As a business owner, or at least a would-be one, you know you need a website, but it ain’t simple. First there are free options; why would anyone pay if the same thing is available for free? The simple answer
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Finding the Best Web Host – A Maze of Lies and Distractions

Tuesday, 14 October, 2014

in Business Planning

As a business owner, or at least a would-be one, you know you need a website, but it ain’t simple.

  1. First there are free options; why would anyone pay if the same thing is available for free?

The simple answer is that it is like comparing a donkey with a horse. Both do the same job, but they are different animals. Free hosting is slow, displays extra ads and is unreliable. Do you want your website, the public perception of your business, to be seen as a donkey in a field of race horses?

  1. Second there is the fact that every website review you read is biased because of the affiliate commissions that the reviewer receives.

Web hosting is big business. The selling model is one that pays large commissions to people called affiliates who persuade people to buy the company’s hosting. This means that every single review you read online has been written in order to earn $100 commissions. How can you believe what the writer is saying?

  1. Thirdly, there are so many web hosting review and comparison sites that you could spend the rest of your life trying to decide on your best option.

Every review site has multiple affiliate links to the featured hosting companies. You will never find links to companies that do not pay commission.

  1. Fourthly is the fact that the Web is full of ads for the big hosting companies.

Everywhere you go you see display ads for big hosting companies. Every one is an affiliate ad, which will earn $100 or more for the website owner if you buy hosting after clicking the ad. The advertisements are also there to raise the profile of the big companies in the mind of people who are looking for hosting.

How Can You Find the Best Web Host?

There are multiple factors to take into account. It depends what you mean by ‘Best’.

I conducted a survey at MyBlogU.com and found a range of opinions as to factors you should consider as the most important.

Here are the three tricks I am using to choose:

Read Quora. They have lots of great insights into various features and services.

No host will ever have 100% positive reviews. Deal with that. Some things are more important than others. In the first place, stay away from services that are constantly hacked and always down (from what people say).

More often than not, the cheaper, the poorer the service will be. But a high price doesn’t automatically mean a good service, either. So do your homework reading online reviews (see #1) before making a decision.

My preferred choice is WPengine (for WordPress)

Just one factor – Support – this is by far the biggest factor I look for when selecting a hosting package. If there is a problem with my site, I want it resolved immediately. I am currently with HostGator. They used to have excellent live chat support with a response time of only a few minutes. 9 times out of 10 the online agents could fix any problems within a matter of minutes.

Noticed how I said ‘used to have excellent support’? Not anymore! I have read that they have been taken over by another company and this has severely affected their support. Last month I upgraded to a dedicated server and had nothing but problems! They did not configure my new server correctly after migrating my websites. This meant my sites were offline for a total of 3 weeks!

Their live support now takes 30-90 minutes for someone to pick up and the agents are unable to deal with a lot of basic problems and need to escalate it higher, basically pass it on to someone twho knows what they are doing! A response from this person takes anything from 24-72 hours, which is useless if your website is down and you are losing money. I am looking to migrate to BlueHost as they have excellent live support and answer within a few minutes.

Since it is difficult to move a website from one host to another (domains are easy, the entire site can be tricky), this is a relatively heavy decision:

Consider the neighborhood: Will your site be on the same server as spammers and pornographers? Search to see if the host you are considering has had problems with that in the past.

Consider the technical support: How easy or difficult will it be for you to get help when (not if) you need it?

It’s tough to find honest reviews of hosts, but you can ferret the real stuff out from the affiliate guys if you work at it.

Look to alternatives: Jason Wiser, for instance, runs a host that is selective about who gets in, and he is hardline on security. Support is quick and professional. (Check it out at http://wisersites.com)

There are smaller, more private hosts that do a great job. Seek them out. (Disclaimer: I often take on writing projects for Jason and his On Track Tips podcast/blog, but the link is not an affiliate reference.)

This is a matter close to my heart. I’ve been driven to nail-biting and hair-tearing over this recently.

Responsiveness: If you contact them, they should respond to you ideally within minutes, and if not, within hours. If they spend more than a day to get back to you, good luck.

Uptime: Many web hosts claim 99.99% uptime but in my experience, this is not really true. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how you can verify this.

Competent customer support: Sometimes, they don’t even know what they’re talking about and can’t solve your problem. True story, my website was experiencing intermittent downtimes a while back. When I asked for help, they said it was up as we spoke so not a problem anymore…

Customer Service:  I can’t tell you how many times my projects have come to a halt, because I’ve lacked the expertise to overcome technical hosting issues.  Customer service should be the first factor to consider when making a decision about web hosts.  A good webhost should have customer service reps available around the clock via web chat or phone.  The best places to get feedback about this are: social media sites, the”Web Hosting Talk” forum, Yahoo Answers, and Webmaster Forums.

