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How to Choose a Web Host – Part 1

by Robert Seth on September 20, 2011

Data Center PictureWhen selecting a company to host your website, it’s important to get it right the first time.  A little extra work in the beginning can prevent tremendous headaches later. 

I thought this was a good time to write about this topic as it’s very fresh on my mind.  I have gone through two changes of hosting company in the last four months.  Both changes were very different from each other and for different reasons. 

The first change came about in May when I wanted to transfer my site away from the company that is used for participants in the Ultimate Internet Boot Camp (UIBC).  This boot camp is an amazing five day course but leaves you with a site that is rather limited in what you can do with it. 

Since they only allow the installation of about 12 plugin, the functionality of the site kind of suffers.  The worst part however, is that you cannot install a backup plugin.  This not only has the obvious drawback of no backup, but it makes it very difficult to transfer your site to somewhere else should you so desire.  Their fees were also very high compared to everyone else.

So I moved the site to a host I’d been using for another site.  This host’s name is Midphase and I’ve been with them for around 10 years.  What made me choose them was their excellent customer service, low price, and the fact that I’d already been with them so long.  I soon learned though, that none of these reasons, by themselves, is a good reason to choose a particular host.   

When I transferred my site again four months later, I went to Hostgator.  By the time I did this I had lots more experience and had a much better idea of how to make a good selection.  Hostgater comes highly recommended and so far I have not been able to find any problems (or even concerns) with them. 

If you know me personally, you know that I ask a LOT of questions!  People that don’t know me can mistake this for just trying to cause trouble.  People that do know me love this, and count on it when they need information about something. 

Picking a hosting company was one of those issues that I turned the massive question mark to.  I’m sure many a customer service person was tired of talking to me when it was over.  However, now you get the benefit of knowing what questions to ask and what kinds of things to look for in a hosting company. 

Ok, now I’ll stop blabbing about how this all happened and give you some information you can sink your teeth into.

Cost of Hosting

You may find this next statement kind of odd, but, cost should not be a major factor in your decision process.  Most hosting is very competitively priced.  As long as the package you’re looking at is within a reasonable range (between $6 and $12 per month) DO NOT compare price until you are absolutely certain all other features are equal.  I’ll give you an example in a moment to show you why price is not a good measuring tool for this.

How Many Customers Do They Have?

Web host come in a huge range of sizes.  There are local ones with just a couple hundred customers, all the way up to ones with millions of customers.  My preference is for one somewhere in the middle. 

If you pick a host that’s too small, they have problems related to inadequate revenue. It will be difficult to make upgrades to stay cutting edge.  It will also be difficult to keep enough staff on hand to deal with unexpected problems. 

While it’s probably better to pick one that’s too large over one that’s too small, large ones have their problems too.  They can tend to lose their sense of how important each customer is.  They also can make arbitrary rules that are not necessarily in the best interest of the customer.  A good size range seems to be between one and five million customers.  This allows for adequate operating revenue while still maintaining that sense of customer appreciation.

How Long Have They Been In Business?

You can learn a lot more than you might think with this question.  Obviously this answer will tell you if they’ve been around for a long time or if they’re just a startup that might not be there next year. 

However, when you combine the answer to this question with that of how many customers they have, you start to get a much more complete story.  Let me explain.

Midphase has been around for around 15 years.  Yet they only have about 20,000 customers.  This fact alone should really bring some serious questions to your mind.  Especially when you consider that Hostgator has been in business a much shorter time but has over 1.5 million customers.  Bluehost which has been in business a similar amount of time as Hostgator has 5 million customers.  And GoDaddy, which has been around less time than any of these, has many millions of customers. 

So why would Midphase have so few customers after so much time?  This is a difficult question to answer without a lot of research.  However, it becomes painfully obvious when you try to move your site.

It turns out they are a hodgepodge of little companies and sites.  There is no one place where you can manage everything like with most hosts that have grown quickly.  You have to go one place to manage you domains, another to manage your name servers, and still another to manage your site.  There is little that’s automatic about them and much that has to go through the “billing department” during regular business hours. 

My friend Rose Mis helped me with this transfer and we both felt that we had never seen anything like the complications, loose ends, and unrelated details that had to be dealt with in this transfer. 

So when you hear that a host has been in business forever, but only has a few customers, dig deeper and make sure you listen to all those warning bells going off in your head.

