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How to Choose a Web Host – Part 2

by Robert Seth on September 21, 2011

Data Center PictureThis is Part 2 of How to Choose a Web Host.  For Part 1, please click here.

What Is Their Definition of a Short Down Time?

I never would have dreamed of asking this question until I went through a lengthy down time with Midphase.  In fact, this is what caused me to finally toss in the towel with Midphase and find a new host.  It was early one morning and I was trying to work on my site.  I couldn’t get my dashboard to come up and quickly realized the site would not come up either. 

When I called Midphase they were not even aware the site was down.  In case you’re new to this, that’s what shared, managed hosting is all about.  THEY are supposed to manage the server, not you.  If your site goes down, they should have it fixed so fast that most of the time you won’t even know it was down.

When a site does go down it’s customary to have it back up quickly.  Quickly means between 5 and 30 minutes, or an hour tops.  It took Midphase over 24 hours to get my site back up. 

If you do the math, this completely blows their 99.9% uptime guarantee out of the water.  To be up for 99.9% of the time for a month, you could not be down longer than about 1.44 minutes or 86.4 seconds!  So clearly I was a bit concerned. 

When I interviewed Hostgator to see if I wanted their hosting, I asked them about this with a deliberately very open ended question.  They said what I just told you; a short time is between 5 and 30 minutes.  Any longer and they’d be looking at restoring their backup of your site to a different server. 

What Features Do They Offer?

Now we come to some of the more objective issues involved in selecting a host.  You’ll want to know how many domains they will allow you to host.  It’s not that important that their least expensive plan allow multiple domains.  Just so long as you can upgrade later. 

If you’re planning on using WordPress for your website, you might want to check if they offer the one-button installation.  Otherwise you’ll have a bit more work as you’ll need to upload WordPress to your site and install it manually.

One nice extra that Hostgator offers is they will transfer your entire website from somewhere else free of charge.  You will have some supervision to do, but they will transfer all the content. 

You might want to check into a dedicated IP address for your site.  This is becoming a less common offering as we are starting to run a little short of unique IP addresses on a worldwide basis.  When I signed up with Midphase years ago, they just gave you one if you wanted it.  Now, when I signed up with Hostgator, they would only give me one if I bought a business plan and installed an SSL certificate.

There are a multitude of other features that web hosts offer so be sure and do a detailed comparison of the ones that are important to you. 

In the first part of this article, I told you I’d give you an example of why price might not be such an important factor in your decision.  Let me give you that example now. 

The difference in price between Midphase and Hostgator ended up only being about a dollar a month.  Keep in mind that making this comparison was rather involved because each included different things in their plans and charged extra for other things.  However, in the end, it was only a dollar difference. 

Now think about some of the less objective features I mentioned in the first half.  The two that come to mind for me are the definition of down time and the ease of use of each one.  For a dollar a month more, I get a host that actually pays attention to when my site goes down and has it back up 23 ½ hours faster than the other.

I also get a host where everything can be done from one place instead of searching everywhere and having to do many things during their “regular” business hours.  Transferring my old site free of charge didn’t hurt the decision process any either.  There are a few other things that are better too, but these are the main ones.

Negotiating Price

As I said before, price should not be a big factor in your decision process.  That being said however, sometimes there’s quite a bit you can do to save some money once you select who you’d like to go with. 

Something many people don’t know is that you can significantly reduce your monthly cost by paying for more time in advance.  Usually you can pay for up to three years which results in significant savings. 

Many hosting companies also have ongoing discounts.  These discounts can be quite random and even the employees of the hosting company may not know when the next discount is going to happen.   They will usually know what the maximum discount is though so you can check back every few days to see what that day’s discount is.  When it reaches the level you want, than purchase your service. 

These discounts will normally apply to your first order.  If you pay for three years up front, that’s considered your first order.  I think I saved over $100 with Hostgater by doing this. 

Another thing hosts will do sometimes is price match.  At one point I was thinking about leaving Midphase (I wish I would have at that point) and I had gotten a dirt cheap quote from GoDaddy.  I told Midphase about it and they matched it.  The funny thing is, the price from GoDaddy was negotiated too so the ending price was pretty low.

Another thing to keep in mind is that even if you pay several years up front, you are not usually locked in.  Every host I have come across will refund your unused months should you decide to go someplace else.  So unless you are just strapped for cash and can’t afford the longer contract, it’s always best to pay as much up front as you can.  If you use a host I haven’t mentioned in this article though, be sure to ask about their policy and not just assume their refund policy is the same. 

Other Considerations

There is one other little piece of advice I’m going to throw in here for free.  This really has little to do with choosing a hosting company but is very important all the same. 

While it will be tempting to register your domain name with the same company you host with, this practice should be avoided. 

When both are in the same place, one company has control over your entire online operation.  This is usually a problem when your hosting company decides you have done something they don’t like or they consider unethical.  Even if you were not responsible, they may lock down your site and make it unusable.  If your domain is registered with them too, there will be little you can do until they consider the problem resolved. 

However, if your domain is registered elsewhere, and you’ve backed up your site, you can quickly move it someplace else and resume operations.  This can be a lifesaver if you make a significant amount of your income online. 

There are many, many other things people consider in their decision about which hosting company to use.  For example, my friend Amity of www.GreenGiftsGuide.com left a comment on the first part of this article.  She said that she found a host that used renewable energy to power their operation.  I find that totally cool, but I never would have thought of it without her comment. 

