Keep Your Site in a Good Light: Protecting Yourself From a Bad Host

Choosing a web host is one of the first steps to taking your site live – and working with a good host is important to your website’s success.

A reliable web host keeps your site up and running (accessible to clients) consistently with minimal downtime; a bad host, on the other hand, can be detrimental to your success by capsizing traffic, not to mention your SEO ranking. As a smart consumer, you must be aware that every web host are in the business to make money.

Therefore, it’s necessary for web owners to put up certain level of defense against their own web host – even if they are trustworthy and efficient at first.

If You are Just Starting Out…

So you are building a site and have the copy and infrastructure in the works, but haven’t yet selected a hosting provider – you are at the perfect place in the process to ensure that you pick a great web host from the outset. That said, even the provider who starts out perfectly can cross over to the dark side over time. Protect yourself from day one so that, if the provider does go sour, you are not the one left suffering the consequences:

1. Register your domain separately from your web host

Many hosting providers offer a free domain to their first customers, however just because it’s free does not mean that you should use it for your primary domain. For starters, doing so makes your site URL more difficult to remember, not to mention that it lessens your business’ credibility. Registering your domain separately from your hosting provider gives your organization its own brand and identity. Here is a list of recommended domain registrars.

2. Carefully select your payment method

payment

In general, hosting companies require you to set up a billing method that will allow them to draft payments from your account. Typically, PayPal, debit card, or credit card are the three most secure options to do so – each with its own merits.

PayPal

PayPal allows you to pay the merchant without them ever having access to your actual pay card information. Additionally, PayPal has built-in measures to protect both you as the customer and the merchant from fraud, theft, etc.

Debit Cards 

Debit cards are a good option when starting out with a new hosting service as they are easy to replace. For example, if your hosting arrangement becomes sour and you are required to set up an auto-pay account with your hosting provider, you will need a way to protect yourself to ensure that you are not further charged for service past your day of cancellation. With a debit card, you can easily request a new card to ensure that subsequent payments do not occur. Although with trustworthy hosting providers, this should never be an issue, you never know what might happen in an unhappy situation – and unfortunately, I personally have had it happen where a provider refuses to stop charging. Lesson learned.

Credit Cards

The third option is to use a credit card for payment. Although it is more difficult to secure a new credit card account number, many credit card companies offer some built-in protection to the consumer in the case of unauthorized charges [in contrast to a debit card in which the consumer remains liable in most cases; most banks will not reimburse]. Carefully review your credit card company’s policies before providing information to a web host.

3. Go with a web host that offers a long trial period

Trials typically aren’t a very good idea if you are not all but certain that you will go with that provider in the end – but, if the company that you want to go with offers one, make sure that it is for a decent length of time.

For starters, it is a sign that the company stands behind its product, but also, many hosting problems take more than a week or two to rear their ugly heads. By going with a company that offers a decent free trial, you are more likely to uncover any issues that might occur. Better yet, see if the hosting company provides an anytime money back guarantee. For your reference:

Web HostTrialReviewWeb HostTrialReview
A2 Hosting30 Days Read Review IX Hosting7 Days Read Review
BlueHost30 Days Read Review Little Oak30 Days Read Review
CoolHandle Hosting30 Days Read Review Lunarpages30 Days Read Review
Dot5 Hosting30 Days Read ReviewMedia Temple30 Days Read Review
Fatcow Hosting30 Days Read Review MidPhase30 Days Read Review
GreenGeeks Hosting30 Days Read Review Omnis Network30 Days Read Review
Hostgator 45 Days Read Review Pow Web30 Days Read Review
HostMonster30 Days Read ReviewSiteGround Hosting30 Days Read Review
Hostoople Hosting30 Days Read Interview Startlogic Hosting30 Days Read Review
Hostpapa Hosting30 Days Read Review WebHostingHub Hosting90 Days Read Review
Inmotion90 Days Read Review Web Hosting Pad30 Days Read Review
iPage hosting30 Days Read Review WP Engine WordPress Hosting60 Days Read Review

4. Get to know the hosting provider’s refund policy

Hopefully you won’t need to use it, but in the case that something does go awry and that great provider becomes a bad host, it is important that you be able to escape the situation as unscathed as possible.

Find out exactly what costs you will recover if the need should emerge.

5. Avoid blacklisted IPs

If your hosting company runs off of known blacklisted IPs, the chance of your site being blocked as a result is automatically increased. Make sure that your site has every odd of success by running a quick check on Spam Haus’ Block List to ensure that your potential host is in the clear – http://www.spamhaus.org/lookup/.

If You are Already Working With a Web Hosting Provider…

You have undoubtedly done thorough research, comparing various providers’ offerings against your needs, the pricing, the customer reviews, and more.

You finally took the plunge and are now successfully working with a great web hosting provider… so now what? As is the case if you are just starting out, even the best of providers can turn into bad hosts (though I certainly hope that yours doesn’t!). Take precautionary steps today to protect yourself tomorrow.

6. Keep your domain away from your web host

If you have already registered your domain with your hosting company, take the time to transfer it out to a third party registrar.

Doing so ensures that your actual domain remains in your hands in case anything should go awry with your hosting provider. Although the domain should be yours regardless, you never know what tactics a business may employ if the relationship goes south – better to stay in the clear from day one.

7. Backup your site regularly

In fairness, backing up your site regularly is important to your site’s well-being regardless of where you host. Doing so ensures that you have a recent version of your site’s files and assets should anything go wrong – whether it be related to a hacker or cyber criminal or dropped hosting situation. Backups are surprisingly easy to do – particularly if you use Cron job. Assume that you are working in cPanel environment, log into your host control panel, then enter the following command into Cron command field:

 mysqldump --opt -Q -u dbusername --password=dbpassword dbname | gzip > /path-to-store-the-backup-file/db_backup.sql.gz

Replace the variable fields with the information relevant to your database and users, then email yourself the database to free up storage space that saving the file to your actual system would require. Extract the zip file, then change the database detail before saving the file and uploading it to your server. The final step is to enter “php -q /path-to-the-php-script-folder/backup.php” into the Cron job section of the cPanel. 

8. Double check your CHMO permissions

CHMOD permissions allow you to set the access levels for each file and application.

CHMOD permission range from 000 (no access) to 777 (full access) – use an FTP site to check and set the right permissions on each folder and file – doing so will ensure that your data remains safe and accessible to only the intended parties.

9. Password

As ever, passwords remain important to your security. Although your web host should be trustworthy, there is no guarantee that their individual employees do not have access – and while we hope that they are also trustworthy, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Use a strong password that includes a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters (if allowed).

Change your password regularly just in case your information is compromised – set reminders in your calendar to ensure that you remember.

10. Keep your options open

Last but not least, always keep an ear open to learn about new hosting options and to keep the pulse on your current provider (tip: use our free tool to monitor your site uptime). If your web host becomes a bad host, be prepared to make the switch.