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How To Choose A Reliable Web Hosting Company: A Tip For Newbies

Nov 15, 2007
Reliable web hosting is vital for anyone attempting to earn money with a business website.

Choosing a host for your website is not easy when you are an Internet newbie and don't really know bandwidth from Band-Aid. What selection criteria do you use? If you are a total newbie, about the only thing you will know how to compare is price but if you do a search for web hosting you will have ads coming at you for all prices from $10 per year to $25 per month. Should you go for the most expensive on the basis that you get what you pay for or should you go for the cheapest because saving money is a priority while you are getting your business running?

The first thing to rule out is free web hosting. There are many great free resources to be found on the Internet including excellent anti-virus and anti-spy ware software. Free hosting is fine if you have a hobby website but, if you are running a business online and wish to achieve credibility with visitors and search engines, free web hosting won't do the job.

I discovered the hard way that cheap web hosting is not necessarily the bargain it might seem. When I started looking for hosting for a new website, I already had top class hosting that had come with my first website. There was an option to add on further domains for an extra $5 per month. That was cheap enough but I thought it would be a good idea to have my new website hosted completely separately (you know, the old eggs in one basket caution).

When I started checking around, there seemed to be millions of web hosts all offering what (to my untrained eye) seemed to be the same thing but at wildly varying prices, so I settled on a cheap hosting package. The cost was 1 per month (which was about $1.70 in those days) and I certainly got what I paid for!

At first everything was fine: I paid up, they hosted my website. The trouble is, you don't realize you have bought rubbish hosting until things start to go wrong.

The first sign that all was not well came a few months later when I was unable to locate my website. I raised a support ticket and waited. Four days later came the reply "everything seems ok now". Four days of downtime without a sensible word from support made me feel more than a little uneasy.

Things seemed fine for a while after that but then another problem arose: when I tried to log into my control panel all I got was a message telling me the license fee had not been paid. This time the reply to my support ticket was quicker, it only took two days. Unfortunately, however, it was completely unhelpful. The reply was "It seems to be a site-wide issue". Was I supposed to feel better because the whole site was messed up and not just my bit? They must have got round to paying the license fee because after a few more days, login was available again.

After that, I wanted to move to a new host but I had never moved a website before and assumed it would be really difficult and technically challenging (actually it is extremely simple). As a result of this fear my website remained where it was.

The crunch came when my domain name came up for renewal. In response to an email from the hosting company, I visited their website to make the required payment. Their PayPal link and credit card options did not work and there were several error messages showing on the pages I visited.

Emails to their support and billing departments went unanswered. My only means of arranging payment was via their website, so I kept trying. Each time I visited, there were more error messages, nothing worked and it began to look as if the site was actually melting bit by bit. It seemed the company had just packed up and left their website to self destruct.

Inquiries revealed that the only way I could renew my domain name ownership was through the hosting company because they had registered it on my behalf and they retained control of it. As they could not be contacted, there were only two options available. The first was to pay an agent a pretty hefty (and non-refundable) fee to try to contact the hosting company and negotiate the purchase the domain name from them. The second option was to lose the domain.

When you have to choose web hosting, the first thing to look for is quality of support. To keep prices low, the easiest way for the company to economize is to provide sub-standard support. Forget the offers of unlimited bandwidth, hundreds of email accounts, spam filters and other freebies. If support is non-existent, give the company a miss no matter how good their other terms might seem.
About the Author
Elaine Currie is the owner of the Free Work At Home Directory containing ideas for the best ways to make money online and author of Ezine Article Writing - 10 Steps To Success. http://www.huntingvenus.com
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