by anthony on 06/27/11 at 6:41 pm
Choosing the right web host is one of the most important things to starting a website. With so many web hosts out there, it’s not easy to find the right web host for your needs. I know this because I have made mistakes in choosing my web hosts. This has cost me website uptime, money, time and energy. Don’t make the mistake of choosing the wrong web host like I did. Every web host is different. It takes more than you think to find the right web host for your needs.
Not all web hosting reviews are equal.
The first thing most people do to test a web host is read user reviews. You’re not sure how a web host is, so you want to see how other people’s experiences measure up. The problem with this is that you often get so many mixed reviews that it’s hard to know what to think. The reason for so many mixed reviews is because everyone has a different standard of service. Some people have high standards and some have low ones. You should pay attention to reviews from those that have high standards of service. These people will often go into detail about their hosting service. They won’t just say how great a host is. They’ll go into specifics about their particular situation. Their review will sound more personal and less generic. A person with a low standard of service is a lot easier to satisfy. They’re a lot more lenient when something goes wrong. You should take their reviews with a grain of salt.
Don’t let the design fool you.
People say you should never judge a book by its cover. I say you should also never judge a web hosting company by its website design. In other words, a beautifully designed web hosting website does not equal a great web hosting service. Don’t let the colors and gradients fool you. A great visual design does not mean they care about giving you a good service. It usually means they care about their marketing, which can sometimes mean they’re using style to compensate for substance. To find out if a host has good service, you have to do your own research and investigation. This calls for more than just reading reviews and judging a website.
Do your own research and investigation.
The two most important things to web hosting are fast, intelligent tech support and a plan that gives you the most resources for the lowest price. A web host that gives you all of this is one to pay attention to. There are two things you need to do before you choose your next web host.
1. Test the speed and intelligence of their tech support.
A lot of web hosts claim they have 24/7 tech support. How do you know if this is true if you don’t test for it? You may get a prompt response during the day, but is their support alive and active after hours? Test this by contacting their support at a time where there isn’t as much activity going on. If they claim to have 24/7 support, you should have no problem getting a response in the wee hours of the night. If you don’t get a response, their 24/7 support claim is a lie.
Another thing to test for is the speed at which they respond to support tickets. Just because you’re not a customer yet doesn’t mean you can’t send them a support ticket. Email their support, ask a simple question and check their response time. Do this during the day where there’s a lot of activity to see how fast their response time is under pressure. If a web host claims to have fast support, it should take them less than 10 minutes to respond.
Speed is only part of it. The other part is testing the tech support’s intellgence. When you talk to them via chat, email or phone, what kind of responses are you getting? Are they listening to what you’re asking? If they’re giving you canned responses, they probably aren’t listening to you. If they give you a response that doesn’t answer your question, they probably didn’t read your question carefully, or they’re purposely dodging it. Whatever the case is, great tech support will always answer your questions intelligently. They’ll give you humane answers, not robotic ones. They’ll listen carefully and work to fully understand your situation. Their answers will show compassion and authenticity for you as a customer, which are two rare traits seen in customer service these days.
2. Compare the price and resources of their plans with others.
The next thing you have to do is compare a web host’s hosting plans with others. A great web host is one that gives you the most bang for your buck. You want to get the most resources at the lowest price. Stay away from overpriced plans that offer little resources at high prices. This is usually a sign that they care more about their bottom line than you.
To know if a web host is overpricing their plans, you have to know which resources to look at. The most important hosting resources are memory, bandwidth and disk space in order of importance. Memory is the most important of them all. If you don’t have enough memory to handle the amount of activity on your website, your website will fail to load. You should choose a web host that offers both guaranteed memory and burst memory. Guaranteed memory are dedicated resources that you get to use when you want. Burst memory are resources that are available to you if your website spikes. A good web host should always have burst memory available on a server. If they don’t, they’re overloading their servers with too many people, which is a bad hosting practice.
Choose a hosting plan that gives you the amount of memory you need at the best price. Great VPS hosting plans usually start at 512 MB of guaranteed memory for managed hosting for $20.00/month and go up from there. Any hosting company that charges more than that is ripping you off. If they don’t offer managed hosting or charge extra for it, then that’s a sign of lazy tech support. Great tech support should always come with any hosting plan. This shows that they care about their customers.
Here are a few of the best bang for your buck managed VPS hosting plans that I have found:
- JaguarPC.com (not sure how their support is)
- AvailHosting.com (not sure how their support is)
My personal experience.
UX Movement is now hosted with ComfortHost.net. Their hosting plans are great and their tech support is fast and intelligent. When you talk to them, you feel like you’re talking to a real human, not a robot. They also offer around-the-clock chat support, which is something to take advantage of to get a fast response in real-time.
Before ComfortHost.net, I was with Eleven2.com on their cloud server plan. My experience with them was so bad that I didn’t stay with them for long. I found out that their cloud server plans don’t actually have any burst memory to handle resource spikes. Their 24/7 tech support really isn’t 24/7 at all. Their support response times were slow. When you got a response, it was usually short and contained nothing helpful. If you have a problem, they won’t tell you what the problem is exactly. They won’t give you any details, unless you goad them to. There are no status updates, so you’re sitting and wondering what’s going on. They don’t offer you solutions to your problem, except to upgrade your plan to pay them even more for service you aren’t getting.
They also don’t offer a money back guarantee. So if you aren’t satisfied, tough luck. Their CEO plays a role in their tech support. But after you get a few support tickets answered by him, you start getting the feeling that he couldn’t care less about your problems. Top all of that off with a highly overpriced hosting plan, and you get an abysmal web hosting service with a great website design, but hardly anything behind it to back it up. Their official rating from me is three thumbs down. Spare yourself the misery and host elsewhere.
When you look for your next web host, make sure you don’t make the same mistake I did. Test the support and compare hosting plans before you choose your web host. You won’t regret it.