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  #1  
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Caveat Emptor: A Guide to Choosing a Web Host


Caveat Emptor

The web hosting industry is one that has grown exponentially over a relatively short period of time. Now more than ever, there are people all over, scramming to find a reliable web host. From small brick and mortar companies to large internet enterprises - they all want to diversify and go live on the web. But we all have heard stories of web hosts gone awry and the horrible experiences that entail. Which brings me to the question: what exactly draws us in to these companies? There are thousands of these web hosting companies all quintessentially trying to sell the same exact product: web hosting. There are variations in services offered such as Windows, Linux, MySQL databases, et cetera but what exactly draws us into one company and deters us from others? Furthermore, what is it that draws many to the dreaded web hosts that so many horror stories originate from?

Aesthetics

Aesthetics is a major factor in choosing a web host for many. If a website looks "pretty", some would say the web host must be reliable/good/all of the above. Many though have found that not to be the case as exemplified through horrific web hosting stories. This society is one where we judge everything by its cover. I'm not saying this is an entirely a bad thing; moreover it is an overpowering influence in most of our decisions. Aesthetically pleasing sites do show that some time and effort was put into creating them. When one solely bases their decision on the look of the site is when everything can go downhill. To the uneducated consumer, some may not have heard of or seen these highly circulated website templates that plague the web hosting industry. These usually for the educated consumer, throw up a red flag telling the prospective buyer to be sure to scrutinize the host more closely. Not everything on the web is what it appears to be, and many can testify to that. So when choosing a web host, it is important not to have aesthetics heavily influence your decision.

Price

Price is a large factor if not, one of the largest factors in choosing a web host. We've all heard the maxim, "You get what you pay for" and the common phrase, "Too good to be true". Usually in web hosting we find these to be true. One of the things we cannot do is buy something solely on the price. Prospective consumers see so much offered for such a nominal price and think, "Oh what a great deal!" But they don't factor in all the other aspects of the web host's job. Not only do they provide space and bandwidth, but they also provide server maintenance, server uptimes, customer support, extra features, et cetera. So before we buy this 10GB disk space and 100GB Bandwidth plan for $1 a month we must look through and analyze their business practices. Does this seem plausible? Take a look at the other plans they have. Are there any hidden costs? Does it seem like these plans can be profitable. A rule of thumb usually is to deviate yourself from purchasing plans from hosts offering unlimited disk space or unlimited bandwidth, as there is no such thing. A lot of the time, when people run into a web host with drastically inexpensive plans, they find their said services to be rendered useless – finding trouble with uptime, server speeds and general technical support. Even if we’re on a budget, it is a good idea to stay away from the hosts that make you think, “This is too good to be true.” Because as stated before, this is usually the case. Don’t think though that there aren’t any good budget hosts, because there are definitely excellent budget hosts providing quality service. To protect yourself, you really have to be aware of everything - all the services, the prices, the look and the most important factor in choosing a web host should be: research that you have conducted.

Research

The best consumer, the most protected consumer is one whom is educated. Research, research, research. If you narrow down a list of hosts, all that is left is to research them. Find out what their customers or ex-customers have to say about them. One may offer a 99.9% uptime guarantee which seems appealing but then while researching you may find that customers spent half a month without hosting! This of course is an exaggeration but it is plausible. Research is really the best way to find out if a host is suitable for you or not. You can use the forum, WebHostingTalk.com and find out various points of information to extend your knowledge of the web hosting industry. There you can use the search tool, type in the name of prospective hosts that you are researching and find all sorts of feedback from customers. This is one of the best tools as it gives you actual customer’s unadulterated reviews of the company. When looking for a host, always make sure to read their TOS and look for money back guarantee’s or refund policies. There are many instances when someone signs up with a host and is unsatisfied only to find out after the first day of hosting, no refunds are given. But this avoidable situation can put you into an extremely tight spot.

So why choose one host over another? Hopefully our choices are well balanced, educated and based sensibly in regards to the topics mentioned: aesthetics, prices, and research. If you keep a balanced view in regards to finding a web host there should be minimal problems. Always research and never jump into anything right away, and always keep in mind the Latin maxim, “Caveat Emptor” – “let the buyer beware”.



