How to Choose a Hosting Company
Frequently Asked Questions About How to find and choose a web host to fit your needs, pricing, features and what to look for in buying hosting services; How to prepare for change of hosting; Security issues with shopping carts and websites.
How to Change A Web Host
Planning to Move a website
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Introduction: If you expect changes, growth, to do real business or add functionality, or ever move your site (not to be held hostage by some host), then the following tips may help avoid months of headache and thousands of dollars in costs.
Because many hosts also register domain names, and you are probably selecting a name for your site to be hosted, check out "How to Choose a Domain Name".
You should compare site hosting packages for the best servers, ecommerce hosting features and support, hosting control panel. If this is for a real business, you should review business hosting standards carefully.
Always keep in mind:
- Standardization - you don't want an oddball host AND you want to be able to MOVE- Migrate a site.
- Security - you don't want a little part-time non-specialist host
- Reliability and Tech Support - Stuff happens - You need Uptime, Backups and Tech Support 24/7 x 360 days a year.
For small users with simple 3 to 5 web pages, there's not much difference between most hosting companies.
But don't go with a small garage-type hosting company or one that combines with website design. Too often the client becomes locked in without even their own access to their site, with a risky host not versed in high security required.
Too often a hosting company chosen is inadequate, one of the early ones or a super cheap one, or was a small host associated with a web designer. Such host may choke data at peaks, not have fiber backbone access or secure server protocols. If a combined host and designer, the designer often stops responding to calls, but keeps the log in names and passwords so you can't even access your own programs and files. That happens often, not having control of your site NOR your own programs and content.
Often a "Big Name" telephone company or Community like Yahoo was chosen. These often use unusual control panels and may be hard to get hold of good tech support. Some, like Yahoo, are known for blocking mail more often without telling hosted customers (incoming usually), and for being very difficult to get things fixed. We can't recommend them. Some web designers will not work with them.
Choose a standard hosting company specialized in good hosting, and leave the web design to a specialist in site development.
Do not rely on just one recommendation or a sales pitch. Do not begin an important or business site without caution, a checklist and study. For expert advice see choose a web designer . *Read disclaimer at bottom
Priorities for serious web site owners should be:
- Availability of Support both within the Host company and from web developers who prefer certain hosting companies.
- Portability and Compatibility of the Site. Reliable providing of all standard utilities and support of standard functions scripts. Can you move it easily to other servers?
- Reliability of the company and their servers. (including time in business, size, financial strength, access to backbone, co-location)
- Does it offer good security and anti-virus, anti-worm protection while supporting user access and secure transactions?
- Functionality, performance and limits of the server
Important factors in choosing a host are:
Look for a PHONE NUMBER. Don't rely on the advertising of some. At least one company advertised 24/7 (24 hours a day-7 days a week) support but would not respond on weekends (Am Hosting) in the fall of 2012. CALL your prospective host late Saturday nite or early Sunday. Just because you can leave a message does not mean they will call you back. Look for real responsiveness. We've also seen some well-known hosts (or their less capable techs) be too bureaucratic about making you document in extreme detail your problem. A great host will listen and home in on your problem and fix it usually without the big rigamarole, like Am Hosting did back in 2004 before they changed owners. (Am Hosting is invited to explain this anytime).
- Bandwidth - Peak Speeds-Volume of data and How much data can you move before hitting a limit, like going over on cell phone data. (See "choking" below.)
- Do you need Windows or Linux? If possible, choose Unix / Linux, if you don't need certain Microsoft functionality.
- Space limitations: Be sure you get plenty of space.
- email: You should not have to pay extra for 3 to 8 email addresses and normal standard features like auto responders, etc.
- How good is Tech Support? Do they have good access means to reach support, and when is it available? It should be 24/7 including weekends and by at least 3 means, phone, email, trouble ticket, Live chat.
Also reliability and "choking" are BIG issues. The same host above completely lost all the domains on one of their servers in fall of 2012. Why? They had been bought out a few years before and something about the new management allowed big failures. Obviously they did not keep proper backups and/or their systems were not reliable, or they lost the backups or were too far out of date.
Such a complete failure of your server is highly unusual. Sometimes it can be server software or hacker problems. Understand that even if the backups are kept up and recent, if your customers/members are posting or updating data or your site, you will lose all of it since the last backup, at best. Your professional web developer will normally keep backups of your main website programs (but not your database data, such as in a shopping cart).
