My Take on Finding a Reliable Web Hosting Company
II. Step by Step Guide (10 Steps)
Preface - Quick Tips
#1) Do not be overwhelmed by the amount of companies offering hosting services [or by the length of this guide for that matter
], that means the prices in the industry will be lower.
#2) If something sounds too good to be true, it is.
#3) There is not such thing as unlimited/unmetered space or bandwidth in shared/reseller hosting.
#4) "Award" sites and top hosts in web hosting directories are 99% fake. These listings are paid for and mean absolutely nothing.
#5) If a company is large, that does not mean the service will be better than with a smaller company.
Step by Step Guide
First you may want to make a list of web hosting companies. You can choose them from a web hosting directory, on a forum, or some other way but write at least ten names down in a file. You do not need to use specific criteria, just pick a couple companies that you think are noteworthy at a glance. Use more than one source, if you only search Google for 'web hosting', you will only get results from large companies as opposed to looking at a forum. If you do not make a list, go through each step for your chosen company.
Note: If at any time your list becomes blank, go back to step one and start over with fresh names.
If after two or three times you end up with a blank list, try looking at your reserve lists, although you should be able to find a company without resorting to that.
Do the features offered by this company match your needs? Things like a control panel, forums, databases, languages, platforms (Windows or *nix) and such. If your hosting company does not provide any backup done by them (see mini-FAQ for my reasons), it is probably a good idea to put them on your reserve list. If the potential company does not meet the necessary requirements, delete it from your list, and go back to step one until you have ten companies on your list.
Go ahead, look at the price. Is each companies price with-in your budget? If it is not, you can put it on the reserve list or erase it. If any companies you choose are not with-in your budget, go back to step one and add more companies. At the end of this step, you should have at least ten companies that fit your budget and have the features you need.
----------- Is your budget ok?
Post in this forum and ask. Use common sense, 10 GB of space and 100 GB of bandwidth for $10 is serious overselling.
How much you pay (as long as it is over $5) does not determine if the potential company is overselling badly. The amount of space, bandwidth and domains that they allow you to use for that amount determines overselling. If you are paying $10 for 2 GB of space and 30 GB of bandwidth, that is one thing. If you pay the same thing for 10 GB of space and 100 GB of bandwidth, that is another.
To keep prices down and reliability up, do not purchase much more bandwidth and space than you need. The average website uses under 100 MB of bandwidth. If you have five pages and each page is 150KB, you could get 14,000 visitors looking at EACH page, and you would only use 10 GB of bandwidth.
The next thing you should do is open Google and type in: ' [company name] reviews ' for each name in your list. Most companies will be submitted in web hosting directories or have reviews on forums; both these things will come up on Google. Open several links and take a look at the reviews, if 10-20% or more of these reviews are negative, I would suggest deleting that company from your list.
No reviews can either signify that the company is new in industry or customers
have no complaints (a good sign). Take a look at their About Us page for the amount of years they have been in business. If not provided, doing a Whois on the domain name will usually give an accurate result. See the mini-FAQ below for information on how to Whois if you do not know. Over a year in business and no reviews tends to mean no complaints.
Now is the time to take a look at what you can tell from the actual company. If the website of this particular company (go through one by one) takes a long time to load, without many images, you should probably cross them off your list. If the page has a lot of images, then it may take some time to load. For a small company, take a look at how long it takes for their forum or ticket support page to load, which is as close as you come to checking the speed of MySQL before opening an account.
For a large company with many servers, try searching Google for: ' sites hosted by [company name] '. If this is truly a large company, you will get some results, which could be a person in forums asking if other people have any experience with [company name]. Someone will chime in and tell about their experience, often including their URL. You may also try clicking on the links of people who have written testimonials. Remember to always check a page that requires database connections, like a message board.
If you find these sites are loading slow (including the time that you see a blank screen until the page actually loads at all), I suggest you go ahead and erase that company from your list. I do not suggest using ping as a way to neither tell the speed of a website nor base it on server location, see the mini-FAQ below for my reasoning.
An important step many people overlook when choosing their web hosting company is which data center they utilize. Most companies will not refund for things that were "beyond their control" such as network downtime or a power outage that bring the entire data center down. Such things happen every day, data centers used by thousands of companies go down for hours because of power outages, even when their websites talk about redundant power generators in case of an emergency, or network issues. These outages are not beyond your control however. Most companies will have a network page somewhere, stating which data center they are located in, otherwise you can include this in an email to the sales department (see below). Open up Google, and type in: ' [data center name] down '. If you receive results, open up the pages to make sure these are genuine downtimes that are more than just a couple servers wide. If the downtimes are genuine and there have been more than one (or a downtime that lasted many hours) as recent as the current year, I would stay clear of that specific data center and erase any companies with-in that data center from my list; this step may result in the removal of many companies, but it is necessary.
