Off lately, we have observed that there is a lot of confusion in the mind of web host seekers. They see different providers offering drastically different prices (over ratios of 1:100). Some even offer unlimited web space and unlimited bandwidth to attract business. With so much confusion and information overload, how does one safely choose a web hosting provider? Quite a few unsuspecting web host seekers fall victim to scammers who have taken a fancy to the web hosting business. This disturbing issue has had us thinking and we have decided to unveil some brutal insider truths of the web hosting industry. We will attempt to answer these issues based on our extensive experience of the web hosting business. We will also honestly inform you where we stand, giving reasons wherever available or required. We hope that this information helps webhosting seekers at large in taking an educated decision, irrespective of which provider they choose for their web hosting needs. The information follows below:
What is the speed of the web server where you’re planned to be hosted?
Speed is a very important factor to look for when choosing a business web hosting provider. If your web pages take a long time to load, chances are bright that your website visitor will leave. This is not always the case but why take a chance? If you have heavy images, audio, video and flash, it takes longer to load. Additional factors that speed depends on are the physical distance (number of hops across service providers) to the data center. You can actually check this by performing a trace-route to the test IP provided by the webhosting company. If they do not have the test IP mentioned on their website and you find their offer suitable, ask them for it. If their own website is fast enough, most probably they will also host you on a high speed server (but not necessarily). You should also ping the IP at various intervals and find out how much time the data packets take to return (and also if they are lost in transit). Do this several times and get an average. You can do this by clicking start > run > type “command” enter and then type “ping” followed by the IP address. The lower this number, better the speed. Do note that ping results may also vary depending on the connectivity of your PC to the internet. Some more factors that influence server speed are the server hardware configuration, connectivity to the network, number of domains hosted on the server and the cumulative traffic on the server.
Our servers are high speed Quad Core Processor Servers (or higher) equipped with 8Gb+ RAM, cpanel control panel (version 11.x) The server is connected to the network via a 100 MBPS Uplink port. To ensure uninterrupted connectivity, we have bandwidth pipes coming from several providers.
How good is the support?
There are several ways a webhosting company extends support. These are – email support, live chat support, trouble ticket system, telephonic support, etc. Although some of them will say that they offer 24×7 support (the best web hosting providers do offer this), its wise to test them out by contacting them at different times of the day and night. You should especially check their 24 hour support phone number.
Although we provide all of these support types, we also provide special video tutorials which can greatly help you in handling your hosting account and solve problems, especially if you’re new to hosting.
How good is the security?
When choosing a business web hosting provider, it is very essential that you know how secure is the server, both physically and technically. Handling security of a server includes but is not limited to keeping unnecessary ports closed, using SSL, 24×7 monitoring for DOS and hacker attacks, regularly patching and updating the operating system and associated software, etc.
How long has the service provider been in business?
Frankly speaking, its very easy to start a web hosting company but difficult to maintain one (I will come to that, soon). One can always purchase a reseller account with some provider for a few dollars (buying space wholesale) and sell in retail. But if he later finds out he isn’t suited for the business, he can close shop at the drop of a hat, leaving you hanging mid-air! To find out how old is the company, check the whois of the domain name of the website. Also check till what period the domain is registered up to. (Fly by night operators will only register for a year and the same goes for renewing). Considering that 95% of new hosts go out of business within a year, it really isn’t a chance you should be taking by selecting new entrants. It should also be noted that some companies (including us) have multiple websites so check the whois lookup for all possible extensions (at least for .com/net/org) and match them if they’re the same owner.
As far as we’re concerned, we’re in the web hosting business since 1999.
Digging into the providers background.
If the providers have been around for long, most probably you can search for information or pages that contain information on these companies via popular search engines. Initially try to search just by the domain name. There after, search on the company name (using quotes). As an example, you can first search for the keyword “awareindia” and then for “Aware India”. When researching, carefully look out for negative reviews. Another idea is to research using words like “scam” or “rip-off” along with the company name. Do note, however that if you come across a negative review, it does not necessary mean that it is true. The review may also be posted by a jealous competitor! You an even find web hosting reviews on hosting directories but never believe them. They don’t care who they recommend as they are all paid listings!
Do the providers have their own servers?
As I said earlier, its very easy to start a web hosting business by purchasing a web hosting reseller account. But when it comes to support, resellers are dependant on providers for server level support. So if a web server hangs and requires reboot, your website stops working. You then complain to the reseller (after you find out) and they inform it to the provider who again revert to the data center where the server is physically hosted. This increases the support turn around time. So it is wise to find out if they have their own servers. One way to find out is to perform a whois lookup on their domain. In most circumstances, the name servers will contain the domain name (but not necessarily). Also do note that some providers who offer reseller accounts ALSO offer resellers their own name servers. So if you have a doubt, you can always email them and ask them. Since email is considered a legal document, 99% of them should give you a correct reply.
In our case, we own several servers across multiple data centers in US and India. We specialize in offering cost effective shared linux web hosting solutions.
What is the uptime guarantee?
Uptime guarantee is a guarantee that the service provider commits for the functioning of any web server. Never purchase a hosting account from a provider who does not give this guarantee or gives one below 99.5%. Also check if they give any refund for uptime guarantees not fulfilled. If you find a provider that offers 100% uptime, run away from him! All servers need to be rebooted whenever the server administrator applies security and software updates. So if they do not reboot the server at all, it means they do not patch and update them, which means the server is insecure and prone to hacks. Another point to remember is never select a host that offers a prorated refund based on downtime. This means that if you’re paying $5 / month and the server is down for 24 hours, they will refund you one day’s worth – about 16 cents which is worthless!
