9 Steps To A Happy Relationship With Your Hosting Provider

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by Preeti Pradhan and David Walsh

Having a good relationship with your hosting provider is perhaps not crucial, but pretty darn close to it if you want to maintain a fully functional website. Remember that even though you are the client, you still need to abide by the beloved ToC (Terms and Conditions) of your hosting provider. You should also research hosting plans to prevent future quagmires. Listed below are ten points to think about before signing up with a Web host and what to do if you already have a provider.

1. Do Not Go Blind Staring At The Price

One of the best and easiest ways to maintain a happy relationship with your hosting provider is to not go blind staring at the price tag. We know it’s easy to do, but remember that in most cases you get what you pay for. Cheap Web hosting can, of course, be top-quality and sufficient for small websites, but it can also be really poor and get you off to a bad start with your new host. Make sure you look at what features are included in the hosting package.

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We once found a great cheap little plan, but we wanted to have others domains hosted on the same account. Turns out, that was not possible, and we had to upgrade our plan and pay extra. Had we looked at all of the plans, we would have found something better for a few dollars more. Make it a rule to always begin by comparing the different hosting plans being offered. You will quickly notice that for an extra buck or two every month, you will get features that could be well worth it.

For example, these features were not included in the most basic plan:

  • Daily backups (compared to weekly backups)
  • SSH options
  • 99.9% guaranteed uptime (compared to 99.5%)
  • More payment options: monthly, quarterly, yearly
  • More MySQL databases
  • Additional sub-domains
  • Multiple FTP accounts
  • Parked domains
  • Easy One-Button Fantastico
  • WhoIs Privacy
  • Money-back guarantee for 90 days (compared to the standard 30 days)

2. Make Sure You Get Great Uptime

This is perhaps the most difficult point to know in advance, but statistics should be available. Look at websites that provide these numbers if the host doesn’t do it itself. The most ideal situation would be a host with 100% uptime, but that is not realistic because acts of God cannot be stopped. The industry standard is 99.9% uptime, which means that downtime should come out to eight hours over one year. If you experience hour-long breaks, it could be time to start looking elsewhere for a hosting provider. One great website that provides website testing is www.pingdom.com1. It costs $9.99 per month, but the program does an amazing job of tracking your website.

With the advent of social media platforms, you should find and follow your hosting provider. Below are some providers that post on Twitter. Many announce downtime or grid failure right away.

twitter icon

3. On A Shared Web Hosting Account?

Know Your Server Mates

If you are on a shared hosting plan, your website will share a single server with thousands of other websites. It is important that you find out what these websites are, for several reasons. Say that one of these websites is sending email spam. This could lead to downtime for you because the server hosting your website will be getting heavy traffic.

Also, websites offering Torrent files are bad neighbors because they take up much of your bandwidth and could possibly get your server banned. Yes, shared hosting involves some risk, and if that risk affects you and your website, it might time to change hosting providers. You can check your IP address via Live.com7. If you have serious concerns that unscrupulous websites are sharing your IP, contact your provider.

You Are at the Whim of Your Provider

You are at the mercy of your Web hosting provider on a shared account. Implementation of software and security is server-wide, and if your website is not configured properly or able to accept upgrades, then you’re in trouble. Sharing a hosting account, then, has its disadvantages.

What to look out for:

  • Server upgrades (e.g. PHP 4 to PHP 5)
  • No dedicated IP address (e.g. 75.132.32.54)
  • HTTPS is not well supported
  • Security vulnerabilities recur
  • Installation of programs by the user are not allowed
  • Misconfiguration on the server-side that would allow for major screw-ups by the user

4. Check Out Their Reputation

This is one of the easiest and best ways to tell whether you are likely to have a happy relationship with a hosting provider. Ask your friends and read what other people say about their hosting providers on Web hosting forums. No Web hosting provider gets only positive comments; that would be plain weird. But overall good reviews are what you want. Knowing as much as possible about your host in advance tells you what to expect from it in future.