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  #2  
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Web Hosting Guru
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
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Posts: 251
Agreed with all the above. I'd add the following to Research:

Use www.webhostingtalk.com to research feedback about a particular host. See how the host reacts to any criticism. See how many posts he has and what they are about.

Also, use Google. I.e. the search
Quote:
{host name} problems
often reveals threads of other forums, including the host's own forum (if there is one).

  #3  
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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Then again, you don't want to limit your search to ONLY the host's weaknesses ... So take it all with a grain of salt.


Last edited by spikez202; 10-27-2005 at 07:09 PM.
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  #4  
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Great tutorial!

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  #5  
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voidhosting
Great tutorial!
Thanks! I appreciate all responses!

  #6  
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How about a real critique

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
Aesthetically pleasing sites do show that some time and effort was put into creating them.
Absolute statement catering to a practical audience, I disagree. Also, if it is safe to say that effort in the arts should be undignified, then a truly (naturally) skilled designer might be able to cook up a design of brilliant calibre in one third the amount of time that it would take a lesser designer (assuming the end results were exactly the same aesthetically). This is largely why I think paying for design work by the hour is a sham. There is very little way to prove how effortless the job will be for the designer past his word. Either way, time and effort doesn't necessarily equate an aesthetically pleasing web site. What about fans of minimalism? Etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
When one solely bases their decision on the look of the site is when everything can go downhill.
This is sort of an ironic followup to its preceding sentence above. You're implying to the audience that they should assume that because a website is aesthetically pleasing, that time and effort went into it's creation--implying that this is a good thing. So you're kind of sending a mixed message by following up with "everything can go downhill." To avoid the contrast, I don't think you should have implied that time and effort was necessarily ever a good thing (I have a very strong feeling people are going to misinterpret my meaning here, but oh well)!

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
To the uneducated consumer, some may not have heard of or seen these highly circulated website templates that plague the web hosting industry. These usually for the educated consumer, throw up a red flag telling the prospective buyer to be sure to scrutinize the host more closely. Not everything on the web is what it appears to be, and many can testify to that.
I think you should go past the face value analysis of template rips here and consider conceptual rips. "Not everything on the web is what it appears to be" indeed. A seemingly "unqiue" design doesn't equate a unique concept. What about all of those empty mission statements that serve to more or less parrot each other, falling in line to meet the customer's boring practical expectations?

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
So when choosing a web host, it is important not to have aesthetics heavily influence your decision.
I disagree and think it is important to have aesthetics influence one's decision when choosing a host. Maybe you chose the wrong word, because the meaning of "aesthetic" certainly extends beyond "looks" (which is simply the practical/common definition) and well into underlying concept and theory. Unless awareness is highly lacking, one's taste isn't influenced by looks alone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
Price is a large factor if not, one of the largest factors in choosing a web host. We've all heard the maxim, "You get what you pay for" and the common phrase, "Too good to be true". Usually in web hosting we find these to be true. One of the things we cannot do is buy something solely on the price.
This can work both ways though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
Prospective consumers see so much offered for such a nominal price and think, "Oh what a great deal!" But they don't factor in all the other aspects of the web host's job. Not only do they provide space and bandwidth, but they also provide server maintenance, server uptimes, customer support, extra features, et cetera. So before we buy this 10GB disk space and 100GB Bandwidth plan for $1 a month we must look through and analyze their business practices.
In terms of empty mission statements or sales staff spouting out faux-sentimentality as dictated by a vulgar company policy set up to destroy authentic human communication, how can one truly analyze a business practice? Authenticity becomes highly obfuscated and hidden behind an opauqe, practical line of defense. Ambiguity must be avoided at all costs in order to quell anxiety and with it's loss, a higher form of truth becomes lost as well and replaced with the shrink wrapped version.