Choking (or throttling) of peak data rates can be subtle and hidden, such as only at certain times so you don't discover it easily (some say EarthLink and Bluehost have used that). Hosts that were free or inexpensive, like EarthLink sometimes retain such extreme cost-cutting measures. Ask about choking before you sign up.
If you need high throughput for high transactions or images, look carefully at these factors, particularly little-known factors like "choking" and distant server locations:
- Technical Support
- Storage Space Limitations
- Data Transfer Limitations
- No data flow peak "choking" (active restrictions on your data rates)
- Email Services
- Type of Server Operating System
- Ease and completeness of Tracking and Statistics
- Ease of use of the control panel for set up, and installing scripts.
- Locations of servers versus where your customers are located; Some hosts, like Bluehost, had far-flung servers crossing from Europe to Hiwaii or even Asia. This increases chances of outages and ping delays (lag) and high loads on multiplexed lines.
- Server Security measures: This is a two-edged sword. High security protects your files, but can cause some difficulty with some scripts, such as forms. There is a fine balance, but lean toward more security unless you can afford claims for privacy compromise. (see below)
- Whether you may need a dedicated server: Normally your site is on a "shared server" with hundreds of other websites. There can be performance and security risks and "URL blocking" risks, for example if one of those does a huge email blast. (That's why you should not either).
- Compatibility - Standardized hosting server methods, folder organizations, utlities, permissions. (Ask your professional web developer)
Some hosting companies have higher security measures against hacking. This can affect a few programs. (Can users of your site access certain folders, list items, use passwords, send secure mail, and easily fill out order forms? Some hosts do not allow anyone but the owner to update files.) Can you change shopping cart options, appearance or even the cart itself, or add pictures, options, shipping calculations or include merchant banking? Will it handle a surge of traffic? For these technical aspects and of moving an existing site, contact an experienced web
Most good web designers will recommend a Unix-like server - Apache or Linux. These require less specialized technical support than windows servers and many web designers prefer not to work on Windows servers. Different security protocols and defenses apply to different servers and that is a huge factor when you acquire hosting, and another reason to NOT use a small garage-type or web-designer's hosting.
We don't recommend some big names:
Strictly by opinion, we can not recommend many of the larger companies that "do hosting", such as Phone Companies (AT&T, Verizon), Portal Communities (Yahoo), and some older companies that began as cheap flat-rate ISP's (Earthlink), or that are largely foreign.
We do not say they are bad. NO host is perfect. We have heard of people having issues or problems with some of these, usually relating to customer service, lack of expertise, over-blocking by spam blockers, or extreme cost cutting (such as throttling data flow). Other users may praise them loyally. It just depends on each user's experiences and preferences. It might be noted however that some professional web developers will NOT work on your site if hosted by some of these.
We would be particularly cautious in considering some companies that have been recently bought out. (That does not yet apply to Hostgator or JustHost who are good and reputable). NetHosting.com, and AmHosting.com have been recently bought and we have heard of some issues. Many small hosting companies do not have enough expertise and are risky to use. Avoid the very small unknown "garage" type hosts.
For a new site or updating or moving a site that will need expansion,
DECIDE WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING YOU WANT
- A cheap web site that you or your developer can design or update from scratch with all HTML code kept simple and portable to most hosts. Note that some web site generators on some hosts will "lock you in" to their proprietary HTML code, using some supersets, SSI and functions which will not work well on other host servers. Homestead-tm used to be like that. It was like a loan, easy to get into, hard to get out. And be sure your site won't have ads or pop up ads. There is nothing more obnoxious. If you can't afford $5 per
month, don't even try.
- A website that is very inexpensive ($200 to $350) made from medium-grade templates that you choose from other than the hosting company with almost no modification and where the web pages are not generated, not dependent on a particular Hosting Company's proprietary software generators. (templates should not be chosen without web designer or programmer's approval)
(Will you own your page, or will they own the page design by template?)
- A website that is moderately inexpensive ($300 to $700) but very attractive, modified from high-end templates with minor modification and movable to most any host. (BG Design offers some of the best templates available as great starting points. They have better program coding methods for maintainability and are not tied to a particular host.)
- A website that is medium priced ($700 to $1500) but very attractive based mostly on high-end templates with substantial customization (color, some graphics, special content and images, a few forms, special buttons, etc.) , yet movable to most standard hosts. See Examples.
- A website that uses a proprietary shopping cart and may or may not require frequent CONTENT updates. Such a site is moderately inexpensive but attractive and you can live with the site "as is" as to standard design (little customization) once the design is chosen and you WILL STAY with the proprietary company (which may charge $65 to $175 per hour for technical support and changes). This hosting company may charge two to five times as much per month because customers are "locked in". Your site may revert to prior design
and lose layout if the host restores some one page.