BBB8

Remember not to trust the testimonials that appear on the websites of hosting providers themselves. In some cases, they are bought or fake. Companies will only display positive comments, making them pretty worthless. Go to the Better Business Bureau9 website and search for the hosting companies you are considering signing up with. You will get information on everything from business management to customer complaint history.

Lastly, writing your own review and rating the hosting company on a hosting review website is a good idea. Remember, user opinions are most important when buying any product. Be objective and do not flame; people want the facts clearly portrayed.

5. Grow With Your Provider

One reason for having a website is to one day become popular and make it to the Digg front page (okay, we dream). In the beginning, you will have limited needs because the traffic and number of visitors will be low. But as time passes, you may have to upgrade your account. Make sure in advance that the host you partner with allows an easy way to do this. If you begin with a shared hosting account, the process of upgrading to a dedicated server account should be easy.

Likewise, if you start a website and expect it to grow, check that upgrading is possible. Some hosting companies offer just a basic plan because they want to specialize in one service. While a great idea, this is not good for customers who want scalability and flexibility in their hosting.

6. Demand Outstanding Support

Can you contact the support team if your website experiences an outage? Can you get ahold of it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? We are not talking about phone support that is available only for part of the day. The easiest support is online service, which many hosting providers have. Online conversations are easy to document, so if the provider promises you something, you can keep a log copy and show it to them later.

Online support is also great because both you and the service representative have to be clear when writing. No more funny business of “He said, she said.” These are important questions you should ask yourself before signing anything. Email support is a must, and all good Web hosts offer it.

7. Don’t Get Fooled By Myths

Many hosting providers are clever with words, and it is not uncommon for people to get fooled by their sneaky little tricks:

Unlimited bandwidth
There is no such thing as unlimited bandwidth. The reason they can make this false promise of unlimited bandwidth is because you will probably never reach the maximum amount anyway. Pay no attention to “unlimited” anything.

Unlimited disk space
This is pretty much the same as the first myth: there is no such thing as unlimited disk space. Web hosts that claim this probably offer much less disk space than you think.

24/7 email support
We have found this pretty amusing for some time. Yes, you will be able to send your host an email anytime, day or night, 7 days a week. But it is not working 24/7 to answer your queries. Find a host that provides live online 24/7 support with a live representative; you’ll be able to reach someone soon then.

99.9% uptime guarantee
This is the industry standard, and most hosts guarantee this. Do not get fooled by some hosts’ sneaky way of making it sound like they have no downtime, though. Wikipedia has a good list of uptimes and downtimes10, down to 0.001%. As mentioned earlier, 99.9% uptime is possible, but check the terms for what exactly the “guarantee” is.

Instant activation
Sign up, pay by credit card, and boom, your website is online and ready to go. Not so fast, cowboy. It can take up to 48 hours for all DNS servers11 (located around the world) to update their databases. The fastest we have seen one of our websites go online is one hour.

Transfer your website in just a couple of steps
Those “couple of steps” always turn out to be several yards. Don’t switch Web hosts over a couple of dollars. Do your research and find out if the new provider’s service really is that much better than your current host’s.

Unlimited email accounts
Your email accounts have mailbox size limitations. While you can, in theory, create dozens of email addresses, the mailbox size of each will be quite small. Exceeding your limit with one email address can be expensive.

We should mention at this point that the remaining points, numbers 8 to 10, come from interviews we conducted with representatives of Web hosting providers. While these points may seem a bit tired, they were at the top of their list of problems. Please read through and keep these points in mind.

8. Be Nice To Customer Service Reps

No matter what the situation, we can all picture ourselves ranting and raving at a customer service rep about a problem we are angry about. This, however, is not necessary; keep your cool. Yes, your website may be down, and all hell is breaking loose, but you are still speaking to a person at the other end of the line. As one manager of a hosting company told us, “Tech support representatives have feelings and emotions, too.”