Now is time to test the support ability of those companies that are left (should be at least five). You should be able to contact the company via either email or a ticket system. Try it by contacting sales, for suggested questions look below. If it takes longer than 10 hours to reply, I would be careful to choose this company. When you receive a reply, check if it answers all your questions and explains everything and what to the best of your ability to tell thoughtfully. If the response is inadequate, I would suggest putting this company on your reserve list. If you do not receive a response after 24 hours or it is completely useless, delete the company from your list.
If you are looking at a large company and toll free phone is offered, attempt to contact the sales department using the number. If it sounds like you are connected to a person from outsite the country where your potential company is based, it's likely they are outsourcing their sales and support teams from another company. This practice may cause language barriers in the future and diminish support quality, I would suggest putting that company on your reserve list.
----------- What questions to ask the sales department?
These questions can be asked even if they can be located on the company’s website. If sales responds telling you to find the answer yourself because it is already on the website, you can safely erase the company from your list.
- How long has your company been providing hosting services?
- If I register my domain name with you, will I be marked as the registrant?
- What is your uptime guarantee and downtime compensation policy?
- What are your excess bandwidth charges?
- Is your free tech support available 24/7? What is your average response time?
- What is the network uptime guaranteed to you by the data center? What backup measures are in place at the data center?
- Can I have a test file to download in order to test the speed of your servers?
If you have any more questions that you want the answers to, include them in your request.
You should try contacting the support department. It is not true that if the sales department replies quickly, so will support. Send a ticket and just explain that you are checking on response time. If support takes over 10 hours to reply, I would go ahead and erase the company from my list.
By this time, you have probably narrowed your list down to a couple companies. From here on, try to decide what kind of service you want. Compare the responses and features of each company, as well as value for the money (but be careful, heed the overselling warning provided previously).
How do I make Initial Company List?
First, try opening a web hosting directory such as WebHostDir.com
. Select the category you need and read the descriptions of each company, add those that catch your attention to a file (in Word or Notepad). Then, browse this forum, and take a look for threads from people that positively review their company, there will be several of those every day. If you are looking for bigger companies, open Google and type in ' reliable web hosting '. With so many companies, making a list with 10 to 20 different companies should not be difficult.
Why does choosing a large company does not guarantee quality?
The main reason is that you are simply a number to them. Large web hosting companies, with thousands and thousands of customers cannot care about each customer as much as smaller hosts can. As a trend, the biggest players usually focus on overselling and providing mass servers instead of quality, which hurts customer support and often uptime. That does not mean that larger companies cannot provide good service, but having a lot of customers is not necessarily an indication of great service.
How do I perform a Whois?
In the address bar of your browser, type in: ' whois.sc/[domain name] '. If I wanted to do a whois of Google, I would type in 'whois.sc/google.com '. Whois can provide valuable information on the age and registrant of the domain.
Why are backups important?
In-case of a hard disk failure. Every hard drive will fail eventually, loosing all information. If there are no backups of your data, it will be completely lost. Many hosting companies perform their own backups now, but you should always make your own in addition, because in most cases a company cannot be held responsible for losing your information.
Why should I not use ping to tell server speed?
Many companies block ICMP packets and therefore block ping for security benefits. If you attempt to ping the domain or IP, a timeout error will be returned. Also, ping can change depending on your location, although this will not noticeably effect the loading time in website hosting. One more reason not to use ping is that it does not provide any accurate results in terms of database usage.
- The size of files that are downloaded from your sites multiplied by the amount of visitors. For example, let us say that you have five pages on your website, each the size of 150KB (including the size of the actual page and the images). Let us say two visitors take a look at each page, plus they downloads a file that is 5MB in size from one of the pages. That means:
(0.15MB x 5 pages) * 2 people + 5MB * 2 people and you get 11.5MB of bandwidth used by those two people. The 0.15MB is 150KB converted to megabytes. If around 2,000 people visited each page of your website and downloaded the file, you would use about 10 GB of bandwidth. Without the file,
you could have 14, 000 visitors!
- The data center is a term that usually refers to the physical location of the server that websites are hosted on. Servers of any professional company are always located in a data center because internet speed (such as Cable, DSL and even T3) at home or small office is not enough to allow for the fast loading of websites. Data centers also provide more redundancy that allows servers to remain up in-case of emergencies.
- Can also be called domain for short. This term refers to the address of the website. Take Google for example, the domain name is Google.com. The domain name of this forum is webhostingtalk.com. Domain names are case insensitive.
- Refers to the amount of time that your website is unreachable to people across the internet. Most commonly, 'Page Cannot Be Displayed' error will be returned.
- The practice of selling customers more bandwidth, space or other resources than you actually have. Let us say that you have an 83 GB hard-drive. It would be overselling if you sold your customers any more than 83 GB of space, even if they are using only 10 GB in reality. This would cause problems if some of the customers decided to use the entire amount that was purchased by them, the server would run out of space. Same applies for bandwidth. For CPU, the more websites you put on a server, the slower it runs.
- Refers to the amount of time that people can access your site on the internet; the amount of time that your website is working properly.
Good luck with your new web hosting provider
Any feedback or suggestions are welcome.