This article covers the basics that you should look at.  I’m sure you’ll be able to think up other consideration based on things that are important to you.  Whatever those things are that are special and important to you, be sure and ask your prospective host about them.  If it’s important to you, surely it’s important to others too and someone has worked it into their operation.  There are enough hosts out there that everyone should be able to find one that works for them. 

If you enjoyed this article, please leave a comment.  I would love to hear what other considerations you may have in finding just the right host.  Also, please click the like button in the “Find us on Facebook” box in the upper left. 

If you would like to receive notification of new articles and our free newsletter, fill in the box at the upper right or click here.  You will also receive our free video e-course on how to tune up your computer and keep it that way.  It will save you tons of time starting up your computer as well as while running programs.  It’s the same process the pros use and charge lots of money for.  You’ll get it completely free though and you can even share it with your friends.  Then YOU can be the expert!

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.


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Lucille October 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Superb blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?

I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
Would you propose starting with a free platform
like Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused ..
Any ideas? Thank you!

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Robert Seth October 31, 2013 at 9:45 am

Hi Lucille,
Check out this link for my free article on writing ebooks. Even if you’re not planning on writing ebooks, you will still find some helpful writing tips. I would always recommend a free platform to begin with. If you find success, then go for a paid option if it’s the only way you can get option and features that you need. Thanks for visiting and glad you enjoyed the blog!

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Larry A. Barr October 23, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Hi Robert, I found your website and this post through facebook. The reason I am commenting here is because I have offered web hosting services through my own company for quite a number of years now. I am also not just some guy reselling hosting services from someone else, I operate and maintain all my own servers co-located in a professional data center.

With respect, I believe there are other factors to consider beyond 5 nine’s uptimes (99.999 %) and costs that your post doesn’t cover. For instance, most people don’t realise that when one hosts a website with a large hosting outfit (no need to mention names) that the actual server hosting their site can be simultaneously hosting 1000’s of websites at the same time. They can get away with this because the code that makes up an individual website is really pretty small, say the equivalent 5 – 20 single spaced-type written pages. (of course larger websites are much bigger) Anyway the real problem of hosting on a large no-name-here-host, is the other websites you happen to share the same server with…

For example let’s say your business’s has a big promotion coming up. All your freshly printed advertising reflects a special running on your website. So far everything is great, then all of the sudden some teenager and his $4.95 per-month-hosted-website about gross-out- teen videos or something all of the sudden finds a couple of their videos have gone viral. So now your carefully organised ad campaign is tanking because people are hitting your much slowed down website sharing because it is one of thousands including the teeny-boppers. You can complain to your host about the decrease in performance of course, but by the time the problem has been resolved, -it’s too late. Databases such as the one that powers your WordPress website here is another example of the potential pitfalls of hosting on a large host. (One database server typically supports up to 10-12 web hosting servers.) Of course your mileage may very and everything might work out fine, but I am just saying that bargain $4.95 web hosting isn’t always the best choice.

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Solvita September 25, 2011 at 9:52 am

Great post Robert – I recently experienced some issues with mine – I think good customer service and communications are important and people should be aware of that.

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Robert Seth September 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Thanks for your comment Solvita! Glad you agree on the importance of good customer service and communication.

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Victoria Gazeley September 24, 2011 at 11:20 am

Wow – what a tonne of incredibly useful info! And I couldn’t agree more. I had a client recently whose site went down and the host was completely unaware there was even an issue (and no, it wasn’t Hostgator but a host she’d been with for years 😉 Then it took HOURS for them to get her site back up and running. I’m forwarding this one around…

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Robert Seth September 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Thanks for your comment Victoria! I’m glad you enjoyed it and can use it for some of your clients. I think a lot of people have had this experience so hopefully this will help them select the right host in the first place.

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Rachelle September 23, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I really appreciate the tip about not having my hosting and domain name not at the same place – makes a lot of sense! Thanks Robert!

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Robert Seth September 25, 2011 at 12:07 pm

You’re welcome Rachelle! Thanks for your comment.

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Jennifer Bennett September 22, 2011 at 6:21 pm

You amaze me with how much you know and how you can break it down so that people like myself can actually understand and implement! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

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Robert Seth September 25, 2011 at 11:57 am

You’re welcome Jennifer! I glad it’s helpful to you in understanding all the complicated stuff we have to deal with. Thanks for your comment!

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Hughie Bagnell September 22, 2011 at 10:21 am

Definitely a ‘Complicated to Simple’ article Seth! Thank you for sharing this information…Hughie

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Robert Seth September 25, 2011 at 11:56 am

You’re welcome Hughie!

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AJ September 22, 2011 at 5:40 am

Good info Seth!
-AJ

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Robert Seth September 25, 2011 at 11:56 am

Thanks AJ!

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denny hagel September 22, 2011 at 5:17 am

Robert I love how you explain things in terms even us newbies can understand! Although not a lover of a lot of the technical stuff that goes on behind the scenes of my website, it is important to know and I am grateful to receive the benefit of your knowledge. Thank you for sharing!

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Robert Seth September 25, 2011 at 11:55 am

You’re welcome Denny! I appreciate the comment and I’m glad to be of help.

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donovan grant September 22, 2011 at 12:50 am

Hi Robert, your article reminds of the nightmare I had we a previous (nameless) web hoster. The service desk was quite poor and in general it was just too clunky to manage my site there. I have been with host gator for 2 years now and find it very good indeed. their 24 hour support team rock!

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Robert Seth September 25, 2011 at 11:54 am

Thanks for you comment Donovan, I’m glad your enjoying their service too!

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