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This article reveals many points about web hosting fine print--things you should know and be aware of when looking for a web host.

Be patient in finding your web host: there are thousands of web hosting companies and gazillion offers, so you better take the time to evaluate them and find the one most suitable for your needs.

Let's get started!

Preparation First, get clear what you need and want, and write everything down.

Here are the main things to consider:

  • Price: put down your maximum price. Don’t expect great service for a dollar a month.
  • Scripting: what scripting technology needs to be supported?
  • Database: what database your web site requires?
  • Disk space.
  • Bandwidth: the amount of data transfer.

Second, is there any web host that you like/prefer? If there is, then go with them. If you have any doubts, though, keep reading.

Now, find 3-4 hosts that meet your basic criteria that you just wrote down. Write down the names of the web hosts in the first column.

We’re now going to look at each one of them and see how well they compare.
Price Freeze Guarantee Ever heard of these? With a price freeze guarantee your price won’t go up if the web hosts pricing changes.

Well, the catch is that your price won’t go down either…

You should know that for the last several years the prices of webhosting services have gone down steadily giving an additional incentive for the web hosts to advertise this guarantee.

What you should find out from the web host is this: if the web host lowers or increases the prices on your package, will they lower/increase your price as well? Does it still hold if you pre-paid for the whole year? Email them and ask. And note the time it takes for them to respond.
In Business Since? How long have they been in business?

This a very simple piece of information to find out about a web host. You’ll notice that web hosting companies that have been in business for long will have the date prominently displayed on their website. Whereas, a new company can even hide this information.

Why is this important? Because you don’t want your web host to go out of business. Generally, one can assume that the longer the web hosting company is in the business, the lower the chance of them quitting.

Now, any web host can go belly up anytime but if they’ve been in the web hosting business for 3 years or more, you can assume they are making some money, because, one may assume again, most hosts are small businesses and don’t have a lot of capital to keep running unprofitably for a long period of time.
Get Web Host Feedback What are others saying?

Check the web hosting message boards. There’s plenty of information and feedback on most hosts.

And if you can’t find your host mentioned anywhere, simply ask! Registration is usually free and so many people read the web hosting boards that you should get an answer quickly.

Once you find feedback on your hosts, check the date the feedback was left—old feedback is…well, old.

Also, see the severity of the complaints. Not all sins are equal. And always find more than one post about a particular web host before you make any decisions.

Alright, now search for the feedback on your web hosts. Make sure to find at least 4 posts about each of them. For each positive feedback put + in your evaluation sheet after the web host's name and for each negative put a -.
Web Host Who? What’s the registered business name, address, phone number of the webhost?

Why do you want these? Obviously, you want to know who you’re going to do business with. If the info is available—good; if not—not good.

If the info is available you may want to check that’s it’s accurate. It never hurts to be cautious. You may want to get a credit report even though that depends on how critical your web site is.
The Web Host Support System There are 3 points to discuss here:

  1. How many ways are there to access the support department? Instant Messaging, email, phone? The more the better, though you probably only need one or two.
    Phone support is great—you can actually talk to someone. It’s best if you’re new or have a complex site. Of course, phone support comes with its own price tag.

    Make sure you know whether there are any extra fees for phone support, or limited amount of support calls per month.

  2. Do they have an on-site forum? Most good web hosts maintain a forum where anyone can post a question. Take a careful look at the forums. How many posts are there? If you find just a few posts you know that the web host is probably new (though it can also mean that the forum is new -- check the dates of the posts).

  3. Service speed. None of the above matters if it takes two days to answer your emails or return your phone calls.

    Most web hosts offer 24/7 customer care. Better than this is if the web host guarantees a response within a specific time frame.

Find out this crucial information and write the answers down on your evaluation sheet.
Your Neighbors: Adult Sites and Proxies? Find out if your web host allows adult sites & proxies.

Adult sites. These sites create a particular environment that may not suitable for other sites. So, unless you want to run an adult site, you better find one that does not offer adult hosting.

Proxies. These are little scripts run on the server that allow other computers connect to the server and through it to the Internet. From the Internet’s side it appears as if though the server is accessing it and not the computer behind the proxy.

These scripts are of a security risk to the server and, therefore, most web hosts have banned them. Again, unless you want to offer a proxy service, you better find one that does not allow proxies.
Is your Web Host Used for Spam? Check if the webhost's servers are black listed in the spam directory.

You need to find out about all the IP addresses that the web host uses and check each one individually against the spam directory.

By the way, one reason why web hosts have banned proxies is for the fear of being used for spam. The proxy is used for sending spam e-mail, the server gets blacklisted in the spam IP directories.

This creates a lot of headaches for the host and you. Imagine that you’re emails are not delivered anymore because the recipients computers think you’re sending spam. Not good.
Web Host Uptime Explained What is Uptime?

Uptime refers to how long the server (and you’re website) keeps running before it needs to restart for whatever reason.

So, what should you look for? Anything over 99.5% is good.

Servers do need to restart now and then: this could be part of regular maintenance or in some other unexpected cases.

The bottom line is: Downtime happens, the question is how it’s handled. And by that we mean: are you notified of scheduled downtimes and alerted in other cases?

How does the standard 99.5% uptime guarantee translate into hours?

First multiply the percentage of uptime promised by the number of hours in a day to find out the amount of uptime per day. For example if a provider is promising 99.5% uptime
then 99.5 per cent = 0.995
0.995 * 24 hours = 23.88 hours
There are 23.88 hours of uptime guaranteed in a 24 hours day or 0.12 hrs not guaranteed.
0.12 hrs = 7.2 min.
0.12 * 60min = 7.2min

This means that the host approximately guarantees 23 hours and 52 minutes and 48 seconds of service per day.

That means that the maximum downtime tolerable in a week is approximately 50 minutes and 24 seconds.

This means 1.6 days in a year are not guaranteed, and your website is offline.

About The Author
Jim Elton is a web developer/author. His interests include turnkey websites for home based businesses.