Put ’em through the ringer
When you think about it, web host companies are like a major appliance, perhaps a washer or dryer. Different brands all perform the same basic function, but each has its own special feature to try to entice you to choose them. Just like washing machines, there is both a low end and high end price tag. At the high end you pay for extra fancy features: maybe extra spin cycles or electronic dials. For web hosting companies these are features like unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, unlimited number of emails. And just like a washing machine, web hosting companies have both good and bad after-purchase support or warranties. You might have a tendency to go for the least expensive hosting company but your decision needs to be more critical than that.
A true “best” web hosting company story
I fell victim to the “cheapest is the best” mentality. Even though I’m a long time veteran of making websites, I was still duped by the cheap price tag of a new-kid-on-the-block web hosting company. Unconsciously I thought, “all hosting is the same, so the best web hosting company is the least expensive.” What a dumb mistake, especially for someone with decent web experience. I happily paid 3.99 a month for unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth — all the seemingly common things you come to expect in a webhost. However, what I was actually paying 3.99 a month for was unanswered support phone calls, unexplained site downtime and unavailability, and a huge headache. Basically I was stuck with a nice heaping pile of dirty laundry and just wanted my money back so I could buy a different washing machine. In the end, I did end up getting my money back, but only after weeks of stressing and feeling very frustrated.
That serves me right for not doing my homework on this particular hosting company and hastily jumping at a cheap price. (By the way, the company is now out of business)
UPDATE: 2 years later they still tried to charge me a renewal fee! Unbelievable!
Think about price the right way
Now, I don’t blame anyone for using price as the sole criteria for choosing the best web hosting company. It’s only our middle-class nature to try and save a buck or two. However, when I sat back and thought about the nightmare I went through with this $4 per month company, I realized if I went with a $6 or even a $7 per month, reputable hosting company, I’d only be paying 24 or 36 more dollars a year. A price I’d gladly pay for smooth service and peace of mind — especially considering the torment and frustration I went through. It’s easy for me to say after the fact, but I guarantee if you find yourself in the same situation as I was with a deadbeat webhost, you’ll come to the same conclusion about paying $2 or $3 more per month!
The “Best” equals being the best at the “Basics”
Finding the best web hosting company should not be a trial and error experiment, and I certainly do not recommend doing as such. Signing on with a web host (even though it may have a money back guarantee) is more of a commitment then you may realize. For example if you buy a hosting package and later decide that you want a refund within the advertised satisfaction guaranteed time limit, most likely you will have to go through the pains of transferring your domain name (which is never refunded). Also, if they really want to hang you out to dry, they might try to charge you surprise fees for the bandwidth and space that you used in the meantime (read the fine print). This is why you should do some good research and find out who is the best web hosting company for you the first time. When you’re ready to shop and compare concentrate on the basics. Who has a good reputation at doing the core web hosting responsibilities? The following is a list of core features and characteristics that you should grade each web hosting company on when shopping around:
- Transfer Bandwidth
- Storage Space
- Support Languages (PHP, Perl, Ruby)
- Control Panel (Fantastico)
- Satisfaction history
- Years in the business
- Customer Reviews
Special tip for the web savvy
Here’s a tip if you plan on having more than one website/domain: Many hosting companies allow you to have multiple domain names per hosting account. That way you pay a single monthly hosting package fee for the ability to host multiple domains. For example: you can register two.COM domains (for approximately $10/year each) and then use one hosting package for both those domains (which costs around $7/month). This is a huge way to save money. in fact, I currently have 4 domains on one bluehost account.