Features:  Ever wanted to deploy a website in as little time as possible? Most hosts come with one-click install scripts that can make your life easier.  There is no such thing as “too many features” when it comes to web hosting.  Some of the features you should pay attention to are:  Storage space, bandwidth, number of domains you are able to use, number of databases you can deploy, whether or not SSD drives are available, and the overall server uptime.

Scalability: Once you’ve tasted a bit of success, the last thing you want to hear is that your webhost suspended your account because you are bringing in too much traffic, or because you are using too many system resources.  Scalability is a key factor to keep in mind when choosing a webhost.  Paying attention to whether or not your host offers VPS, and dedicated hosting, ensures that you will be able to expand into more robust hardware as your business grows.

I have never purchased a hosting account before. That’s mainly because of cost. But now that I see Hostgator’s $.01 cent (on the first month) promo, I might seriously reconsider. I also want to dabble a bit with HTML5 and Javascript as I’ve embarked on a learning process.

I’ve discussed this many times over the years with other people who keep convincing me to have a self-hosted WordPress account. Their usual mantra is content ownership, security and functionality. And they have a strong point.

Frankly, last week, I suspect that one of my sites was DDOS’ed but since my platform is Google’s Blogger, it held. I got a huge spike of suspected bot traffic from Israel which didn’t register in my other traffic counters. It showed up though on Google Analytics.  For what it’s worth, Blogger’s mantra of providing free hosting makes the most sense even if Blogger’s blog platform has had only small updates in the past few months. It just works out of the box and does what it’s supposed to do. It is very, very, very rarely down.

Online Page Editor. I’m also studying the offers being made by name.com, godaddy.com and imcreator.com. Their online editors are pretty impressive, but I’m still comparing them with each other. I haven’t delved deeply into their editors but I have made a few sites which look well, new.

Reputation: When searching for a web host looking at a host’s reputation is very important. Be sure to check out review sites, but be aware that hosts pay affiliates a lot of money to promote their product, so reviews may not always be accurate. However, http://www.webhostingtalk.com/ is an awesome forum to get honest feedback about web hosts. The awesome thing is that many web host CEOs hangout there, so you can get your information directly from the source. The final thing to remember is that a lot of time only angry people post reviews, so be sure to check out a good number of reviews to get the most accurate view of your web provider before you buy.

Support: I think support is one of the most important things when looking for a web host. No website is perfect, but having a knowledgeable support staff that is available 24/7 can give you that peace of mind. I have worked with various hosts and often times I can figure out the answer online more quickly than the support team. It’s frustrating because I contact support, so I can get the answer quickly and have my problem fixed easily. Also, it is nice to have a web host that offers different ways of contacting them including tickets, live chat, and phone. I personally enjoy a live chat option.

Value for The Price: Most websites are hosted on a shared hosting plan. Most hosts cost about the same, but others offer extra value for the price. For example, some hosts add on a free domain, a one click install of WordPress, unlimited websites, a choice of server location and a free website transfer. Be sure to look around and see what extras you need and see which ones are available from each potential host.

You need to determine how much you can afford to spend on hosting your site. There are many sites out there with different hosting plans that are attractive

Features. Webhosts come with different features. You need to determine which featuers are important for your site. For instance if you want to host a WordPress site, you can look for hosts that are proficient in hosting WordPress like Siteground. If you are Web developer and produce apps on the Internet, there are webhosts that specialise in hosting applications like Webhostinghub.

You can choose webhosts by looking at the reviews of others. There are sites that focus on reviews like Webhost Hero. You can get information from customers who have used a host company. Reviews can help you know what to expect from a webhost like customer support, uptime etc.

I have switched around webhosts for a couple of times (I still regret not doing my proper research before I chose each webhost, but that’s okay). Experience is much better (of course, I did have to deal with all the frustrations of managing my blog; keeping it alive and working).

I think the first and foremost thing is your budget. How much can you spend on hosting?

When I started out, I always looked for cheapest web hosting services (although thanks to my online friends, I always chose the better ones). But, I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. If you have money, then spend it. Spend it mostly on getting a good hosting service.

Reliability – How reliable is the web host? Almost all web hosting services claim that they have a 99.99% uptime (and that they are reliable). But, that’s far from true.

Service – Customer service matters. If you have a problem, you need people who can help you fix that (not folks who just transfer you to another rep). I have had some bad experiences with this. Eventually, I gave up and tried to figure it on my own (asking your online friends is one of the better methods to solve a problem).

Security – This includes protection from hackers, backing up your data and general maintenance (of course, all 3 of these mean premium service and a premium price).

Some might be able to afford this, but folks who can’t, can look for other methods (If you are on WordPress, you can try reliable WP plugins to back-up your files, once a day).

Same goes for security. You don’t always have to spend money for this; there are some good [free] plugins out there.

