So how do you avoid buying a lemon with your hosting plan? It isn’t easy to say the least. The terminology alone is confusing enough and, to make things worse, there are plenty of fly-by-night or otherwise shady companies that promise great deals, but skimp on the service and horsepower.
Even companies that aren’t trying to scam customers can hurt them in their rush to cut costs by overselling their servers, cutting back support to the bare bones and disconnecting accounts at the drop of a hat. Worst of all, hosts can mask these problems with glossy Web sites and astroturfed reviews that make it appear they are one of the best hosts on the Web.
So what warning signs do you need to look for to avoid biting into a big hosting lemon? Here are six to watch out for.
6. Long Term Contracts
It’s very typical of hosts to offer discounts for customers that sign up for a longer period of time, but some hosts take this to an extreme, offering 2, 3 and even 4-year contracts. These contracts are great deals for the host, especially if the customer leaves early, but are bad deals for consumers unless they stay the full length.
Sadly, these deals are also used by some hosts to trap customers into longer arrangements and then penalize them for leaving for another service when the quality of the hosting is not up to par. These arrangements are especially deadly when combined with very short money-back guarantee.
Before signing any long term contract, be sure to read the cancellation terms closely, especially what happens if the company goes out of business, and consider signing up for a shorter-term “test” contract before committing to the long haul.
5. The Price is Too Low
If you spend some time researching web hosts that meet your criteria, you’ll quickly learn that there is a price range the majority of them fall into. If a host is much less expensive than that price range, it’s a likely sign that there is something askew with the service.
In most cases, the best hosting deals are found at the lower-end of the pricing range and as these are companies that have worked to keep costs low but service comparable. Once a host goes below the average price, they have to cut corners somewhere, usually by cutting back on support or overloading their servers.
It’s important to resist the temptation to just find the cheapest host and focus on finding the one that is the best actual deal.
4. Everything is Unlimited
Many hosts, in a bid to make themselves seem like good deals, will promise unlimited space, bandwidth and more. The problem with this is that every hosting has limits, even if it is just the physical limitations of the server and the connection.
There is no such thing as unlimited hosting and, if you read the contracts of these hosts, they reserve the right to disconnect accounts that use too much of their server’s resources. All you do is replace hard caps for unknown and wildly fluctuating soft ones.
It is much better to get a written agreement on the amount of resources you have than it is to never know and be disconnected for going over some theoretical limit. At least when you know the limits, you can adjust your use accordingly.
3. No Phone Number
A telephone is not always vital for receiving technical help. Many hosts and customers get along just fine with email and trouble ticket systems. However, they are often something of a canary in a coal mine when it comes support issues.
If a host does not have a support number, especially if they do have one for sales, it is a sign they’ve been making cutbacks or trade offs on their support. Generally, it is a good sign when a company offers a a telephone number to call, especially a toll-free one that is available 24/7.
If a company doesn’t have a phone number for support, definitely look at how they do provide technical assistance and ensure that they are committed to being there when you need it.
2. Their Information On Who Is Hosting This Doesn’t Add Up
If you check to see who is hosting the company’s main domain, do you see them as the host? If not, it is a likely sign that they are a reseller and not a true Web host.
Though there is nothing inherently wrong with being a reseller, it is often a business that has almost no start up costs, one usually just creates a reseller account on another Web host, often for free, puts up a site and opens shop.
Resellers are not the ones who handle most tech support issues, manage the servers or otherwise keep the lights on, they are middle men who often times create an extra layer of instability.
Resellers often times overload their accounts, which are in turn often on overloaded servers at the main host, and can’t directly help with many support issues. Furthermore, since there is so little invested in the company, many resellers have little reason to stay in the business and often close down suddenly.
If you are considering hosting with a reseller, make sure they are reputable and have been around for a long while.
1. Those Reviews Seem a Bit Too Familiar
When researching a host, you’re likely going to want to read a few reviews of their service and there are many great sites to help you do that.
However, as you’re going through those sites and reading the reviews, does something seem a little off? Do you keep reading the same or similar stories over and over again, especially with the positive reviews?
This is because some less-than-honest hosts astroturf the review sites, either by leaving themselves positive reviews or hiring someone else to do it for them. Whether it is a new host trying to generate some positive reviews to get started or an older one trying to cover up an ugly reputation, it is the kind of activity you don’t want your host to be involved in.
Though none of these problems, with the possible exception of the last item, definitely indicate that a host is crooked, they are all warning signs that should alert you of potential problems with a company.
Since there are so many Web hosting companies to choose from, many well-established and very reputable, there is no reason to risk your site with a host that is showing signs of a scam.
Taking a few minutes to find a good host and spending a few extra dollars to get and keep a good host is time and money well spent.
Some additional great advice for getting good hosting:
- Here’s Why To Avoid “Free Web Hosting” Services
- Additional Web Hosting Scams to Avoid
- Never “Cheap-Out” When Choosing A Web Hosting Provider
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