To Fly or Not Fly - Choosing your Web Host

chakky's picture

Choosing a hosting company is one of the biggest problems faced by any client today. The sheer number of web-hosts and resellers with their highly varied pricing schemes seem to make the task even daunting. Adding to the woes are the fly by night hosting companies, that open shop with the most cheapest plans pulling the legs of the novice website Host and the gullible. A few things that every customer who plans to host a site needs to understand is, being costly or very cheap does not in anyway indicate the quality of service received. Lets analyze this scenario faced by prospective clients.

Imagine being a novice to the INTERNET. One fine day, you decide its time for you to enter this digital era. Make yourself an identity that the Internet world cannot ignore. How would you proceed to get yourself hosted? The minute you decide to host, the first thing that strikes you is the cheap hosting rates given in the newspaper. Or it would be the after effects of a advertising blitzkrieg that assures you that they are the best in the industry.

Its when you start checking the prices, you find yourself dumbstruck on the pricing ranges available. Now what would you do? You can choose the cheapest hosting provider and be happy to test your site's performance. But then again, what are the qualities that you would expect from your host? You go around searching for that mirage....

Let me sprinkle a few words of wisdom from my end. Before we start on this venture, the first major question is, what do you expect from this site you host? Is it a commercially viable site that you plan to setup or is it a personal site to display your artistic flair or establish your life on the net? Is your site, mission critical, that everything should work fine always? In case it goes down, what is the priority you attach to having it up impromptu?

Once these questions are answered, you have a plan of action to proceed. Based on what you give more priority to, you can shortlist your choices among the wilderness of hosts. You can finalize your future host based on a small set of criteria. Firstly by word of mouth or going to http://www.webhostingtalk.com , http://www.hostreview.com , http://www.hostingtech.com, etc. , shortlist 10-15 hosting companies, whose services are highlighted. Once you shortlist some Host's, proceed to check their inception dates, history and their values and ideology. These things would be highlighted in their sites. Secondly check their pricing and try to average out the features received and the net pricing. Finalize these companies in order of best value for money. Once this is done, only half your job is done. Never go rushing and choose the cheapest option available. At this stage, you need to try and find news about the performance of the particular set of hosts and find out which hosting companies are given more votes of support. Also do check the bad things said about these hosts and decide for yourself which hosts seem to have made mistakes that were least damaging to their clients. Please remember no one in this world so far is perfect. Mistakes happen, but importance needs to be given on how this mistake was rectified, what sort of attitude was taken up by the hosting provider during this crisis his clients had to face and the preventive measures he has taken to prevent such future recurrences.

One of the most important things you need to do is to find out the response times to your queries from these hosts. The last thing any person wants in this digital age is a response one to two days after asking it. Now response time alone is not the criteria, a more important criteria would be the quality of response. Did the sales person convince you that your site is important to them, they can provide your needs well, assured you of their quality services? In general they should be able to understand you and align with your views on expectations, only then are they worthy of consideration. By the time you reach this stage, you can now cross out quite a few hosts from your list. Once this is done, you can now add the new criteria. Go to the forums that these hosts provide, follow up on the uptime of the servers, the problems these hosts cause to their clients and then the general sort of crowd you find there. If you find too technical a crowd, beware! You could find your site having downtimes resultant of the experiments these people try. Always host your site with hosting companies that provide spartan features or is more in the line of hosting sites of your kind. This is advisable because they would be specialized with the server features and specifically to your sort of softwares ensuring stability and timely maintenance. Last and final criteria when choosing these hosts is ensuring your awareness regarding the quality of bandwidth these hosting companies have, their disaster recovery plan and finally the average number of clients they host per server. More the hosts, higher the probability of slower site accesses and more chance of server going down.

With each stage of choosing, you get the chance to eliminate a host or two , till you finally end with a smaller list of hosts. Contact these hosts personally and find out who among them would offer you the better customer relation and a wider variety of communications (forums, mailing lists, phone, chat, help-desk etc). It is always a priority in crisis situations.

One of the biggest problem that faced most customers during the y2k dot-com bust was that many web-hosts' had started up with the simple intention of joining the bandwagon and hence they never thought of a perpetual growth. Once they started receiving more & more orders, they got swamped with the requests, could not properly scale their work force in tune with the growing needs and ensure the quality of hardware etc they ordered. This finally spiraled down to give them whole lot of problems and headaches that they never knew they would face. They finally end up closing shop or selling out to a bigger host. Hence the time that these hosts have been up and running is an indicator of the reliability of the host.

Cheaper the prices offered, be more careful on the hardware being used. A person can eat food and eat good food, in either case he will survive, but his health will be proportional to the quality of food. Similar is the case of your site, better the provider, more the acclaim and reviews your site would receive and in the longer run would be better for you. The only time you would need to decide on a cheap host is when you need to host temporary sites for advertisements or just want to test the waters with nothing consequential or of critical importance on your sites.

"Choose not in haste for regret you would the fate!"

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