Raise your web host expectations here
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If you have an online presence, a reliable company to host your Web site is mandatory. Today, Web hosting is more efficient and economical than ever before, so you should raise your expectations for performance and service. To see a facts-based approach to evaluating potential services, check out hosting reviews available online.
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- UPTIME. How much of the time is your Web accessible to your users? Some Web hosts brag about 99% uptime, but this means that your site could be unavailable 1% (14 minutes) per day, or 87 hours per year!
- Look for a Web host that publicly displays the uptime of its servers.
- Reject any Web host that does not show a record of at least 99.9% uptime.
- REPUTATION. Companies that do well will have a following of satisfied customers.
- Do a google search and find out problems with a candidate Web host. Keep a degree of fairness in mind: any provider of any service is going to have some problems. Look for a pattern of either raves or rants about the company.
- Look for Web hosts that have some track record. New companies might promise great things, but when they go out of business or get absorbed in another (perhaps mediocre) company, you may be stuck with lousy service.
- Read several web hosting reviews before deciding which one to choose.
- RESPONSE. Your Web site will be on a machine deep in some computer room somewhere. How well-connected is the server to the global Internet?
- Use some traceroute tools to see how long it takes for packets to go back and forth from the Web host's machines. Keep in mind that the rapid speed of Internet communications means that even far-flung server farms are perfectly adequate for Web hosting.
- Check the Web hosts site about their server management procedures. Do they have backup servers in place ready to go if the machine holding your Web site goes down or needs maintenance?
- USER SUPPORT. You'll need to take some simple steps to deploy and maintain your site. Some Web hosts jam their user information with clutter, marketing double speak, and their own private technical jargon. The result is that you can't figure out how to deploy and update your Web site--a process that need not be complex at all.
- Look at the user interface and support interface at a candidate Web host. Look at specific instructions about how you are going to set up your Web site files, the email for your domain name, and other services such as subdomains, databases, mailing lists, backups, CGI scripts, or secure server hosting.
- Do a sample search on some questions about hosting your site. Look at the first steps you would do if you chose this Web host.
- Do a sample call to their technical support number and ask any questions you have about their service.
- COST. Within reason, cost should be the least of your considerations. By reasonable cost, I mean about $10 or so per month to host a Web site for a small or medium organization (for example, 20 GB of data transfer per month and 2 GB of disk storage). Special services or domain registration would be extra. The main point is that I would not even consider a Web host that sells itself as cheap as its main criteria. A cheap Web host is useless if it is down more than a few minutes a month, has poor support, is unreliable, and may likely be out of business soon. Also, consider the refund policy of the web hosting provider. The most common is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
I've had my Web site, december.com, since May 1995 and have had four Web hosts.
I am 100% satisfied with my current Web host because of its exceptionally good uptime and its highly-usable interface.
Why do I like My current web hosting service? Let me count the ways:
- UPTIME. Their uptime is publicly posted! As of this writing, the machine on which I have my Web site has a cumulative uptime of 99.989%! This is the major reason why I chose the service.
- REPUTATION. As I searched online directories of Web hosts and googled for comments about the web hosting service, I found comments that were very favorable. I was surprised to hear that an Internet company would deliver competent, reliable service. I was impressed that the company is "completely debt-free." Since the service offers a 30-day trail period, I decided that this host was worth considering further.
- RESPONSE. I used a visual traceroute service to see how packets traveled to the Web hosts's servers. I was satisfied that my users would be able to access the servers easily, particularly users on the east coast of the United States, a major area for Internet use.
- USER SUPPORT. Right from the start, the user support interface was so clean, clear, cogent, concise, and comprehensible that it brought a tear of joy to my eye. (My previous Web host had online information that was disorganized, cluttered, incomprehensible, out-of-date, and ill-presented.) I was able to get my Web site up and going within minutes of my payment clearing. I prepared my DNS settings, email for my domain, and transferred my files without ever getting confused or sidetracked, not even once. In fact, I have never been even slightly puzzled by the control choices and other services I have available. The interface is beautifully intuitive and the information presented is clearly understandable. I've never had to ask for help or technical support.
- COST. I hate to say this because it might give the service ideas about its price, but I would gladly pay five times what this company charges for its services. Competent Internet companies are so very rare that they are easily worth many factors of cost over their incompetent competition. In fact, I hope this company does not lower its price too much, as I don't want it to compromise service quality in any way.
Bottom line: In choosing a Web host, look for demonstrated competence as measured by uptime and user-oriented support information.
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