The Biggest Mistake in Choosing a Web Host (& How to Avoid it)

The Biggest Mistake in Choosing a Web Host (& How to Avoid it)

The Biggest Mistake in Choosing a Web Host (& How to Avoid it)

Running a hosting business, I frequently chat with folks making the decision on where to host their sites. Other times, people are evaluating existing services and expenditures, wanting to make sure they are getting the best value for their hosting investment. This makes good sense. But almost without fail, people evaluate potential hosting companies using the WORST measure possible – one that practically guarantees they’ll end up disappointed.

Want to cut to the chase? Go to Choosing Hosting Service by Price Alone? or How DO You Pick a Good Hosting Company? If you’re considering hosting with Squidix, you may be interested in What to Expect with Squidix. :)

Because the number of web hosting services is absolutely overwhelming and grows daily – anybody with an internet connection and $10 for a domain name can start a “web hosting business” – people naturally look for points of differentiation. Feature-packed, unlimited hosting plans are ubiquitous now, so comparing your needs against storage space, bandwidth, and email allotments doesn’t work like it did a few years ago. Long lists of features are confusing, and often meaningless to a client without a strong technical background. So what’s left?

Choosing Hosting Services by Price Alone?

People try to purchase hosting as if it’s a commodity. It’s not, done well. Hosting done right is a service business. What does this mean for you? Remember, you’re not just buying the most webspace or bandwidth for your buck. You’re buying the service. The quality of service will make or break your hosting experience. Buying service is an entirely different purchase than buying a commodity.

Selecting a host by the smallest price tag may work out okay… initially. Most commercial hosting companies provide all the technical capabilities required to run a modern website. But to get the lowest price, you may have to sign a long-term agreement. You may have to put up with an unfamiliar, difficult-to-use control panel. You may not have ready access to capable, attentive support personnel. You may have long waits on requests for help, and when your requests are finally answered, you may find that some or all of your questions are not considered to be within their realm of host’s responsibility, at least by the host. And that “free domain name” that comes with your hosting–are you sure it’s really yours? Are you listed at the registrant? Will you even have access to manage it if you ever cancel your hosting plan? (I’ve seen some of the biggest names in the business commandeer those “free domain names” when a client cancels hosting.)

I’m not criticizing people who approach the search for hosting by price, because that’s exactly how I started. Before I began my own hosting company, I selected and managed reseller hosting services for my web design clients. What I learned–the hard way, I might add–is that there is a lot more to the host selection equation than price.

I learned the budget hosting plans I choose weren’t such a great bargain after all. There are costs involved in serving websites, so to provide ultra-low prices, corners must be cut. When I had concerns, I often couldn’t get help quickly or sometimes at all. Sluggish sites and downtime (Another hosting fact: Uptime guarantees don’t protect from downtime; every computer sometimes goes down. But hosts offer them because they are expected. At best, you can get a refund for the current month if your site is down long enough to trigger the agreement, if the host can document it with their own records, and if you go through the request procedure. Most people don’t.) is commonplace when servers are overloaded. Proprietary control panels were frustrating and buggy–and geared to make it easy to buy new services, but difficult or impossible to manage or cancel them. Often, I knew as much or more about the technical end than the (probably underpaid) support personnel I eventually spoke with. And if one of the sites required a non-standard configuration option? Forget it! In short, with most budget hosting, you’re on your own…

If you have a basic, low-traffic, non-critical website, are already technically skilled, not at risk of losing income or credibility with site downtime, and need nothing out of the ordinary, you may do fine on the $2.99/month plan at El Cheapo Budget Webhost. If that works for you, more power to you! It could be a great choice for you, provided that’s the level of service you need and want.

On the other hand, if you require consistently reliable hosting, high-quality and accessible support, and sometimes, advice on matters that may not be directly related to your hosting account, you can (and should) expect to pay more. Expecting to pay more for premium service goes beyond mere fairness; it’s vital if  your selected hosting company is to both provide exceptional service levels and remain profitable, thereby securing their ability to serve you into the future.

So How DO You Pick a Good Hosting Company?

  • Super-low prices should be considered a red flag. Understand quality service simply costs more to provide.
  • Pay attention to hosting reviews and testimonials. ((Beware the phony “hosting review sites” that have nothing but glowing reviews–most are nothing more than a bunch of affiliate links, where the webmaster gets a payout when you buy from any link.))
  • Look for recommendations from technical folks you trust, or colleagues who are happy with their hosting. Pay most attention to those who have long-term experience with their host.
  • Take advantage of money back guarantees and trial offers. A trustworthy company will stand behind the services they provide.
  • Pay attention to a company’s approach to customer service. Can you easily find help & support information? Can you determine their customer service philosophy? These are good clues as to how you’ll be treated as a customer.
  • If you find a hosting company that treats you right, stay loyal! And be sure to tell others. As your hosting company grows, they’ll be able to offer you more services and options.

What to Expect with Squidix

I guess it all boils down to what you value. I still work with many clients from my web design days, and I’ll tell you something: I end up doing as much hosting support for people using budget hosting as for my own hosting clients! In fact, a significant number call me first when they have a problem with their outside hosting service – or any other web tech questions, for that matter- – because they know I’ll do my best to help guide them into wise choices, respond promptly, and explain options thoroughly, in understandable terms. I am very service oriented. They know from experience working with me that I do my absolute best to be helpful. (If this is your priority, Squidix is a great choice; we’d be delighted to have you join the ranks of Squidix.)

If price is your primary consideration in hosting, Squidix isn’t the best choice. I’d like to believe a strong customer service orientation is easily identified and widely valued, but  know that’s not always the case.  Sometimes, the same folks I’ve the spent the most (off-the-clock) hours helping send price lists and links to budget hosting, expecting me to match bargain-basement prices or justify the difference. It’s beyond disheartening, to be honest. But the simple truth is that that “extra mile mindset” that means so much to me won’t necessarily hold the same value to everyone. It’s a question of priorities.

So here’s the deal–please don’t expect me to help evaluate competing hosting services. It’s impossible for me to be honestly objective with this question, since I take pride in the service I provide and have vested interest in maintaining my business. I will not provide critiques of competing hosting services, whether I’ve had experience with them or not–I’d prefer focusing on what Squidix can offer rather than criticizing competitors.

If you don’t feel like the service level from Squidix is a good value for you, if our strengths don’t suit your needs and priorities, fair enough! No single company is the right choice for everyone. I want to work with folks who are looking for what I’m best at delivering! Exactly what you’re looking for, however, only you can decide. Whatever hosting service you choose, I sincerely wish you well. Because that’s what being a Squidix is all about.

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About the Author

Sam Barrow

Sam Barrow (CEO of Squidix LLC) is a senior web developer and server administrator with roughly 11 years of experience living in Indianapolis, IN. His specialties include web design, web development with PHP, Java/Scala development, and UNIX administration using CentOS, Ubuntu and FreeBSD.



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