What Is Hosting
Your host is the place where your Domain name will live, where you will place the content and if you are a marketer, promote the offers that put your mark on the internet as a person of authority and integrity in your field.
It is probably the most important component of your Internet presence, and finding the best Web Hosting is a task you should undertake with utmost care.
There Are However Some Problems
There are the two major myths that are deeply rooted in this industry which need to be dispelled before we can even think about what our hosting needs and preferences might be.
a) The Liberal Use Of The Term Unlimited
When the hosting company says unlimited, it doesn’t mean unlimited, in fact what it is really saying is that it imposes no specific caps on usage.
The only reason hosting is so affordable is that the hosting that the average user utilises which is called shared hosting, involves many sites sharing one server.
Hosting companies host between 1000 to 5000 individual accounts on each server. That very arrangement limits the space available to each account.
The hosting company utilises a method similar to that employed by “eat all you can” restaurants, or “pick your own” berry farms or orchards; that is the average account will use less than is allocated with only a small percentage taking more.
If you go and get twenty plates of food at an “Eat All You Can Outlet” someone is likely to say that’s enough; if you eat two kilos of fruit for each kilo you bring to the weigh-in at a “Pick Your Own” berry farm or orchard, someone is likely to point out the unacceptability of the practice.
So it is with shared hosting. if you’re taking more is excessive or consistent then your account can be sanctioned, what is even more difficult is that there are rarely hard and fast rules.
However you will always find the real story by reading the Terms of service (ToS) or Terms and Conditions (TaC).
These are the fine print behind the copywriters promises and they tell a somewhat different story to those promises, nowhere more so than for the term in question.
Look for sections talking about Unlimited: Domains, Data Transfer, Disk Space or Storage and their Fair Use Policy in those areas. These sections, with more or less specificity will explain the real meaning of the phrases
Remember the box you casually ticked during signup that had beside it “I have read and understand the Terms and Conditions” or something similar. Well that’s legally binding and one of those terms will say something like: fair use is not having activity on your account which impinges on the ability of other accounts on the server to operate, utilising their fair share of the available resources.
Even if you use more expensive forms of hosting you will find that their will be limitations of some kind.
Virtual Private Server (VPS), which is shared hosting on steroids, will still have fair use policies, but of course with higher limits, for which you typically pay higher prices.
Even if you move to a dedicated server where you lease an entire server, and where you will have full control over the server, including choice of operating system, hardware, etc. The hardware itself will impose limitations based on disk size and traffic intensity.
So in reality there is really no unlimited anything, anywhere unless you are Google, Twitter or Microsoft, even owning your own server, will not give you that.
Those which are front and centre in the advertising and which are touted as being of major importance in your choice of host are not in fact features that offer stark contrasts between those competing for your hosting dollar.
Performance in areas such as server speed, uptime, cPanel navigation, software stability and ease of content management system installation, for example WordPress, all measure within tenths of a percentage point of each other.
What Is Important Then?
In a nutshell the important things you should know about, are those that can or will:
- a) Affect your ability to grow your site.
b) Affect your costs
To effectively achieve the goal of growing your site you need to:
- Find Out What The Limits Are.
Remember the idea of creating a site, for most of us, is to get visitors. The more the better. So when you are estimating your needs, think success and what that would mean in terms of resource requirements.
It may seem a waste of time to do this kind of research for an expenditure of only a few dollars, or Euro’s a month, but the reasons go much deeper than that.
This isn’t only about looking at whether those limits would enable you to operate without sanction today, but in your second or third year of operation.
If you are able or intend to pay for your hosting on a monthly basis, this will be irrelevant, but most of us are enticed by the convenience of and reduced pricing associated with signing up for longer periods.
The reality hits when you find that even a meager number of visitors is eating up your data transfer allowance, or just two domains are putting you over the storage limit, and your host is getting antsy about its fair use policy and your contract still has several years to run.
So before you tick the box and provide your credit card numbers or Paypal details, please read the ToS, and if you don’t understand something, contact the hosting company you have decided on and talk to their support staff.
This is the time to get you questions answered to your satisfaction, because this is the time when they are still trying to get your business.
Having established the limits of your account and that it does fit your current estimates of your requirements. There is one other thing you should establish.
Find Out If This Hosting Company Offers The Ability To Change Plans.
The best laid plans of mice and men can fail and should you still have under estimated your requirements you need to know what you can do to avoid your account getting locked or deleted.
Your preferred host will have a policy and you need to be aware of it. Many hosts apply a charge for this service, while others see this as an opportunity to stay with you in changing circumstance and are happy to facilitate your change of plans without imposing any fee, apart from any increase costs associated with the new plan.
Remember Failing to plan, is tantamount to planning to fail.
To effectively manage your costs, the second part of the equation, you need to:
See if Your Host Offers Freebies
For example some hosts offer to renew your domain name for free every year while you remain with them. If you only have one domain on your site that is 100% of your Domain costs saved and is very worthwhile.
However if you have a number of domains the savings go down dramatically as you will only get one renewal per account so if you have six domains at $10 per year, you will still have to pay for five, but any saving of $10 is worthwhile.
This can be a big help in a number of ways:
- a) Some companies offer really low rates for the duration of your initial contract with the price increasing by up to 100% on renewal. This can have some advantages if you are pretty sure that you will be generating income within the time-frame of your contract and can budget for the increased fees.
Companies that offer such deals are usually offering premium features at low cost to entice your membership, in a very competitive environment, So the charges they revert to are usually fair. However they can be a shock if you didn’t read the terms of the initial offer.
b) Others lock in a price for the duration of your time with them. Being able to predict hosting costs for your website, enables you to plan spending in other areas with much greater certainty.
c) Then Others Offer Returning Customer Discount Offers. Which is a discount on additional accounts of up to 50% for life. As you bring your accounts to the host the discounts are automatically applied.
Finally, that area which I believe offers the most contrasts between web hosts and that is:
Responsive Customer Support.
If your research lands you up with several options for a website. Then this should be the deciding factor. All the leading providers have 24/7/365 support, but responsiveness is what I believe is the quality you should look for.
What kinds of support channels are there?
FAQ’s, Live Chat, Telephone, or Email.
Do they put more resources in one channel over another and is it one you would use by choice?
What is their stated response time?
How helpful are the representatives?
As in everything you should do your own research, actually test each channel out and make a final decision based on your own experience.
Remember this is the best time to find out that they state five minutes but in actuality its more like 25 minutes or more.
I did that for this post and came up with the three hosts above, I have been a long time customer and affiliate of Blue Host, but on the basis of my research I also joined the other two hosts as an affiliate. So if you think that any of the hosts would meet your needs and you click on the links and buy one of their hosting packages I will get a commission.
My choice for overall value is currently Arvixe by a nose, but as it will be for you that is a personal choice.