Choosing a Shared Hosting Provider – Tip #2

by demtron on Wednesday, October 08, 2008 10:37 PM

Bandwidth and Storage Capacities

Bandwidth and drive space have become inexpensive in recent years.  Back in 1999, one well-known hosting company offered 100MB of storage and 1GB of transfer bandwidth per month for $44.95 a month.  These days, that same company now offers UNLIMITED storage and UNLIMITED bandwidth for $5.95 a month.  Some even offer hosting for free.  So, how do you choose?

In my opinion and experience, the good old adage “you get what you pay for” comes into play.  Offering a massive amount of space and transfer does cost something, and this capacity might come at the expense of other facets of the hosting experience such as tech support, add-on offerings, refunds, or other facets of the plans.  Especially if you’re a novice to hosting and web site maintenance, these other elements may be pretty important to you.

One question to ask is how much space you really need.  Some sites that I maintain that have thousands of pages need only a few hundred MB of space and a few GB of transfer bandwidth per month.  One site I maintain has hundreds of files available for download by visitors – its capacity is 300 GB, but the space used is around 18 GB, so there’s still plenty of room to grow.

For most sites, even those with a few hundred pages, 50 to 60 MB of space and 2 to 3 GB of transfer per month is plenty.  You’ll likely only need the extra space if you’re hosting downloads, videos, tons of images or podcasts.

Choosing a Shared Hosting Provider – Tip #1

by demtron on Monday, October 06, 2008 02:55 PM

There are only a zillion shared hosting companies to choose from.  There are tons of features and options to consider, and some of the most important considerations require a some investigation.  I recently went through an exhaustive evaulation of over 150 hosting companies for my current and future clients and wanted to share my thoughts and process in this series of tips.

Tip #1 – Tech Support Capabilities

I've been responsible for evaluating shared hosting companies and plans for clients since 1998.  My number one most important criterion is the range of tech support capabilities.  Support generally comes in one of the following forms: telephone, e-mail, chat, and knowledgebase.  Here are some questions you want to consider asking:

During what hours is phone tech support available?  Many companies offer standard business hours for primary tech support, but will answer questions by e-mail after hours.  This is important to me as I often apply web page and programming updates after standard business hours with my clients.

If phone tech support is not available 24/7, what are the other support options?  Many companies offer support by chat after-hours, which I've found to generally be as good as phone support.  E-mail may be the other after-hours option.

What’s the turn-around time on e-mail support?  Some only offer support by e-mail.  This introduces a number of lags that may not be suitable for your needs.  If my client's site is not mission-critical or does not offer e-commerce, I like to shoot for having 2 to 4 hour e-mail support turn-around.

How good is the knowledgebase?  Many times, I don’t need to speak to someone about my support problem because I can find the answer in their knowledgebase.  A knowledgebase (KB) is a searchable database of support information, code examples, and other knowledge assembled by the support team over time.  Many times, a KB will answers to common questions and issues, so searching there first will often save you time.  A good knowledgebase should address a wide range of topics, contain a number of posts in each topic, and be easily accessible from your hosting account, i.e. you should not have to log in to see the KB.  A good host will be proud to make their KB accessible to all visitors, especially those evaluating its services.

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