- A website that uses a more standard shopping cart and requires frequent CONTENT and DESIGN updates which is medium to slightly high priced ($1400 to $5000 or more if many items), partly based on templates or is custom and you want to be able to move to most any standardized hosting company.
This requires someone to verify and check the content and design changes and to make the changes. It has to be someone you trust, and maintenance can take hours per month, so the cost must be reasonable ($35 to $50 per hour). A maintenance plan can get you better priority service. Normally, don't be sold on a WYSIWYG do-it-yourself editor-generator (what you see is what you get) for updates that you make, if you are going to run a serious business. Few WYSIWYG editors work right after many updates and generate later problems for an HTML
programmer. WE DO NOT RECOMMEND Microsoft FRONTPAGEtm except for certain Windows requirements!!
A website that is a bit complex using PHP, CGI or perl programs with some functionality, perhaps a database or user loaded items and requiring secure areas and several forms. This kind of site can require considerable (40 to hundreds of hours) technical support and installation assistance and special support from the hosting company. You need to know what kind of firewall the host uses, and what level of response and support the host company has to technical questions. Expect to spend lots of hours if you are technical, or a few thousand
dollars if you have reasonable cost technical support, such as $35 to $65/ hour for web developer and around $85-125 per hour for Perl Programmer, and $55 to $95 for a PHP programmer. Remember, some hosting companies charge about $140 per hour for technical support beyond small questions and their original work.
- A website that incorporates animation and FLASH, perhaps Windows ASP and Frontpage extensions and requires centralized update of many pages, etc. or special hosting that requires more support and special expertise. This requires special Windows certified or trained support and a technical staff if there are to be ongoing design changes. Odds are also this kind of tech support will be costlier than for the above.
Avoid excessive or sophisticated animation. It detracts from focus on the words and pictures. Keep it simple to tell the story in 10 seconds: who is the site for, what you do, how you're different and better. Avoid sophisticated animations which do not tell the basics.
How much should a website cost?
If you look at the above types, you get some idea of the cost. Another way to visualize sites if you don't have one is to look at a Comparison Chart. Like anything, if you learn a bit, you can save. But don't expect "cheap" to work right. Working with a better designer and webmaster can save money in the long run.
For more information on proper website design and promotion, see the www.web-success.net website articles.
Some Popular Web Hosting Companies
We make no specific recommendations however some possibly good popular hosting companies to investigate are:
- LunarPages (good security)
- GoDaddy (slightly different control panel)
- Host Papa
- Omnis Network
- IX Web Hosting
For Quick Research try Google Search.
How to Choose a good Web Design Company
For a good website designer-developer, look for
They should generally follow the tips and guidelines on www.Web-Success.net, as should smart management.
- someone who has been in business at least 5 years (preferably 10 or more).
- for their emphasis on maintainability for updates;
- whether they take an educational approach and
- are candid about the real issues, pitfalls and important matters others never mention (like designing for paid or organic promotion).
- whether their rates don't change after the initial work, or they become hard to reach
- that they have an address and phone number (even if call back), as well as means (contact form) to communicate on their web site.
- their attitude about relatively small jobs and maintenance (many companies don't do site maintenence).
- Long experience in maintenance and re-design and an emphasis on good coding for maintainability
- samples of their clients' websites;
- whether they seem to look out for your long term interests and costs;
- whether they listen carefully to your questions and ideas and ask about the main goals for the site.
- that they and their workers are in YOUR country
BGdesign meets these standards and set the standards for maintainabilty
How to Change a Web Hosting Company
Check the financial condition of the company to ensure they are profitable and will stay in business for at least the following year. Business conditions can change along with the company owners and management which can make an impact on the financial health of the company. Keep informed of possible changes in the ownership.
There are clues and preparations for a move that your professional web developer can point out to you. Get help in choosing a your new host and read reviews and rating sites.
If you have questions or comments, you may CONTACT US.
DISCLAIMER: USE OF THIS INFORMATION IS AT YOUR OWN RISK. It shall NOT be used as the sole factors in choosing a host. Perform your OWN due diligence. This information is general and may not apply to your situation, and is strictly opinion, and is not intended to be used as sole authority or factors in choosing your hosting company or web site or designer, and are not recommendations but suggestions and informational only. Pricing, costs, problems and outcomes vary greatly by many factors such as graphics, layout, tables, taste changes, complexity and functionality and quality of templates or scripts, and various other factors including hardware and software
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