What Interface Do They Use?

The interface I’m talking about here is the one between you and the back end of your website.  The overwhelming majority of hosts use CPanel.  If you don’t already know how to use it, it’s easy to learn.  It’s also known by virtually every tech person you’d want to hire to help you. 

Some hosts, like GoDaddy, have their own proprietary interface.  If you’re used to CPanel, you’ll have a learning curve if you sign up with someone that doesn’t use it.  Also, if you plan to use a host that does not use CPanel, make sure anyone you plan to hire to help with your site knows the interface you’re planning on using.

I actually briefly signed on with GoDaddy before I went to Hostgator.  I did not transfer my site but I did set up a new one just to see how it would go.  Between the constant technical issues and the foreign-feeling interface, I quickly decided this was not the direction I wanted to go.

Other Consideration

There are several other things to be considered when choosing a web host.  We’ll look at those in part 2 of this article which you can read by clicking here.

If you enjoyed this article, click the like button in the “Find us on Facebook” box at the upper left. If you would like other tips on using your computer, and keeping it running in top shape, click here to receive your free online video course.  It will show you how to get your computer running in top shape (just like the pros do) and keep it that way.  You can even share it with your friends and help them make their computers better too!

Thanks for visiting!


About Robert Seth

Robert Seth is a CPA in the Clark County, Washington area who has been serving individual and small business clients for the last 25 years. His business includes a growing number of remotely serviced customers throughout the United States. He’s also a writer and technology expert. He has a passion for improving the lives of others by helping them simplify the complicated stuff in their lives.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Zapryan Valkov November 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I also had the same experience with UIBC in London and couldn’t transfer my site!
I think that this course is amazing if it didnt cost me £4000 and came out with very little knowledge of how to run an internet business! There was too much talking for anything else but not how to set up and run an internet busines!
To me all UIBC is more or less a legal SCAM which tricks people into something they believe i so easy to make millions out of it. In fact setting up and runing a very proffitable internet business is taunting task and 5 day is not eonugh!
4000 pounds could be inveted in much better learning courses and learn a lot more!

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Robert Seth November 15, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I agree that UIBC would be amazing if it didn’t cost so much. After taking it I have found courses that teach the same thing for a couple hundred dollars. They didn’t have the personal attention that UIBC did so UIBC should cost more because of that. I also think it is totally unethical to make the site so proprietary that you can’t move it without copying and pasting. I still think UIBC has it’s place. It’s great for people that know very little about their computers, the internet, or technical stuff. But again, I think it could cost lots less or include a lot more. There was an awful lot of time spent on playing games and other non-productive stuff.

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Vicky September 30, 2011 at 11:17 am

I am using Go-Daddy and have been happy with them so far. I was unsure about choosing them so I only signed up for one year. Thanks for the info, I didn’t know all the things to consider originally. I’ll revisit this article when my year is up.

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Kerri Randall September 29, 2011 at 7:26 am

I love how you break everything down–you really are the king of making complicated issues simple! =) Thanks for asking questions for those of us who wouldn’t know what to ask, or what the right answer should be.

P.S. I’ve used bluehost, and aside from my own lack of technical intelligence, I’ve had no issues with them. =)

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Wil September 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Very helpful info, Robert.
Thanks for telling us what to look for in web hosting.

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Phil Holleman September 20, 2011 at 12:23 pm

This is a very good article, Robert. The points you make will certainly help me the next time I need a web host.

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Olga Hermans September 20, 2011 at 9:42 am

Thanks Robert for your great insight; it is very much appreciated!!

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Hughie Bagnell September 20, 2011 at 9:35 am

Thank you Robert for sharing this information! Well researched…Thanks, Hughie

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Amity Hook-Sopko September 20, 2011 at 5:28 am

Great advice, indeed 🙂 It is important to ask questions, especially from others who have used the service. To me, it was important to find someone who uses renewable energy to power their hosting servers, etc. I decided on a smaller scale provider, and I’ve been happy with their excellent service.
Looking forward to part 2.

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Robert Seth September 20, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Amity, I had not considered that you could find a host that actually used renewable energy. What a cool idea! Maybe I can add this into part 2 as something to consider in making the selection. Thanks for the idea and for visiting!

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denny hagel September 20, 2011 at 5:12 am

Great advice that was obviously well thought out and researched. Thanks for sharing Robert.

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