Of course, researching is the hard part. You can try searches, or try something more, like Social media; see how their customers respond to the service. See how they respond back; customer service is the key).

internet red smaller

101 Bloggers, 101 Different Priorities

As you can see there are many different ways to look at how you should look for a web hosting company you can trust. As someone with scientific training I prefer to look at customer satisfaction surveys to make my own choice.

I have spent several weeks looking into this issue and decided to put all my research into a free PDF ebook that you can download to help you with your own research. The ebook allows you to click on your location and to see results that are specific to your country. It covers the different kinds of hosting and you will find a recommendation whether you are looking to host one site or two hundred sites.

Two or three web hosts stand out as the best, regardless of where you are in the World. I did check out many more hosts but their customer satisfaction ratings were almost always below par, so I was unable to recommend them.

 What Do You Say?

What are your own priorities? How are you making this decision? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

Thanks

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ikechi October 14, 2014 at 15:27

This is a great post. Sharing this with everyone. Thanks for featuring me in your post

Reply

2 Phil October 15, 2014 at 15:41

Thanks for taking the time to contribute Ikechi, always appreciated

Reply

3 Jeevan Jacob John October 15, 2014 at 00:38

Support seems to be on everyone’s list 🙂

I am switching from my current provider, so it’s useful to revisit these things; they will help to make a better choice (Right now, I am considering going for smaller companies. I have to be cautious though, but like Don mentioned, there are many good ones. You just have to search for them).

I haven’t thought of using Quora to check user reviews; that seems like a good idea. I will check that out (Thank you Anna!).

And, thank you Phil for this wonderful resource 🙂

Reply

4 Phil October 15, 2014 at 15:42

Thanks Jeevan
I am switching hosts myself, hence all the research. Thanks for your valuable contribution to this post

Reply

5 Don Sturgill October 15, 2014 at 14:40

That’s a straightforward and helpful summary of hosting terms and options, Phil. Thank you.

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6 Phil October 15, 2014 at 15:44

Thanks Don,
I know I found them confusing for a long time. Thanks for your input into this post, too.

Reply

7 Danny Garcia October 15, 2014 at 15:26

I scanned through your eBook and noted that it’s a work in progress right? I’m also guessing that it isn’t meant to be read in a linear fashion. But having gone over most of the pages.
White Space
I surmise that the white space is for putting the infographics, tables, charts and pretty pictures.
If repetition cannot be avoided and I’m guessing you must have a reason for this. But for a person who doesn’t know this reason, they may be put off by the monotonality of certain phrases and sentences.
Story
People like to read about narratives and stories more than just technical specifications.

That’s it. I hope my review has been helpful. I can understand that it took some time to put together all this information.

Reply

8 Phil October 15, 2014 at 15:50

Hi Danny
No not a work in progress, the recommendations for each country all start on new pages. It is not meant to be read in a linear fashion except the first few pages. If the reader then clicks on his or her location the country list the link takes him or her directly to that country and its recommendations.

The style is deliberately objective, with no ‘story’, because choosing a web host is a serious business and this is intended as a reference guide rather than as entertainment.

I put it together from information that that has informed my decision to move from Hostgator to InMotion in January ’15.

Thanks for your helpful review

Reply

9 Ikechi Awazie October 15, 2014 at 15:29

Love the ebook; it is simplified and easy to absorb. However I want to point to your recommendations. I suggest you research and see what others are saying about the webhost they are using in each location.
There are web hosting reviews that will show you customer reviews about many web hosts. You can add that information to your ebook. There are even sites that show the best web hosts based on some features. Hope this helps.

Reply

10 Phil October 15, 2014 at 15:55

Hi Ikechi
I’m glad you like the book. I researched all the sites you suggest and found lots of contradictory information. The web hosting review sites are all full of affiliate links, so their recommendations are untrustworthy.

I decided to base the ebook’s recommendations on customer satisfaction surveys and have only recommended hosts that have well above average figures in this metric. I believe that if one host has 100 out of 110 customers recommending it to others then that is better than 400 out of 2,000 customers recommending another larger hosting company.

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11 ikechi October 15, 2014 at 16:24

This is great. Surveys are a good way to get information. You will gain insight about webhosts from users in different locations. Do keep me posted. Thanks

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12 Erica October 16, 2014 at 19:21

This ebook is an excellent read for anyone who’s looking for tips on what to look for when choosing a web host, however I would have liked to see more information on other hosting companies as well, the ebook only focused on a few different ones, and the only one that was mentioned for the US was InMotion.

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13 Phil October 20, 2014 at 06:37

Thanks Erica for taking the time to review the ebook.
I ran out of time for research into other US hosts. InMotion was the only one I could find that had >90% customer satisfaction rating, which was my main criterion for inclusion.

Reply

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