How To Choose A Web Host

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Many business people certainly don't look forward to the time when a suitable web hosting provider must be chosen. And they have good reasoning behind it. This article is all about the pros and cons of web hosting companies - including the scams and some tips on how to avoid them. After reading this article, you should be more equipped when the time comes for you to make the big decision.

Choosing a Local Host

For businesses that specialise in certain areas (i.e. the area they are located in), it is quite important to try to choose a host that is located near you. Some reasons are:

  • Your website will be downloaded faster by the majority of your visitors.
  • You will have access to local technical support when required.
  • You will have greater success with service complaints to higher bodies

Your website will be downloaded faster by the majority of your visitors

If the host is located near you, when your visitors download content from your website it will be delivered faster to them than if the host was located interstate or overseas. However, many hosting companies in fact resell hosting solutions from other companies - these other companies could be located elsewhere, and although you think you're getting service from a local company, you are in fact receiving it from somewhere else.

Fortunately, there is a way to find out if the host you are thinking about choosing is located near you. Assuming that the host's own website is hosted on the same servers that they provide to their customers (which is almost always the case, however can't be relied upon 100%), you can find out the IP address of their website and using that, the exact city in which they are located. Once you have the IP address (which you can obtain by "pinging" their website), you can enter it into a program called NeoTrace, which will tell you the city they are located in.

You will have access to local technical support when you need it

With all technology these days, something is always bound to go wrong. Web site hosting is no different, and when you notice that something is wrong with your site or e-mail, you need it fixed quickly. You could be losing customers while your website is offline! In times like these, you need instant access to technical support. Making a phone call always results in a faster response than sending an e-mail, and obviously making a phone call to a hosting company located close to you will save you money. You don't want to be paying interstate or international rates to receive support!

You will have greater success with service complaints to higher bodies

Many business people receive the infamous "Nigerian Money Scam" in their inboxes on a weekly, possibly even daily, basis. The well-known scam promises you a cut of a large sum if you "help" by "hiding" the money. To "help", you have to provide your bank account details - and that's where the scam begins. Don't be surprised if you do this and find out the next day that your account has been cleaned out!

One of the reasons this scam is so successful is because the people that pilot it are based in Nigeria. If you are from Australia, the US, the UK, Canada, or any other country, and you fall for this scam, the people that have your money are out of reach of any law enforcement agency. That's why you must be careful with hosting companies that aren't located near you - if your credit card gets continually charged until it reaches the credit limit, and the host is located in Nigeria, there's not much you can do about it!

Fraud isn't the only problem with web hosts. A host might provide terrible service that you aren't happy about. Here in Australia, the independent Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman takes complaints from consumers about telephone or internet services provided by other companies (and there would be similar options available in other countries). It's a great way to get your complaint heard if the company in question is not listening to you. Once again, if your web host is located out of your country, it will be quite hard to file a complaint this way.

Avoiding Hosting Scams

Recently, one of my friends found a web host that provided fantastic facilities, including unlimited data storage and unlimited data transfer, for only $1 per month.

Pop quiz: What are three of the surest signs that a hosting company is a scam?

If you don't know the answer to that question, read the first sentence of this section again.

Three of the surest signs that a hosting company is a scam are a promise of "unlimited" (or unusually high) data storage, a promise of "unlimited" (or unusually high) data transfer, and an unusually low price. Paying $1 a month for hosting works out to $12 a year. Can you really expect a hosting company to survive with an income like that? They'd only get a lunch or two each year out of your $12.

Providing "unlimited" data storage and "unlimited" data transfer is technically impossible. No computer system can keep storing information forever - if you wrote a program that continuously uploaded 10 kilobytes of data to your host every second of the day, you'd upload 843.75 gigabytes of data in a 24-hour period. In a week, you'd have almost 6,000 gigabytes. Most hosts would not be able to store that!

Data transfer costs money, even for hosting providers. If a hosting provider promises you unlimited data transfer, it's a sign of a scam. If it costs them money, how can they afford to give it to you for free?

Before going with a new hosting company, always take some time to check them out. Do a quick search in Google for your host, and read up on any articles and reviews that come up about them. By reading about other people's experiences, you can learn from their mistakes.

When I mention scams, I don't mean that scamming hosting companies are not giving you what they promise. I mean that they are promising something that is too good to be true, to get you lured in, and then they run off with your money. A simple well-known phrase that will keep you protected most of the time if you stick to it - If it's too good to be true, it probably is!

Choosing A Host That Meets Your Needs

Choosing a host that meets your needs is important. You need to choose one that provides what you need, and doesn't provide what you don't need. You don't want to get stuck out in the cold with a website that doesn't function as you want it to, and you don't want to be paying for facilities that you don't use. So, take some time to write a quick list of what you're looking for in a web host.

  • How much money are you willing to spend? (setup fees, monthly/quarterly/yearly charges)
  • How much data storage space do you need?
  • How much data transfer allowance do you need?
  • Do you require e-mail accounts? How many?
  • Do you need access to a server-side scripting and database solution? (ASP, PHP, ColdFusion, Perl, CGI, MySQL, Microsoft Access, Frontpage)

There are many more questions you could ask yourself - these are just some of them. You may also need to have a chat to your web host to make the final decisions on what facilities you need. For example, if you have five pages in your site with not many images or downloads you won't need more than five megabytes of storage space. But if you have sixty pages of content and a large download directory, you'll need a lot more space and lots of data transfer allowance if you're planning on people downloading from you!

Conclusion

Today I've explained to you some of the aspects of web hosting that you should consider before choosing which company you will trust with your important web site. You've learnt about scams and how to avoid them, and you've learnt the importance of choosing a host that meets your needs and is located close to you. My hope is that you'll go out ready to make a decision now with more confidence and research behind your choice.


Publication Date: Monday 19th April, 2004
Author: Tim Malone View profile

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