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.
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.
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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.