Happy Host Shopping!
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Happy Host Shopping!

We begin with the idea, usually generated by viewing other sites, or the pressure of competitive business. From there, many begin learning how to develop a site of their own and/or hire a designer.

If self-education is the plan, there is a wealth of information, tutorials, beginners’ guides, advice and more on the Internet, available for free. If the owner decides to hire a designer they tend to be quite picky, and rightfully so. The first thing the owner will do is begin viewing sites that a designer has created, without regard to how much the designer charges, how long the designer takes to build a site, nor how friendly or stern the designer is to work with. After the owner has selected a number of designers, that have shown the ability to create a site the way the owner envisions his own, he will then consider the other areas of money and speed and personality until the final choice is made.

When we look at hosts, everything seems to take a different twist. We seem to look at price first without regard to the other areas of service being provided. After we have found the correct price ranges, we then look at the services offered. Once this list has been created we can look at other sites on the server and run the trace routes to check for speed and reliability. The majority seems content to hand the host their credit card once they have established the following:

  • Price
  • Options
  • Speed
  • Reliability

Nine times out of ten the issue of tech support will not be considered until after the site owner has had at least three separate occasions where they have had a question that were failed to be answered by the host. Reliability is a volatile situation. The same host that had been up for three months straight can easily be put into overdrive on the fourth month leaving them sluggish or even down for any number of minutes, hours, days, or weeks, depending on their upgrade path, if they have a path at all. Options seem to come and go with hosts as technology offers new things, servers are upgraded and changes are made to meet demand. Tech support seems to fall into the same category as speed and reliability. The tech support may be awesome, but as the server fills up, will there be more people around to handle the questions or will it too become sluggish or non-responsive? The only thing left from the above list is price, which for the most part seems to hold steady if you decided to pre-pay for a year in advance.

If you cannot truly determine which host is going to be able to suitably serve your site by price, options, speed, reliability, or tech support, what do you have left? Where do you as the site owner stand a chance in making the right choice? Luck, seemed to be the most dependable aspect of ending up with a decent host. This of course, is not an acceptable or dependable thing to go by. The next phase was only a matter of time, and it has now begun. Host directories have started to pop up. People working to offer other site owners a place to communicate about their experiences with various hosts and support while the owners sort out the good from the bad from the ugly in web presence providers.

In concept these directories seem to be a wonderful way to help the site owner choose a host. As of yet, they seem to be doing a good job with helping to gather together a list of anywhere from twenty to thousands of hosts for the site owner to choose from. Offering information about the host’s prices, options, speed, reliability, and even tech support. The issues mentioned above still remain though. How accurate is the information the directory gives you? How long will it remain accurate? What about the over ten thousand other hosts that are not in the directories? How does the directory determine what host is good and what host is not? Is there no hope for finding the right host? Or are we missing something from our criteria lists?

When a child is being taught how to add 2 + 2 we often times use objects to explain the equation. "If you have two apples, and I give you two more apples, how many apples will you have?" Using something the child can visualize and understand is what helps the child to improve their abilities with the concept of addition. It’s simple logic now rather then a guessing game. Is it possible that by thinking about something we are more familiar with in our day-to-day lives we could then better understand the ‘equations’ involved in selecting a host? Would we then find something to depend on rather then luck, when choosing a host? I certainly think it’s worth a try! Car buying is something that the majority of us have had experience with.

We’ve heard the many horror stories of purchasing used cars and many of us have experienced them! If purchasing a brand new car is not an option and you are ‘stuck’ with having to purchase your car from a used car sales man, this alone may send chills up your spine. It is common to find a ‘lemon’ on every lot. Some lots are full of them! If you are not the mechanical type, how will you know which car is going to give you the most ‘bang for your buck’? Each car sales man is going to wine and dine you with rave reviews about each car. Every lot is full of cars to choose from. And you know that every car you consider could be the ever-feared lemon that will blow up two days after the warranty has expired, if there even is a warranty.

So, we know we need to purchase a used car. What are we going to put on our criteria list?

  • Type of car (family or sport?)
  • Price
  • Warranty
  • A car lot/sales rep that can be trusted!

Are you starting to see a clearer picture now? We can compare the type of car to the options needed for your web site to operate properly. Do you need the car to simply commute yourself to work and back or is it needed as a family car for more then 3 people? Do you need a hosting package with 15 Megs of space or will you require 100 Megs of space? Would you believe me if I told you I could give you the same price for a sports utility truck as I can give you for a Yugo? Would you believe a host that says they can give you 100 Megs and unlimited bandwidth for the same price as they can give you for 5 Megs and 1 gigabyte of bandwidth?

The price is, and always needs to be, something within your range. This is why if you only have one thousand dollars you will not expect to purchase a used 1999, mint condition, power everything. Sports vehicle when you begin your search! Nor should you expect to purchase a high performance, unlimited everything, never down, perfect host for $19.95 a month or less!

Warranty! Though the site owner is becoming wiser to this area of hosting it still has not shown itself to be a priority within the search for a host. In retrospect, warranty seems to be a high priority with many other important items you may purchase like a car! Is it possible a valid warranty should be added to our host criteria? Most definitely!

Then we come to trust. When you begin a search for a used car lot that you can trust, it is very common to go to friends and family that you trust and ask their opinions. I rarely see a used car lot offer a list of their past customers for you to call and find out how well they like their cars, though there are many hosts that will offer a list of customers that are currently hosted on their servers. Who chooses this list? The host does, of course! How reliable is the list? It depends on how trustworthy the host is. As much as you may not trust the used car lot until you have heard kind words about them from people you know, why would you trust the host before talking to people you know and trust? If you can trust the person you buy the car from then you are able to feel confident that, if in fact the car does have problems, the person you purchased it from will be there to help you rectify the situation. They will be there to honor the warranty. They will be there for you, so in turn you will be there to tell your friends about the car lot, when they are in need of a car. The same is true for hosts. Rather then trusting this trace route and that directory and the host’s sales pitches why not talk to people you do know and trust and ask them about their hosts and whom they would recommend? If the host is trustworthy, they will be there to fix problems, they will be there to honor warranties, and they will be there for you, so that in turn you will tell your friends about the host!

Host Help Survey

What, in your opinion, is the most important quality of a web host?

  • Price
  • Options
  • Service
  • Referrals/Trust
  • Speed
  • Time in business
  • Unsure

Cars break down. Hosts break down. When you purchase a car you need it to be adequate for you to use, within the price range you can afford, come with a warranty, and be sold to you by someone you can trust will come through if/when the problems occur. When you select a web host, consider the options you need, look at the lines, speed and reliability of the host, make sure there is a warranty, and go with someone you can trust. Ask people you know how their hosts are working for them. Check the host’s history — do they respond to problems quickly? If they do go down, what do they do about it? Will they be there for YOU?

Consider the things you look for when purchasing something other then a host. Try to apply that same logic when you are searching for a host. By doing this you will end up with more then ‘dumb luck’ to depend on, and have a much higher chance of finding the right host for you, the first time, rather then going through the hassle of changing hosts every few months.

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