In our case, we guarantee a minimum 99.9% Uptime. If the uptime falls below 99.9%, we refund 50% of that month’s fees. If the uptime falls below 99%, we refund the full month fees. Fortunately, we have never required to refund anybody so far, as we have special monitoring service that even sends us an SMS on our mobile phones if there is an issue with the server. And our mobiles are always on, 24 x 7!
What is the money back guarantee?
Money back guarantee is a guarantee that is provided by some service providers. It means that if you’re not satisfied with the functioning of the server, uptime or the support provided, you can claim for a refund. If you see guarantees, read carefully for small prints. Some providers deduct a minimum charge (called processing fee) or do not refund setup charges.
We offer a 100% no questions asked 30 days money back guarantee for all our hosting accounts. All you have to do is ask for it, no conditions apply!
How good is a free domain name with a hosting account?
Never join a host that offers a free domain name and never purchase a domain from a hosting provider unless you are positive that they allow you full control of the domain management (we do!). If you do not have control over the domain, they can force you to stay with them even if their support is poor. The cost of the free domain name is always covered in the hosting package, nobody pays from their pockets.
You can search for “domain registrar” on google and register your domain or you can register one here, the choice is yours. Once you’re done, you just have to change the DNS of the domain to the ones we provide and the domain will point to our servers. We even provide you with video tutorials on how to do this.
What is the difference between proactive and reactive web hosts?
Reactive web hosts are those that react instantly to unexpected issues. For example, you’re having a hosting account that comes with 10Gb of data transfer / month. Now if you’re launching a new product and have advertised your website, it is even possible that you use up the monthly bandwidth allotted in even a few hours, especially if there are heavy files like audio and video. Many providers have an automated system which suspends these websites instantly without warning. I’ve come across quite a few websites where I see something like “This website has exceeded its bandwidth quota. Please visit later” in big bold letters. Can you imagine how many potential customers you can lose with a situation like this (and your reputation)? Another example is suspension of services due to spam / unsolicited email. Most hosting providers will (and they have a right to) immediately suspend a spamvertized website without warning. Proactive web hosts are those that understand such situations and tackle them in a friendlier way (but not take advantage by fleecing the customer).
Although we do have a bandwidth monitoring system in place, it does not automatically suspend a website for exceeding the paid quota. We inform you that your quota is exceeding and request you to pay a small additional fee (comparatively lower than what you would be currently paying). If we receive a Spam complain against you, we will first warn you to stop it immediately. But if you continue to do it after repeated warnings, we may require to suspend your account. At times, depending on the severity of the issue, we may also require to suspend it without warning if our ISP forces us to do so. This is not in our control as being a hosting provider we have to abide by international spam laws.
How big or small is the web hosting company?
Usually we assume that big companies have lots of staff to attend to support calls. They’re supposed to be more professional, etc etc. However, I’ve come across several cases where clients are pushed from one support executive to another, each pushing the responsibility on someone else. And it is the customer who ends up suffering. Moreover, some important decisions are made only by staff at a senior level and hence take time to make. These include but are not limited to processing refunds in special situations, upgrading servers, etc. Most small companies tend to go out of their way to give support as they still have to grow and they depend on referrals from existing clients. So you get personalized attention. But the question arises how long will they stand and what is the turn around time of support. Especially if it is a one man show, there is only one person to communicate with. This person is after all a human, who eats, sleeps and takes a vacation (and sometimes in places without an internet connection) just like you and me! You can’t expect him to serve you 24×7, can you? So although your support is handled more efficiently, it is only during the time of his presence!
Aware India is big enough to give you timely support and small enough to keep a watch on our staff and take important decisions on time. We have executives attending to our centralized Support Desk round the clock. Our directors’ (Samir Jhaveri and Mayur Shah) personal mobile numbers are also available to our members. So in the unlikely event that you need to contact us ASAP, you can always call us anytime!
Does the provider offer any extra tools?
We don’t know about others, but we provide free life time access to our Exclusive Download Library, a $37 / month value! These products can actually save you hundreds, if not thousands in web design expenses, SEO expenses, marketing expenses, etc. In fact, they can even add thousands to your bottom line!
How good is the pricing?
We have put this question at the end of this comprehensive content. This is because we feel that price should actually be the least important factor in choosing a web host. However, we do understand that times are tough and there is always a budget. Unfortunately, webhosting is one of the few industries where there is no standard pricing. Generally, people want to have the cheapest web hosting packages and the best web hosting support. Of course, there will be folks who want free web hosting. But then you have to let do with unwanted advertisements coming at unwanted places, pathetically slow speed and regular downtimes. Then again, there are serious entrepreneurs or business class people who won’t mind paying a little more for their business web hosting or ecommerce web hosting. With so much competition going, you shouldn’t be paying more than 4 dollars a month for 1 Gb web space (enough for most websites).
To select a good host, first do some research on search engines (keeping the above points in mind). When you narrow down to one, join them (making notes of the runners up.. you don’t want to research again if there is an emergency)! Trust your gut feeling and then leave it to luck! The most important thing to remember is that the selected host SHOULD have a 100% money back guarantee. And if after trusting your gut the host turns out to be horrible, don’t feel shy in claiming your refund and just move on to the next on your runners up list!
This was a humble attempt to answer the most pressing questions that web host seekers normally have. If you need to know anything more, please contact us with your query and we promise to revert ASAP! Although we’re not the cheapest, we’re extremely competitive. We also provide free access to our exclusive downloadable library (limited time offer). These products will help you enhance your online experience, make better websites, drive more traffic to your website, get indexed by popular search engines, get more targeted customers, teach you web copywriting skills, and much more!
We look forward to seeing you in the members area.