Customer Service
Source12

Some people threaten to cancel their contract to get something for nothing. Often, hosting companies will give it to them, within reason, just because. No need to threaten to cancel to get your way and force tough decisions upon them. You may get what you want now, but later on the customer service rep may not be so friendly or accommodating of your hosting needs.

9. Don’t Be Stupid

Repeating what everyone should know becomes tedious: customers who violate the terms of service will be caught, and their contract will be nullified. If you in any way host pornographic websites, spam, share torrents or upload illegal content, you are inviting trouble. In the end, violators are always caught; but the time and resources that companies could have spent developing new ideas and services are spent dealing with these issues. What a waste.

Doing something you are not supposed to be doing is a surefire way to: 1) get your contract terminated, 2) increase the cost of services; 3) make the system cumbersome.

Finally, the hosting industry is, admittedly, a confusing jungle. Fly-by-night and unscrupulous operations are not uncommon. Learn who the major players are, do your research and stay on good terms with your provider.

Written by Preeti Pradhan and David Walsh from Web Hosting Search13

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Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.pingdom.com
  2. 2 http://twitter.com/hostgator
  3. 3 http://twitter.com/inmotionhosting
  4. 4 http://twitter.com/hostingsearch
  5. 5 http://twitter.com/ls_hosting
  6. 6 http://twitter.com/mediatemple
  7. 7 http://www.Live.com
  8. 8 http://www.bbb.org
  9. 9 http://www.bbb.org
  10. 10 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uptime
  11. 11 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_Name_System
  12. 12 http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_LIrkJsIKx_o/SaNPJ-OJr_I/AAAAAAAAONs/W_dPPRQHuRI/s400/customer-service.gif
  13. 13 http://www.webhostingsearch.com

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  1. 1

    I moved from Dreamhost to Crucial Paradigm a few years back and have not had a single problem since. Amazing support and great price. Couldn’t be happier with them.

    0
  2. 52

    Disposable_Hero

    March 30, 2009 7:11 am

    about the “unlimited bandwidth/space” issue, isn’t that…you know…illegal to advertise something you can’t provide? I just don’t see how they can legally shut your site down due to bandwidth overages when they tell you that you don’t have a limit.

    0
  3. 103

    Didn’t read anything about the location of the hosting service. We (in Holland) eventually decided not go choose Media Temple for the simple reason data arrives a second later due to the distance.

    0
  4. 154

    Who did you end up going with Jonathan? Does geography matter that much? I am based in Ireland.

    -1
  5. 205

    @vailancio Sorry to hear about your experiences. Hopefully the next webhost has a lot better service and transparency.

    @Christopher Anderton Thanks for the recommendation. We will check it out.

    @Aravind It is a Smashing Post! =)

    @Shelley @Disposable_Hero You have a good point, it is indeed fishy ground as the word itself, “unlimited,” means “not limited.” And the fact that anything could be unlimited does not mean much. There’s a finite space for everything.
    To not pick on Host A or Host B, some offer extremely large amounts of bandwidth (mainly dedicated servers, VPS, etc), but a small shared host, you will be limited.

    What we noticed is that “unlimited” is just a marketing tactic and today is the modus operandi.

    @Jonathan – Good point, Location of the servers do matter. If your market is in the US and you are based in Asia, have a server in the US. Of course, the downside is that if the US server is your only server and it goes down, moving it (physically) is difficult.

    0
  6. 256

    A very good article! @ Jason A I also use SiteGround and have been very happy with their services. Since recently they are also on twitter @siteground, on facebook and started a blog.. which is not quite typical for all hosting companies.

