How To Find A Good Web Host

When you have made the decision to invest in a website for your business, service or even just personal use, it’s time to start looking for a web host. Of course, everyone wants the best web host in the world, but with all the options out there, how do you know who to choose?

Hopefully, this list should provide some answers to that very question…

- Check webmaster forums.

Webmaster forums are the best place to get recommendations for web hosting providers. The users of the forum rely on their website as their income, so they’ll know who is worth hosting with and who is a waste of time. Start a thread asking for recommendations, or just browse through until you have a general idea of which companies are worth trusting.

- Run Google searches.

As soon as you find a company you are interested in, it’s time to start checking them out. Run a Google search for their company name and sift through the results; if there’s anything bad to be said about them, you’ll find it. Add in words like ‘bad’, ‘poor’, ‘terrible’ and ‘useless’ to increase the chances of finding any poor user experiences of the company.

- Read the small print.

This is a truism in life, and it applies to web hosting too. Before you hand over your money to buy web hosting, you should always read the terms and conditions of the arrangement. If there’s anything you don’t like, either contact the web host for clarification, or go elsewhere. There are good web hosts out there, and by being diligent and following the above steps, you’ll find one.

The Downside To Free Web Hosting

Free web hosting is one of the many, many options available to the business-minded website owner looking to make their way in the online world. Like anything, free web hosting has its pros and cons, so before you spend time building a website on a free service only to realise it isn’t for you, here’s the downside to free web hosting so you can be fully informed:

- You will be restricted.

The amount of web space, bandwidth and even visitors you can receive will be massively restricted if you use a free web hosting provider. However, the space offered is usually perfectly adequate for a small business or a fun fan site.

- You will most likely have to have a add-on domain name.

Instead of www.yoursite.com, your domain name with a free web hosting provider is likely to be something like: www.yourfreewebhostingprovider.com/yoursite or http://yoursite.freewebhostingprovider.com – meaning your site is immediately associated with another company. It isn’t a specific problem, just something to be aware of.

- The meaning of ‘free’.

While you may be getting the web space for free, with most free web hosting companies you will be expected to run adverts on the site. Usually these are generated and placed on your site without you needing to do anything – and you have no way of removing them. Running the ads is essentially how you ‘pay’ for your ‘free’ service. There’s no workaround for this; the web host has to make money somehow.

If you are looking to host a small, easy website with only a few pages, it may be worth considering free web hosting. For another more, you’re going to need to self-host.

The Good Side of Free Web Hosting

In a world that is dismiss anything that is labelled ‘free’ as suspicious, when users are looking to build a website they will likely give the concept of free web hosting short shrift. However, there are some significant upsides to using a free web hosting provider – so before you dismiss the concept, take a read of the list below.

- It’s free!

It may seem like an odd point to include in this list – isn’t it obvious that ‘free’ web hosting is, er, free?! – but it’s the aspect you should focus your attention on. No, free web hosting is not going to work if you are looking to make a lot of money from that website – but if you just want a small corner on the web, somewhere personal or as a small business listing, then the free aspect is important.

Essentially, there’s no point investing a lot of money in a website if you are not intending for that website to make you money – so it may be worth putting up with the minor inconveniences a free web host provides, and using your money elsewhere.

- Support for beginners.

Most free web hosting providers have their own support forums, which are moderated by their own staff as well as including posts from users of the service. This means you’ll have an immediate support base should you run in to any trouble.

- You don’t need to be technically experienced to build a website.

A lot of free web hosts offer WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website building, meaning you don’t need to learn HTML or anything else complicated. You can just plug and play.

WYSIWYG? ORLY? OMG!

While many web hosts provide WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) site building software, it is important to consider the matter of whether this software is what you want to use. Make no mistake, for the most part these are perfectly useful and often even very good. But your best bet may be to ignore these editors and choose a Content Management System instead. The CMS (as it is known for short) can be installed on the cPanel of your hosting software and you can then use it for all your web building needs.

The advantages of using a CMS over the WYSIWYG editor on your site are substantial. Primarily, it comes down to the fact that these systems (Joomla and WordPress are the two most popular) offer you a lot more latitude with what you want to do with the site. Both are highly customisable and also offer a real “plug and play” element, which makes it a whole lot easier to install extra content on your site – content like road maps, YouTube videos and Paypal clients which make it a lot easier to create a business site.

