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Web Hosting Turned Upside Down

You can safely forget most of the dire warnings you have read on the Internet about the perils associated with the selection of an Internet web hosting provider. The greater peril faced by new Internet business upstarts is far more likely to be their own lack of experience running a web site than poor quality web hosting service. That isn’t to say that poor quality web hosting can’t be found if you look hard enough but experienced web masters know that Murphy’s Law rules the Information Technology world and they plan accordingly. In this article we peek behind the Wizard of Oz web-hosting curtain to see what is really going on.

Most web hosting reviews are focused on showing you the tiny differences between a virtual web hosting account that costs $4.95 per month verses one that costs $9.95 per month. That cost difference might be important for your own personal web site but if $5 per month really makes or breaks your business model, perhaps it is time to rethink things. If you are really worried about getting stuck by a poor quality web-hosting provider visit your favorite Usenet server such as Google Groups, and look for user postings about your prospective vendor. If you find lots of the vendor’s customers ranting and raving first take a look at the date(s) of the postings. Things may have changed. Next, consider the source. Is the poster someone with years of experience or a newbie? Was the poster expecting to pay $4.95 monthly but actually needed $200 per month of technical support? Realistic expectations go a long way toward making a happy customer and often this comes right back to experience.

Conventional web hosting reviews are focused on differentiating among largely irrelevant parameters such as noting the hosting provider that offers 600 Gb of storage space from those offering only 500 Gb. Likewise, vendor data transfer limits are differentiated even when multiple competitors are in the range of say 6000 Gb monthly. The overwhelming majority of new web sites won’t even use 10% of the aforementioned resources during the first year of operation. Thus, it is important to focus on your specific business requirements. Instead of comparing parameters that are for all practical purposes useless to your business, take time to evaluate vendors based upon their ability to provide more of any resource you may actually need. If you really might need more monthly bandwidth will it be available at a reasonable price? Look for a vendor that has a wide range of capabilities so that if you initially develop your site using FrontPage Extensions but later switch to Dreamweaver and Flash, it can still be supported without changing vendors. Take advantage of a vendors strengths. If Netcraft shows that a vendor’s own web hosts are running on FreeBSD servers, chances are good that this vendor will have excellent quality Unix skills even if they are kept hidden from answering trouble calls.

Integrate your web hosting activities with web development. If you are outsourcing web programming and database development, go one step further and outsource the activities associated with web hosting. This approach can significantly reduce business risks, such as outages caused by not keeping timely backups, often caused by inexperience. For those who wish to do their own web site maintenance, consider implementing a content management system (CMS) such as Drupal or Joomla. A CMS can significantly lower your development and maintenance costs.

Finally, keep in mind that while great web hosting is a fundamental underpinning of any successful online business, your ability to attract and convert targeted traffic via search engine optimization, pay per click, and the acquisition of relevant links will ultimately determine the results.

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