The Importance of a Trustworthy Webhost

by Matt Ellis

Although it is one of – if not – the most important ingrediants to success, quality web hosting is usually overlooked because you want to grab a bargain rather than part with your cash for what would seem to be a similar if not identical solution.

Unfortunately, most bloggers learn the hard way that you get what you pay for. It’s difficult to come across a package these days that is reliable, and of course affordable and it’s even more understandable that you don’t want to use the majority of your startup budget on hosting but you could find that doing so is the best thing you ever did…either that or you’ll end up regretting that you didn’t. Let’s take one of my sites for example!

Background Info

I had $20 and wanted to startup a new blog on the WordPress platform, so costs were minimal, I would use a premium theme and edit the hell out of it, the theme cost $10, the domain was $9 so I was left with $1 for the first month of hosting. I went searching high and low for a really cheap webhost not even thinking about quality or level of support, I found one and signed up right away without thinking about checking for references or reviews from previous customers.

The Story

Well as you can imagine, it wasn’t long until I realised my cheap investment was substandard. The server load was literally through the roof, memory was unexplainably high which meant actually accessing my site was more than a hassle. It took over 4 hours to upload the files for WP (yes, you guessed it, Fantastico or SOFTaculous etc. wasn’t installed) and when I finally got everything configured, the server failed.

Not only could I not access my site, I had no means of contacting support as the server being down meant I couldn’t access their site, although even if I could, I doubt they would have been able to resolve anything if the quality of their server was anything to go by. So I waited…and I waited until I decided enough was enough. I couldn’t be fussed charging back as it was hardly worth the effort, I waited until I had some more money and went with a more reputable host.

Although still a new host and priced at just $2 more expensive than the failure, I found their support and sales team to respond well via a Live Chat which is always an upside, they were able to offer me a trial for 24 hours to see if the server was to my requirements – if it was, I could just pay the invoice and continue with them which I thought was awesome – no risk.

The Morale

It’s reasonable to say I was stupid with what I did was rather stupendo but alot of people follow suit and dont bother to do some simple research on their chosen company. It can take just 15 minutes but can make all the difference in the long run. If your blog is constantly up and down, your visitors will decide you’re unreliable and you’ll suffer the consequences such as a loss of subscribers, traffic etc. Things that no site owner wants.

Ways to Avoid Falling into ‘The Trap’

There are several things you can do to avoid falling into  fly-by-night webhost. I will list a few of them which I have found to be useful when checking up on the reliability of the company, they should be helpful to anyone, no matter how inexperienced or the opposite you are.

Conduct a WHOIS

This is perhaps the quickest way of seeing how long a host has been around. Although it can be misleading because not all new webhosts are unreliable, it can often show tell-tale signs of a dodgy one if the domain was registered recently. Simple goto http://www.who.is and enter the domain name of the company, scroll down and look at the Creation Date to see when the domain was registered.

Do a DNS Lookup for their IP

Most new hosts will run off a reseller account in one form or another (Master, Alpha Master etc.) which means they pay a relatively small fee of $15-35/month for their account and sell cheap hosting filling their servers with as many customers as possible which often results in a server overload and you suffering because some idiot purchase 100,000 uniques to their site and burnt the network cable.

To find out who the owner of the IP address is, goto http://www.who.is and enter the IP address which any good host will happily give you, this will then show up a resolved name such as LSDN48.limestonenetworks.com which would mean the IP is registered with LimestoneNetworks. You can then go and check them out and see what services they offer and how reliable they look as a host.

Request a Test-File

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If the host really does want you as a customer¬† – which they should – they will gladly offer you a test file to check the speeds of the server. This will give you an indication as to how fast the server is but will also depend on your internet speeds aswell. Most hosts run on 100mbps ports meaning the maximum you could download at is around 12mb/s but that’s if you also have 100mbps connection.

Get a friend or 2 to download the file also so you can get a rough average of download speeds which will indicate if the server is good to go.You should request a test file of about 50mb which will ensure enough time for your connection to sustain during download, any lower than 25mb and it will be unstable and could give a inaccurate reading.

Ping the Server

Maybe one of the oldest tricks in the book but still a valid one. Ping the server IP, in laymans terms pinging is the process of sending small data packets and seeing how long it takes for the server to send them back. It’s simple and quick but again it depends on your connection speed.

Simply head on t0 your command prompt by hitting Start > Run > cmd.exe and type ‘ping 192.168.0.1′ of course you would edit the IP to the one that the host gives you, this will send 4 packets by default and return the response time in ms or milli-seconds. A decent time would be anything below 200ms, any more and it could be an indication that the server is under some stress from cpu useage.

Request a Screenshot of Server Status

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A simple method of gaining true access to the server status would be to request a screenshot of the Server Status page which your host can access via WHM. This will show you the server load and memory useage along with how full the hard-drive is. This way you can make an informed decision as to whether they have a truckload of clients using all the resources or if their hardware is up to the task of running the place.

Some hosts offer scripts such as Status2k which show the server status in true-time but be aware that such scripts do take up some resources as they update so frequently and therefore it could show an overage of CPU Useage. A reliable checker is built in to WHMCS under /serverstatus.php so check that out if you know the host is running this software as it too provides info regarding server load, uptime etc.

Look for Reviews/Testimonials

Google is your best friend. (or as I like to call him – Uncle Google) Use it to find reviews and testimonials about your host, search the name and see what results come up and if you can salvage any juicy gossip about them – good or bad – and that way, you are in tip-top shape to decide on your final verdict as to whether they are upto the task of hosting you and your blog.

Conclusion

I have one word for you…RESEARCH. Find out as much information as you can about the host before buying into it, sure it might only be a few bucks but the result it can have on your blog should the server take a turn for the worst could be extremely detrimental. Ensure you go with a reliable, trustworthy webhost so you and your blog can have the best chance at success by being available to anyone around the world at any time during the day or night.

Have you Been the Victim of a Bad Web Host?

Had a bad experience in the past? Either their supportwas bad or they couldn’t cater for your traffic, how do you think you can protect yourself from falling in to a bad webhosts jaws? There is no 100% foolproof way other than becoming a host yourself. What do you think?

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