In 2000, I started getting assignments to help other people with their web sites. My sister was president of The League of Women Voters of North Dakota; she asked if I could help them put up a web site. I was happy to help but I knew neither AOl, nor a free hosting site were not going to cut it.
At the local Mac User group I asked a guy who was doing a bunch of web sites. I wanted a good host and one that was inexpensive. He recommended astrohosting.com. Shortly after they changed their name to Omnis Network. Later that year I added my company web site.
After a year I started to notice more and more hosting companies; many with much better deals. I set up a couple web sites on Dellz.com including my personal web site. Dellz was purchased by ATL Networks. This fit my needs and I slowly moved all my web sites to ATL. The service was pretty good and seemed to be getting better right up until recently. Drops in service, email in particularly, have caused me too look elsewhere. I have done some research on the subject and I have a page on this blog that I try to keep updated with my notes: Web Hosting Companies.
When looking at Web Hosting Companies, it appears they are all in a race to see who can offer the most space, domains per account, bandwidth, web applications, email accounts, and the lowest cost. These are quantify services, but what is not easy to compare is levels of service. You need to be careful when comparing hosting companies.
- Don’t fall for claims of space, unless you are hosting thousands of pages, hundreds of sound files or dozens of videos, you may not need it much more than 50mb.
- Offering multiple domains or unlimited domains under one account sure is nice. It’s makes the billing and upkeep simpler and also can be less expensive. But it can be more expensive if you only have one domain. It also makes it harder to leave if you have dozens of domains.
- Bandwidth is usually very generous, but you should be prepared if your site becomes an instantly high traffic site- i.e. if it makes the front page of Digg.com. Ask your host what happens if your traffic runs over your bandwidth allotment.
- See if they have one button installation of the application(s) you want: like a WordPress blog, shopping cart, a Wiki, etc.
- Most web hosts offer a large number (100 or 1000) of email accounts. I bet most hosting companies wish they never had to offer email. I’m sure spam causes most of their headaches.
- The most important factor is service. You are not going to be happy if your web site is always down or you can’t get your email. Price is important but these companies are looking at each other’s prices all the time. The price range for similar hosting isn’t as wide as it use to be. So, take some time to call each company. Ask a billing question. Ask a technical question. Email the support department. Note how quickly and complete the answers are. Check to see if they have a users forum. Check the FAQs. Are they complete and easy to understand?
In a nutshell I think most web host companies are pretty good. They all have problems both with the hosting servers and the email servers, so what the potential customer needs to look at is how well they take care of those problems and how well they communicate with you.
This post deals with shared hosting where your site shares the server with other sites. Most if not all hosting companies also offer dedicated hosting, where the server is yours alone. This is part four of a series.