You're right to think that business practices should be deeply analyzed, but naive to assume that you actually can analyze them to a meaningful extent. Practical business endeavor necessarily negates meaning in more cases than not. As if the execs at 1and1.com (random example, replace with any company at will) want you to know of their actual business practices past the happy little bundled up spectacle they present on their webpage.

And yes, more often than not, practical thought is reliable so I don't need people referencing their little defense mechanisms to point this out to me. My point is that it is boring and unethical (IMO). The only way that an analysis of a company's business practise is going to be meaningful is if the company in question attempts to make it visible to the public in a truthful and meaningful way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
A lot of the time, when people run into a web host with drastically inexpensive plans, they find their said services to be rendered useless – finding trouble with uptime, server speeds and general technical support. Even if we’re on a budget, it is a good idea to stay away from the hosts that make you think, “This is too good to be true.” Because as stated before, this is usually the case.
To avoid bias, the above statements can, of course, apply to lower priced hosts all the same.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
Don’t think though that there aren’t any good budget hosts, because there are definitely excellent budget hosts providing quality service. To protect yourself, you really have to be aware of everything - all the services, the prices, the look and the most important factor in choosing a web host should be: research that you have conducted.
Now (other than client complaints and testimonials which can only be taken with a grain of salt at best) if only there were meaningful data to research!

  #7  
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Web Hosting Master
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
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Ah, Matthew, long time...

You brought up some good points through an in depth analysis, but I have to disagree on some points.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mjzz
Absolute statement catering to a practical audience, I disagree. Also, if it is safe to say that effort in the arts should be undignified, then a truly (naturally) skilled designer might be able to cook up a design of brilliant calibre in one third the amount of time that it would take a lesser designer (assuming the end results were exactly the same aesthetically).
If the designer was that talented in the first place, either A. the company hired a good designer (Which probably means that it was more expensive otherwise, and they value their investment to their company), or B. The site owner is a good designer.

In most cases however, if you are that good of a designer, you are going to stick to the field of web design. Talented designers usually will stick with their strength in design.

This of course is generally speaking, as no recommendations for the methodology of choosing a web host can be given using only indisputable facts. Recommendations differ in that they are subject to certain generalities that the author perceives.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mjzz
Either way, time and effort doesn't necessarily equate an aesthetically pleasing web site. What about fans of minimalism? Etc.
Minimalism at times could even be harder to create than fully loaded designs. Minimalistic designs serve a purpose. One of the marks of good minimal design is that it makes the visitor concentrate on a single, important aspect of every page. You design minimally to focus attention. In that respect, many times it is more difficult to create a minimalistic design.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mjzz
This is sort of an ironic followup to its preceding sentence above. You're implying to the audience that they should assume that because a website is aesthetically pleasing, that time and effort went into it's creation--implying that this is a good thing.
The overall concept and message is to look at the subjects and areas of focus outlined, and put them all together. You can't analyze only one area and establish your judgement on sed host. One must collect this information, put it together, and then analyze it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mjzz
I think you should go past the face value analysis of template rips here and consider conceptual rips. "Not everything on the web is what it appears to be" indeed. A seemingly "unqiue" design doesn't equate a unique concept. What about all of those empty mission statements that serve to more or less parrot each other, falling in line to meet the customer's boring practical expectations?
That is something I didn't address in this article but it brings up a valid point. However, you can't say that these mission statements are all false. I'm sure many are genuine. For the most part, one is not going to create a company with the intention of ripping people off and lieing them. These too however, must be taken with a grain of salt.

The audience usually doesn't read that garble anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mjzz
Now (other than client complaints and testimonials which can only be taken with a grain of salt at best) if only there were meaningful data to research!
Agreed.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
If the designer was that talented in the first place, either A. the company hired a good designer (Which probably means that it was more expensive otherwise, and they value their investment to their company), or B. The site owner is a good designer.

In most cases however, if you are that good of a designer, you are going to stick to the field of web design. Talented designers usually will stick with their strength in design.