    1
  7. 307

    an_idiot _form_the_far_east

    March 30, 2009 12:42 pm

    Hi fellas,

    I used to work (hooray, no longer :))) as a tech-support rep – tier1 for one of the TOP 4 hosting companies and let me tell you one thing – never, ever go with a BIG company! You’re risking to face a sort of corporate (virtually chaotic) workflow, with close to ZERO coordination! This of course, in terms of shared hosting, regardless of the money you throw for it! After all, namely given the money, every company has its priorities/ customers…

    Make sure – really – do make sure the company is not actually in a process/ or already being acquired by one of the FOUR, or else. The last thing you’d want to go through is a “migration”. Not only that, but you are never told what the heck is going on!

    Make sure your hosting company has a real 24/7 phone line, this is imperative even if you’re running a personal blog! You don’t wanna know how the email are being processed; furthermore, if u get to the point of seeking help, eventually u’ll end up on the phone (if there is such). This is the most important! Contrary to what they’ve advised here ’bout the “log and proofs” and such, the email is the last thing u rely on! C’mon, how do you intend to make use of every “sweet talk” you’ve had :))

    You may find a decent place, fast enough, but as time goes by, the machine will end up overloaded at some particular moments in time. Once you notice such (transformed int chronic) slowness (which is often observed like some server-side error and other nonsense) – in similar situation, do not neglect these malfunctioning, but immediately ask for a new machine (it might be the sql machine, responsible for your db), or get your stuff and flee!

    As for “your neighbors”, this is pretty much irrelevant today.

    ANd certainly enough, u better don’t mind speaking to an overseas support (as in my case), ’cause the chance is 98%; now days that’s the face of the entire IT industry. And certainly they are the ones who could save your S, by any means, of the records!

    Do your business plan correctly, if you know what you are doing or aiming at, do not hesitate and go onto a dedicated.

    Regards,
    ivo

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  8. 358

    Slicehost rocks!

    1
  9. 409

    I work for a hosting company, and would love to know how to put “thousands” of sites on one shared server. (Not really, I’m being sarcastic to illustrate the fact that that is simply not realistic … hundreds, maybe. We tend to have 20 to 50 sites per server, which I think is more realistic.)

    I also haven’t yet found a reliable reverse IP checkup service despite looking for a long time. I have the benefit of lots of examples to look up (our servers) where I know what sites are on the servers in reality, so can cross check the results reported by those lookup sites.

    Good article overall though. Shame about all the “my host rules” type comments though lol.

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  10. 460

    I’ve used many hosts, and it is hard to find a good one. Currently, my first choice for hosting is from inmotionhosting.com. Yahoo is probably the worst.

    0
  11. 511

    @ivo “Make sure your hosting company has a real 24/7 phone line, this is imperative even if you’re running a personal blog! ”

    Phone support is nothing more than a marketing trick. What help could you get over the phone?! I couldn’t even spell my passwords over the phone if I have to since they are MD5 checksums most of the time… Phone is ideal to ask how much it would cost to buy 3 accounts in the same time but not to get a real web hosting issue fixed.

    Get real, technical support over the phone is simply BS.

    0
  12. 562

    That last paragraph made an already mediocre article worse.

    You have something against pornography ? fine… but to state a person who host porn is inviting trouble is ridiculous.

    We expect more from SM.

    0
  13. 613

    an_idiot _form_the_far_east

    March 31, 2009 2:27 am

    @Pandjarov

    lol, mate, this is beyond any joke. Apparently, u’ve never been in need. “Spell the pass”, what spelling, what md5? No such thing – everything is plain text mate lol Ever stayed at a motel?
    A marketing trick, really?
    You send an email concerning some issue, the average user would describe the actual issue in most inappropriate and vague manner – you don’t want to see examples!
    An average user would not even include his domain, so we, the dummy guys out there, are supposed to be a proficient magicians handling big crystal balls.
    Assuming the person has included his domain and pretty decently described the situation. Now this user must wait for a response, how long would this take? You’ve got a week, or two for replaying every mail, every additional explanation, solution etc. Well, most of the people cannot afford the time hitting F5 on their outlook the entire week.
    When it comes to a code issue, something that has nothing to do with the server side yet we are held responsible, and let say it might be avoided by ten different approaches – can you imagine the volume of text output? Well, just sit and watch me doing emails with a user not knowing what a browser is. Why don;t you do your dig before making such a BS statements!
    Lastly, this article/ subject is about everyone. If the majority of everyone were savvy enough to handle WEB STUFF, they would’ve probably set their own server!

