5 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Website Host

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, your website makes up at least part of your income and when there are website hosting issues, it can impact your bottom line. There is nothing worse than a website hosting company that goes down without warning or explanation, takes forever to rectify problems, fails to secure your site or overcharges for extras.

Dixie Vogel wrote on Good Karma Host blog:

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.

Vogel is correct. With “unlimited” hosting plans, the cost of similar services is negligible these days. However, how these services are ran can make or break your website.

5 Web Hosting Shoppers Mistakes to Avoid

1. Not Checking Hosting Reviews

You’ve landed on the website for a hosting company and their packages sound like a dream – almost too good to be true. This should serve as your first red flag, but even if the deals seem to line up with what other hosting companies have to offer, you should always check reviews.

WHSR offers honest web host reviews. Unlike some of the other reviews you’ll find around the Internet, they are written by technical writers who have first-hand experience with that particular hosting company. You have to be really cautious about where you get your reviews, because some hosting companies fill the Internet with fake positive reviews. It can be difficult to know what is real and what is an advertisement from the company itself.

When checking reviews, watch for red flag items like:

  • Complaints about customer service
  • Complaints about down time
  • Recent complaints that seem to be in a cluster (this can signal a server overload caused by growth pains)
  • Complaints about viruses and other security problems

The best terms to use when searching are “complaints against XYZ hosting company” and “blog post review of XYZ hosting company”. More than likely, you’ll quickly spot those reviews that are written by the company or that are a paid review and be able to weed those out from the rest of the reviews.

2. Not Looking at Restrictions

Some web hosting companies are tricky. They will post that you get “unlimited” whatever in big, bold letters, but when you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find out what “unlimited” really means.

In his article Is Unlimited Hosting a Good Deal, Jerry Low says:

In reality, unlimited hosting is, always, limited.

Think about the limitation in our physical world – it is simply impossible to have unlimited semiconductor to build unlimited RAM and CPU; it is impossible to offer unlimited bandwidth when we have limited cables transmitting data around the globe.

In the very fine print, you may find information on how much bandwidth and space you can actually use before the web hosting company will throttle you. This is important information to have, because if your site already uses something close to these limits, you could find yourself suddenly without a host or your site could be shut down for an unspecified amount of time.

Other restrictions to watch out for:

  • No multiple POP accounts (Marv Dryer)
  • No SSH
  • You can’t add statistics
  • No installation of your own software (some security limitations are understandable, but most Open Source software should be on the okay to install list)

Restrictions may not be listed on the sign-up page. Ask questions to be sure you can operate your site the way you want. If you use a shopping cart, is this allowed? Will you be able to use SSH?

3. Choosing Free Space or a Host that Offers Free Space

If you’re just starting out, it might be tempting to utilize some of the servers that offer a small amount of free space. However, the old saying that you get what you pay for really is true. If you go with free space, then you need to understand that there are many other people going for the same free space. As we mentioned earlier, the capacity of servers is indeed limited.

Greek Servers said:

…this kind of web hosting includes serious restrictions in a detriment for your company. Your site is going to be utilized by the actual web host to show advertisements. And also the visitors that you have proved helpful difficult in order to immediate aimed at your website is going to be siphoned away without any earnings for you. This isn’t that which you want.

On a shared hosting plan you may be competing for resources with other websites paying for the same service, but with a free hosting plan, you are now competing with anyone who wishes to sign up, free of charge.

Even if you are going for a paid plan, if the server offers free space, ask some pertinent questions.

  • Do the free websites and paid websites share the same servers?
  • What happens if a free website is using too many resources? What about a paid website? Is there an option to upgrade before being shut down?
  • Are there ads placed on only the free sites? Paid hosting should never have ads as these pull away from your own website traffic.

4. Going with a New Company

Some of the “best” worst offers you’ll ever find come from brand new hosting companies. They are excited about their new company and anxious to sign up customers, so they offer all kinds of perks, freebies, software, exciting deals and great prices to get you to choose them. Unfortunately, their inexperience in the industry often catches up with them. Many of us have been there. That new host is great for a few months. Customer service is stellar, load times great, no down time, etc.

Then, they hit the wall. They reach that magic number X customer that is one too many for their resources to handle. The servers crash, the users are taking advantage of all those features they offered and they can’t seem to get a grip on the situation. Yes, they are growing pains, but do you really want your website to fall victim to your website hosting company’s growing pains or would you rather choose a company that has already been through growing pains several times and has a plan in place for how to handle the next growth spurt?

most hosted sites

Infographic by hostcabi.net

As a rule of thumb, I would avoid any company that hasn’t been in business at least 5-8 years. As Internet marketer Hermas Haynes said in an article on Fox Online Learning:

Choose a host that has been in business at least a few years, and who offers features that can be upgraded as your Web site expands. Your company image hinges on the reliability and service of your Web host.

5 – Not Testing Customer Service

24/7 Customer Service!

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Get an immediate response to support questions!

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? I once signed up for a hosting company that offered 24/7 support via telephone, e-mail or live chat, or so they said. My websites went down and after three days I still couldn’t get a response. Since then, I always test their customer service to the best of my ability.

If their customer support can’t take the time to answer your questions before you sign up, what do you think it will be like after you sign up? After all, when you are simply “thinking” about signing up, they have something to gain by giving you good support. So, my first step is to come up with a list of specific questions that pertain to the needs I have for my website, but that are not answered in the information available on their pages.

I divide these questions up and try all available customer service options. If they offer e-mail support, I e-mail a few questions. If they offer telephone support, I phone and ask a few others. Live chat? You know I’m testing that as well.

However, this isn’t really enough to tell me for certain that current customers are getting good customer support, so I also:

  • Stalk the support message boards to see how long it takes for people to get a respond and if that response is cordial and helpful or sharp and sometimes downright rude.
  • Check out the “current clients” page and e-mail a few of them to ask for their opinion on the hosting company. You won’t hear back from all of them, so choose five or six to e-mail.
  • Check the BBB and RipOffReport.com for complaints.

In addition, that telephone contact is important to makes sure customer service is something that you will be able to understand clearly. As Brenda Panin on Bluffton Today said on her blog:

If their agents sound like they can’t even understand basic English and are unskilled in dealing with any technical inquiries, avoid this host. They will just cause you big headaches if something goes wrong down the road.

If all of these things check out, then you can feel more comfortable that customer service is a priority with the company. 

Trust Your Instincts

Everything may check out perfectly based on your list of needs, reading reviews and testing customer service.

However, if you have a niggling feeling that it seems too good to be true or something isn’t adding up, it might be best to trust your instincts. Sometimes the subconscious picks up on something minor. With so many excellent and inexpensive providers out there, there is no need to take a risk. Even small things, like a server not keeping backed up copies of your website or only allowed for a lump sum annual payment that ties you in for 12 months are important when it comes to which host you trust your website with.