Additionally, these systems make it a lot easier to make your site look good. It is very easy to download a “theme” or template for your site which will give it a distinct and professional look. Although the WYSIWYG editor is a nice touch and may be useful for basic sites, you should never look a gift horse in the mouth – install a free CMS today.

Is There Such A Thing As “Free” Web Hosting?

In this world, getting something for nothing is rare – and, perhaps naturally, people distrust things that are free to acquire and give benefits back for what is seemingly no financial reward. This applies across all walks of life, from business to finance to the internet – and applies particularly to the concept of free web hosting.

Web hosting is expensive, there’s no doubt about it. That’s why offers for free web hosting seem too good to be true, and many users will just avoid on sight. In reality, there are some benefits that can be gotten from free web hosting. For some users, it might be worth looking deeper in to the idea.

Free web hosting is not without its drawbacks – usually you cannot use your own domain name, and you will be limited in terms of how much space and bandwidth you have. So far, it’s not such an attractive package if you are looking to host a professional, large site – and in truth, it probably isn’t a good idea if you fall in to that category.

It is with the small, often first-website user that free web hosting comes in to its own. If you only want to put a minute website, with a couple of pages and perhaps contact deals on the web, then it may be something worth considering. It’s certainly cheaper, and if you are not relying on the website solely to generate business or income, then a free offer may be exactly what you need.

Cheap May Be Better Than Free

Although free web hosting exists, there is no getting around the fact that a company has to pay for it somehow. This tends to result in you having to make do somewhere along the line. Yes, you’d like to have a website without ads on it, or at least have some control over what is being advertised. But if the hosting is free, then you may have to make do with distracting and potentially off-putting ads on your site. You’d hope for good tech support, but they have to pay for that “free hosting” and good tech support doesn’t come cheap.

However, not everyone has the budget to go with the more established, well-reviewed companies, so there has to be a third way, and that comes in the form of cheap web hosting. Yes, “cheap” is a relative term, but if you’re paying something to them, and a lot of other people are too, then it at least gives them a budget to spend on important little things like tech support people who know what a computer is and servers that don’t explode when someone actually visits your site.

Cheap web hosting has this in common with the more expensive type – there are good providers and bad providers. The more established big names in the sector are, generally, well-liked by those who use them and while you might not expect as much from them as you would from a blue-chip company there is a lot to be said for a fresh, inexpensive option – especially when you’re starting out.

Customer Support Is A Deal Breaker

Whatever else you look for in a web hosting provider, you should always be on the lookout for good customer support. All web hosts will say they provide it, just as all heavyweight boxers will say they are going to win their next fight by a knockout. Just because someone is saying something, it doesn’t mean it is true. There are several things you will need to ensure your web host has before deciding that it will provide you with the right level of customer support.

A toll-free customer support line is a sure sign that the company really is confident that it can give you the help you need without any messing around. Someone has to pay for a phone call and if it isn’t you, it’ll be them. If they’re paying for the call, they want it to be short and final, so they will move mountains to get you back up and running if there’s unscheduled downtime. Still, it is helpful to have a record of every query, so if they offer an additional email support service, you should double up by sending them email.

Many of the better web hosting providers also have customer forums. If they’re any good they will be patrolled and moderated by techies, and placing a post on the forum is a good idea if you have an unresolved problem. They don’t want to see a lot of posts on there saying their service sucks, because that’s liable to turn people off them – expect someone to reply to your query fast and have you up and running again. Finally, look out for hosts who have frequently updated documentation of potential downtime and other issues on their site. If you’re going to have downtime, it’s nice to know in advance.

Uptime – Do You Get What You Pay For?

Web hosting is a subject that divides opinion more fiercely than you might think. When people are arguing about what is most important in a web host, you can prepare for some strongly differing opinions. While there will be many who prefer that the web host has good tech support, and others will prize webspace above all else, a significant number of people will plump for uptime, every time. If your web host provides the right amount of uptime, the tech support won’t be so necessary (and you can always add more webspace later on).

Uptime is, however, essential no matter who you are and what your site is about. You might as well not have a website if it is going to spend more time displaying error messages to the people who want to read it. Most web hosts will promise in the region of 99.9% uptime. None can promise a hundred per cent, as this is an impossible promise, but you will note that the sites that offer 99.99% or 99.999% will be more expensive than those offering the simple 99.9. Nines are costly.