    1
  14. 664

    Interesting y’all don’t really talk about security, or infrastructure considering how important it is. Especially with web-based apps that have security issues. I’ve heard countless people complain about Media Temple, also. And I didn’t see FireHost.com mentioned. They’re whole business is centered around the security of web hosting and email protection. Maybe in a follow-up article – Secure Web Hosting…?

    0
  15. 715

    @ivo

    Dude, its 2009. I’ve used a lot of web hosting companies. THe best support I’ve received was through ticketing / helpdesk systems.

    E-mail support is thing of the past, phones too. I think that you should check different hosting companies that the one you are currently using. Phone is good to arrange what you will do tonight with buddies, not for getting quality technical support.

    0
  16. 766

    I agree with Michael Owens. I have been on several hosts. For a small low traffic site, I highly recommend icdsoft.com for there amazing tech support. If you have a higher traffic site like our UtahLuxury.com site then I would recommend Mosso whole heartedly. I was disappointed by many other hosts along the way and Mosso runs without a hiccup. Great job guys!

    0
  17. 817

    i cant believe it:

    FIRST THEY SAY THERE IS NO AND DO NOT TRUST UNLIMITED STUFF

    AND THEN AT THEIR WEBTIPS THEY LiNK TO A WEBHOST WHO DOES UNLIMITED

    I AM TALKIN ABOUT THE IMHOSTED COM (lol BEST WEBHOSTING PROVIDER)

    0
  18. 868

    Terrance Charles

    April 2, 2009 11:12 am

    Loving it, that’s DEFINITELY needed, because if you don’t have that with your hosting company, product launches and high traffic sites they will shut down if it don’t seem to be used correct. But, I use hostgator, to me one of the most understanding and realeast hosting company out there.

    Terrance Charles

    1
  19. 919

    ^ Those are advertisers.

    I’d like to put my bid in for hostgator. Best customer support of any company I’ve ever used. In any industry.

    0
  20. 970

    Is anybody aware of green hosting providers in Europe? By ‘green’ I mean use of sustainable and/or carbon neutralized energy, preferably wind. I’ve found couple of US based firms only. Of course location doesn’t really matter as long as pipes are fat enough, but I’m just curious about non-US alternatives. Something like green version of SliceHost would be ideal.

    0
  21. 1021

    Thanks…great tips!!

    -1
  22. 1072

    local hosting companies have better support IMHO. I use osolabs in orange county, california

    0
  23. 1123

    Great post, I learned a lot

    0
  24. 1174

    Reverse Internet

    March 11, 2010 10:10 am

    You can also use http://reverseinternet.com/ to find out who shares your IP address and much more.

    -1
  25. 1225
  26. 1276

    Good one. You have spotted everything pity well, thanks for sharing this stuff.

    0
  27. 1327

    thanks, this was very helpful!

    -1
  28. 1378

    Jessie Patterson

    March 28, 2011 9:47 am

    I agree that security should of been up on that list. Still a great list though covered all the basics that you need to look for.

    0
  29. 1429

    I stumbled onto your web blog, i believe your website is awsome, keep writing.

    0
  30. 1480

    How about dailyrazor.com – anyone hosting with them? Been with them for about 2 years now and they’ve been pretty responsive.

    0
  31. 1531

    Rodrigo Dal Magro

    February 11, 2013 1:11 pm

    In Brazil we have Redehost – http://www.redehost.com.br, one of the best Hosting Companies here.
    The support is perfect cause they solve all problems quickly.

    I have some sites with them and everything is fine and working perfect.

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