared hosting is still available at very reasonable prices – being cheap may cost you dear.
9) Some hosting companies are geared towards certain specialities. If you are involved in the adult industry for example, some hosts will not want your business. It is pointless to try and use a hosting company who don't want your type of website on their servers. It's not just adult sites that sometimes require specialist hosting and if you think that your online operation is in any way out of the ordinary, talk to your list of potential hosts before signing up.
10) Choosing a good hosting company at the outset will save a lot of potential grief as your business grows. Being cheap at the start may well end up costing you much more in terms of lost time and hassle a little farther down the road. Steer clear of free hosting for any serious business operation.
There are a couple of hosting companies who, in addition to their hosting services, also offer monthly recurring commissions under their affiliate programs. If you are looking to offset the costs of your web hosting, this can be a good way to do so and even to see a residual income from supporting and promoting your webhost. This is not something offered by the majority of hosts, but if it is something that appeals to you, you will find more information in the resource links quoted below.
The world of web hosting is often a confusing soup of jargon and conflicting opinion, but eventually you will have to make a decision. Hopefully these basic pointers will help to guide you towards a sensible purchase and a happier future relationship with your hosting company.
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