Searching for the right web host is a daunting process – and it’s not made any easier by misleading advertising.
Check out almost any web hosting company’s website, and they’ll sound amazing.
Many of them promise unlimited resources and guarantees on everything, all available for a few dollars a month or even FOC. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that those promises aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be. All too often, you get what you pay for. That doesn’t have to be the case, though. Once you’re familiar with some of the most common false advertising tricks listed below, you’ll be able to better spot which web hosting companies are the real deal – and which ones are lying to you.
Lie #1: Unlimited Storage and Unmetered Bandwidth
Whenever you see a host offering unlimited storage or unmetered bandwidth, take a closer look and you’ll probably see a little asterisk nearby – their definition of “unlimited” isn’t at all what it sounds like.
“Unlimited” Storage Always Has a Hidden Limit
If you take a closer look at the host’s Terms of Service document, it will detail exactly what they mean by unlimited storage.
Typically, there will be a disclaimer that explains that while there’s no set cap on storage, your use of the storage needs to fall within normal usage. That means you can’t use your hosting disk space to store your personal files or to run a file sharing website, and you can’t use an “unusual” amount of space for hosting a normal website. Most website owners won’t have a problem with these policies. But if your website does require a large number of files, or files that take up a lot of space, you should check with the web hosting company to make sure they can host your site, instead of counting on their “unlimited” storage claims.
Again, unlimited bandwidth means there is no public cap on the bandwidth you can use, but it can’t go over the amount of bandwidth a “normal” website would use (as defined by your hosting company). While hosts who offer “unlimited” bandwidth might not charge you overage fees for going over a set limit, if you get a lot of web traffic, they’ll probably ask you to upgrade to a more expensive plan – or shut down your account.
Lie #2: Guaranteed Uptime
Many web hosts promise anywhere from 99% to 100% uptime.
On the surface, this sounds like they’re promising that your website will be live 99-100% of the time.
But if you dig deeper into the terms of service, that’s not how it works. An uptime guarantee states that if the host doesn’t meet their guarantee, they’ll offer you a small credit. There are so many restrictions on most uptime guarantees that you may find it impossible to get that credit, though. The hosting company will often say that they aren’t responsible for downtime caused by maintenance, DDoS attacks, user error, overuse of resources, etc. Even if you experience downtime that doesn’t fall under one of their restrictions, it needs to be over a certain period of time. For instance, SiteGround offers an uptime guarantee for less than 99.9% uptime over the course of a 12-month period.
That means your site needs to be down for over 8 hours over the course of a year before you can request any compensation.
Often the guarantees will offer you a month’s credit if you meet the qualifications. But if your site is really down that long, is it worth it to stay with them? If you want to make sure your host is reliable, don’t put too much stock in guarantees. Instead, you can use a tool to monitor and estimate the cost when your website goes down. If you’re shopping for a new host, try checking out our hosting reviews that include uptime test results.
Lie #3: Always Low Prices
The majority of web hosts offer a low introductory rate, but when your plan renews, you’ll be charged at the regular rate.
Introductory rates are typically anywhere from 30% to 70% off the regular rate. So when your plan renews, you could easily find yourself paying double or triple the cost you thought you were. Many cheaper web hosts will also try to get you to sign up for add-on services that sound good, but provide little value. For example, they might charge to submit your site to search engines (this is never necessary), or to install some kind of security software. You don’t need an expensive monthly subscription to keep your site safe – instead, start by checking out Luana Spinetti’s great post on 7 Tips to Help Secure Your Website Against Hacking Attack, and Vishnu Supreet’s article on 5 Steps To A Secure WordPress Login Page.
When considering a low-cost host, keep an eye out for add-on expenses and research them to make sure you know what you’re getting.
Lie #4: Risk-Free Hosting With a Money Back Guarantee
Often hosts will entice you to sign up for longer billing periods (up to 2 or 3 years at a time) to take advantage of their lower introductory rates.
The longer your initial billing cycle, the longer you can stretch out that introductory rate and delay your renewal at the regular rates. But these are important to be wary of, too. While many hosts offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, some problems may not become apparent until after the first 30 days. What happens if you paid for 3 years in advance, and decide to cancel after two or three months? With most web hosts, you’re out of luck. Outside the money-back guarantee period, they don’t offer refunds.
Instead, you’ll have to wait until your billing period expires to cancel your account and make sure it doesn’t renew. That means you could be stuck paying for years of hosting you don’t want or need.
Lie #5: Unique Web Hosting
Think BlueHost is worlds apart from FatCow, or A Small Orange has nothing to do with iPage or JustHost? Actually, all of those hosting companies and dozens more are owned by the same parent company, Endurance International Group (EIG). While not a lie per se, they certainly aren’t upfront about their connections. It takes some digging to find out which hosting companies are EIG-owned or not. Should you stay away from EIG? While they may be misleading, that doesn’t necessarily mean they provide a bad service.
While there is some controversy over EIG in the web hosting world, it’s important to do your due diligence in researching a web host no matter who owns the company.
Michael keeps a list of EIG companies and brands at ResearchAsaHobby.com.
If you’re looking for an independently-owned web hosting company, here is a list of recommended non-EIG own web hosts.
Lie #6: Reliable Backups
Some web hosting companies advertise that they’ll backup your website for you, but this promise isn’t what it appears.
Be sure to take a look at their terms of service for details. Often they include a disclaimer that they can’t be held responsible if your backups are lost, and that customers are responsible for backing up their own data independently.
Looking for an Honest Host?
These lies are common to lower-priced web hosting companies. If you’re looking to save money and still get a good and honest web host, check out Jerry Low’s Low-Cost Hosting Guide: Find Cheapest Web Hosting That Doesn’t Suck, and take a look at our hosting reviews to find one that fits your needs – and make sure to look carefully at the terms of services to reveal any lies.