Find a good home for your home page

Jennifer Sullivan Cassidy learned the hard way that there's more to choosing a Web host than beating the budget.

Cassidy selected the first Web host for her Kansas City, Missouri-area design and consulting company based on its bargain-basement price. "I was just starting my business, and I needed to save pennies," she explains.

Cassidy's Web storefront was gaining steam and making some sales when the host's server went down over a long holiday weekend. She was unable to reach anyone in tech support to fix the problem until the following Tuesday--and her Web woes were only beginning. The company's self-touted 24/7 tech support turned out to be more like 24/5 since the support staff was never available on weekends. Even on weekdays, getting a response often took hours.

Cassidy decided she wanted out when she realized she had more than a dozen unanswered support calls pending. "I had to plead for a month's refund due to their server issues," she says. She has since migrated to a new hosting service that has proved more dependable.

The most cursory online search will turn up countless hosting companies, most of which promise next-to-perfect server reliability, round-the-clock service and support, bulletproof security, and more. But how can you tell which hosts actually live up to their promises?

Paying for Ratings

It isn't easy, admits Ron Dunlap, Editor of Webhost magazine, an online publication that tests and evaluates Web hosting companies based on criteria including support, reliability, features, security, and value. To complicate matters, Dunlap adds, a plethora of Web sites rate these services without testing them.

"Many of the so-called host review sites look like they provide real reviews, but in fact their top reviews are based on ad revenue," says Dunlap. In other words, the more a hosting service has paid a review site, the higher its ranking.

The moral? Don't trust host review sites that are littered with ads, that don't say how they test hosts, or that publish reviews that read like advertising copy--that's probably exactly what they are.

Get What You Need

Before shopping for a hosting service, determine what features your site will require. For example, if you're planning a business site, make sure a potential host provides adequate and affordable disk space and bandwidth--but don't trust a site that promises unlimited quantities of either: If you check the fine print, you'll probably figure out how the service weasels out of it. Also investigate its e-mail and file transfer options, e-commerce and payment tools, security options, and support for the scripts and extensions your site uses.

For example, one popular host offers plans ranging from about US$4 to $15 a month (add a $30 setup fee if you opt for less than a year's service contract). At the top end, you get 15GB of storage, 500GB of bandwidth, FrontPage extensions, a shopping cart, an FTP manager, and other e-commerce features.

In contrast, a personal or family site can probably get by with a bare-bones plan costing less than $10 a month (or the free hosting included in some ISP plans). Free hosting from a third-party firm usually involves putting up with ads festooned across your pages.

For tips on bandwidth, disk space, and other requirements, check out sites such as Web Hosters or Findmyhosting.com. Then go to a site that lets you search for Web hosts by criteria such as features, server platform, and price. Ask friends and colleagues for their recommendations.

To evaluate contenders, start by looking for contact information on each site. Along with street and general e-mail addresses, look for names of company principals, working phone numbers, and active e-mail links to tech support, customer service, sales, and the like.

Test the support e-mail addresses and phone numbers at different times of day, especially if the company boasts of 24/7 support--and don't be afraid to ask lots of questions. If a host isn't prompt and courteous in responding to a query from a potential customer, it's unlikely to be more accessible once it has your money.

Find out how long the company has been in business. New services aren't necessarily untrustworthy, but one that has been around for several years is probably doing something right. Avoid companies that don't provide references.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Anne Kandra

PC World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?