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When to Dump Your Web Host

Jun 27, 2008
Here are a list of warning signs to take note of, even if you're reasonably happy with your current host. You put a lot of time and energy into your site, like someone building and improving their own home. Like a house, it's worth paying attention to the foundation it's built on; are any cracks showing?

1. A String Of Screw Ups.

We can forgive one or two mishaps; a loss of data, downtime, a delay or two in responding to tickets. When these happen in a row, when their forum is full of unhappy punters, it's time to start looking for another host.

Yes, you're lazy. You don't want to shift. Your site has got a lot more complicated in the past year. So you hope and complain, but if nothing changes, and things actually get worse, MOVE, before you wake up one morning, can't find your site, can't contact the host, and you don't have a recent backup to hand.

Yes, they seem nice guys. You'd like to stay with them. And they're cheap!

Still, move. You don't owe them a week's lost business when they 'lose' your site and you don't have a recent backup.

2. Webmasters Are Posting About Their Problems.

There's always one bargain-hunter who thinks support staff should sort out his scripting problems in five minutes on a $5 p.m. account. However, when long-serving members on a popular forum report that a web-host is going down-hill, it's time to start backing up your files and checking out other hosts.

One thing the internet has plenty of is web hosts. No need to stay with your current one, if the word is it's on the way out.

3. Technical Support.

This is as important as the features they supply. Some web hosts charge $10 per month and respond to support tickets in twenty minutes. Some charge $40 per month and get back to you next day. As long as the query gets answered, this may not be a problem. If the quality of the support declines, however, it is.

One day you'll need a quick answer to a very urgent problem. You'll thank the gods you took the trouble to find, and pay for, a responsive web host.

6. Serious Ongoing Technical Problems.

a. Downtime is one. It doesn't matter how good your site is, if people can't access it. If you're on a cheapo host, the web host may feel that they're not morally obliged to have 99% uptime. 500 websites on a server at $4.95 per month is not enough motivation to get very upset if one or two (or ten!) customers are ranting at you.

b. A sluggish server. Again, if there are 500 sites on the server, and one gets 'Dugg', you might find your scripts are taking longer to execute. I had one host which couldn't process my fat .htaccess file, even when I cut hundreds of lines out of it. So, I moved. No harm, no foul. I didn't miss them, and I very much doubt they missed my $8 p.m.

7. Suggestion: Have More Than One Web Host.

Have more than one web hosting account if you have a lot of sites. Spread the sites out over different accounts. That way, if one web host goes 'splat', it will be a minor irritant instead of a twelve-hour slog getting twenty sites back online.

You can put the resource-intensive stuff on the good, expensive host, and the lighter sites on the $5 p.m. hosts. You can then, using SSH and FTP, backup one site on-server and FTP it to another account directly. This can save a lot of time.

It's also much quicker than downloading a backup to your PC and re-uploading it elsewhere. Have you got a 2MB broadband connection? The 2MB is the theoretical _download_ speed. Ever try _uploading_ a fat file? A lot slower, isn't it?

Conclusion: A web host is a server in a room somewhere being monitored by a geek. Consider how much time you've spent on your web site, and take action quickly to protect it when the time comes.
About the Author
T. O' Donnell is a credit broker running insurance and merchant account web sites in London, UK.
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