This of course is generally speaking, as no recommendations for the methodology of choosing a web host can be given using only indisputable facts.
This was all irrelevant to my point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
Recommendations differ in that they are subject to certain generalities that the author perceives.
Is this self deprecation? hehe

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
Minimalism at times could even be harder to create than fully loaded designs. Minimalistic designs serve a purpose. One of the marks of good minimal design is that it makes the visitor concentrate on a single, important aspect of every page. You design minimally to focus attention. In that respect, many times it is more difficult to create a minimalistic design.
I just mentioned minimalism randomly as in most cases, it's obviously less time consuming to create a minimalistic design. What's your point with all this though? Sure, it can be harder from time to time... and? I don't see how this contrasts the idea that effort in art should be undignified so you're not really even disagreeing with me here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
The overall concept and message is to look at the subjects and areas of focus outlined, and put them all together. You can't analyze only one area and establish your judgement on sed host. One must collect this information, put it together, and then analyze it.
Again, this has nothing to do with the comment it was supposedly responding to. For some reason, you're just talking about the necessity to put all pieces of your tutorial together and compare for "best results," which is obvious and has nothing to do with the contrasting elements I pointed out within the Aesthetics section. Nowhere was I implying that one should analyze "only one area" when reading a guide, I was simply pointing out weaknesses in certain areas, which had they not been there in the first place, would have made for more crediblity (IMO). Of course someone "can't analyze only one area" to establish an overall opinion, but I certainly can and must in order to create a critique. Are you going to respond to the critique about your guide? Or are you going to tell people how to read your guide? Further, are you sure you "have to disagree on some points?" I don't think you've disagreed with a single point I've made yet! You'd make a good politician

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
That is something I didn't address in this article but it brings up a valid point. However, you can't say that these mission statements are all false. I'm sure many are genuine.
Ahh, finally an attempted argument. Define "genuine" in terms of creation then, good sir. http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=genuine This might be tougher than you think

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
For the most part, one is not going to create a company with the intention of ripping people off and lieing them.
lol. Must... remain... speechless.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spikez202
The audience usually doesn't read that garble anyway.
Which is a large part of the problem. People inherently expect to see the empty pragmatic business lingo on such pages and don't care enough to bother reading it because it is more or less meaningless at this point (in terms of store bought creation vs. subjective creation). I'm going to quote Fromm again to clear up my point:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fromm
The inability to act spontaneously, to express what one genuinely feels and thinks, and the resulting necessity to present a pseudo self to others and oneself, are the root of the feeling of inferiority and weakness. Whether or not we are aware of it, there is nothing of which we are more ashamed than of not being ourselves, and there is nothing that gives us greater pride and happiness than to think, to feel, and to say what is ours.

This implies that what matters is the activity as such, the process and not the result. In our culture the emphasis is just the reverse. We produce not for a concrete satisfaction but for the abstract purpose of selling our commodity; we feel that we can acquire everything material or immaterial by buying it, and thus things become ours independently of any creative effort of our own in relation to them. In the same way we regard our personal qualities and the result of our efforts as commodities that can be sold for money, prestige, and power. The emphasis thus shifts from the present satisfaction of creative activity to the value of the finished product. Thereby man misses the only satisfaction that can give him real happiness--the experience of activity of the present moment--and chases after a phantom that leaves him disappointed as soon as he believes he has caught it--the illusory happiness call success.
This is what I mean when I say said mission statements are not genuine. There is little to no self-authenticity and large amounts of empty pragmatic submission. Therefore, the person who doesn't even bother to read such "garble," as you put it, has already chosen to submit in advance; is already on the same page of submission and can take such things for granted. Less ambiguity and less worry in trade for less authenticity.

Also, you're pretty much contradicting yourself by stating that a "genuine" mission statement is at the same time "garble," hehe. You're basically revealing your true thought here, must have let that one slip You can't get caught letting out honest thought like this if you choose to engage in the one-dimensional art of pragmatic business. You need to stick to that one dimension, in order to, as I said above, avoid creating anxiety for a readership who can't handle facing the inherent ambiguity in the world.

So uhh, do you have an actual argument for me? Or you could just give me a $1000 cut from your recent sale (just kidding, congrats on that)!

  #9  
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(To the original post)

We really have to be aware to beware!

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