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Hosting Problems, And How To Avoid Them

May 15, 2008
What problems do people have with their web hosting companies? Knowing what the problems are, is there anything you can do to avoid hosting problems and issues yourself?

To answer these questions, consider this - hosting problems really fall into two categories.

One set of issues are to do with the host itself - how it runs its business and its servers. If a host is having issues with server downtime, they may be having problems with cheap hardware failing, or a lack of competent technical staff to address failures quickly. If host serves pages very slowly or not at all, then they may be overselling, and putting too many sites on one server. If they don't answer support requests, they may simply not have enough staff, or worse, they may have so many customers that they don't care.

This sort of host is easy to avoid, if you do some work first. When you are thinking of signing up with a host, check their own forums, or independent hosting forums to see what their customers are saying. One common warning sign would be posts like 'You used to be great, but now you are not replying to my emails.' You want to get a sense of how a host is performing from people actually using the service: just checking hosting review sites is not a good idea, as they are usually full of affiliate links and have no value as real independent reviews.

Another way to avoid bad hosts or hosts with problems is to find out how long they have been in business. Really bad hosts tend not to last long, as word soon gets around and people take their business elsewhere. Hosts that offer space or bandwidth which seems excessive or is meant to be 'unlimited' are not using a viable business model, and you should be cautious before signing up.

The other category of problems which users have with hosting services is to do with the users own requirements and expectations. If you need to do more with your host than simply upload basic files and images - if you need to set up a MySQL database, or a special script for example - you will inevitable end up looking for help from the host. A good host will reply promptly, have staff who are polite and experienced enough to see what you need to do, and sort it out.

Some users though have unreasonable expectations of what they should be allowed to do with their site, both technically and in terms of content. Hosting companies have no choice when one users sets up scripts which take all the server's resources, or place material which is objectionable or legally actionable, and have to take the site down to protect their other users. While the user sees this as a problematic host, the host sees the user as the problem.

If you really need full control of your site, think about signing up for a dedicated server. Some dedicated server plans are now as cheap as shared hosting used to be. Many problems of both categories considered above can be avoided this way.
About the Author
Don Break writes about hosting and how to find the best possible host - read more at his web hosting page.
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