It is worth asking for proof if none is shown, or asking an impartial contact if the hosting company is as reliable as they say they are. It is one thing to lay claim to excellent uptime and quite another to reliably provide it.

Unlimited Webspace – As Good As It Sounds?

When setting up your website, you are likely to have some grand ambitions as to how it will look. You will want to bring in as many viewers as possible and expand as time goes on. This is what any webmaster wants to do – or at least, the vast majority do. This is the thinking behind the “unlimited web space” offers that are made by many web hosting companies. And as attractive as that sounds, you may find that it has its drawbacks.

With limited web space, the advantage is that you can set a limit for what you pay – ensuring that your monthly bills are more than reasonable. If you get a spike in traffic, the site may experience lagging and even down time – but as long as you are on top of how much traffic you are getting, there need never be any real problem. But if, for whatever reason, hits to your site go astronomical when you have unlimited web space then you will soon find why most people choose limited.

There is a trade-off to be had between settling for less and paying more. Setting limits on the amount of web space you use is the sensible thing to do, at least until you are able to see how much traffic your site is bringing in and how well you could justify spending a little more on it. Certainly, unlimited webspace is a waste if you are not planning to make money from your website.

Colocation – What Is It And How Can It Help You?

Smaller businesses will always be somewhat at the mercy of the larger companies who can pay for their own servers and the IT experts who can make sure that they keep running. It is pointless to look to compete with these companies, but you can follow some of the steps they take and keep yourself ahead of other companies of the same size as you. One way to go about this is to use colocation – a system that allows you to benefit from greater bandwidth and customer support than would otherwise be possible.

Colocation does cost more than standard web hosting, but offers you more for the money. It costs about the same as you would pay for a business grade DSL line providing limited bandwidth, and allows you access to far more bandwidth than the DSL line. It is also a more protected supply than most others, meaning you will have less downtime, and any time you do it will either be scheduled or fixed within moments. Because the colocation facility is dedicated to providing so much bandwidth, it is set up to withstand power outages.

As a colocation customer, you do have more responsibility for your server – indeed, in many cases it is advised that you buy a standard server in a colocation facility (this will usually cost between $150 and 200), and pay a small extra cost to have it maintained by the IT team at the facility. However, if you have your own IT experts, they can attend and carry out the maintenance that is required themselves.

The “Trouble Ticket” System: Just The Ticket Or Asking For Trouble?

There are many web hosting companies that nowadays subscribe to the idea of a “trouble ticket” system for resolving customer issues. The idea of the system is simple – a customer who is having problems with their web hosting fills in a ticket on the error page that is showing, or on the web host’s own site, informing the host of the problem. This is then sent to the web host’s call center who prioritize the issue and assign an engineer to resolve the issue.

The benefit of the system is that it does allow companies to prioritize issues, ensuring that engineers can be assigned to the particularly problematic cases first. It also means that when you do speak to someone from the company, they should be up to speed on what is wrong with your service.

Equally, however, the system has its flaws. Not least of these is the fact that it is simply impossible to know when you will get a call from an engineer. The system is designed in such a way that your first contact will come when they have got around to assigning someone to your case. This leaves you at a bit of a loose end if your problem is stopping you working. How the cases are prioritized is also a gray area.

Research has proven that customers feel far more reassured with a company that has a dedicated tech support phone number that allows them to make direct contact rather than sending off a “ticket”. It is worth holding out for a company that does this, but does it particularly well.

Hello, This Is Technical Support, How Can I Help You?

Customer service has become a real buzzword in the recent past, with companies the world over queueing up to offer it. However, as anyone who has experienced a battle with a customer support department will know, offering it is one thing, delivery is often another entirely. This is sadly often true of the technical support departments of web hosting companies, and of online service in general.

You may be familiar with the sinking feeling of being on hold to a company and hearing the recorded message telling you “Your call is important to us, thank you for holding” repeatedly. It cannot be underestimated how annoying this is, and how entirely counter-productive. The message may be designed to reassure the customer that their problem will be dealt with soon, and dealt with well – but to many of us it signals the company protesting too much.

Before you sign up for a web hosting company, it is essential that you research their record on tech support. Some companies do not have a tech support phone line, advising that you send them an email – hardly reassuring when they seem to have such problems with Internet downtime. Others offer a “live chat” service on the Internet, and this can be a worthwhile option, but only when it is adequately staffed.

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