Internet Marketing 101: Website Hosting

Tuesday, February 26
This is a first in a series of Internet Marketing entries that, I hope, help you with your online businesses to make better choices. I plan to write more of these over time to eventually end up in an internet marketing how-to section of this site.

Ok class, here it is up front - I've got to tell you that I hate website hosting and hosting centers. Frankly it has been the bain of my online existence. Exasperating, frustrating, and downright mad, the website hosting world is a morass of insanity these days.

Costing anywhere from $1.99/month to hundreds of dollars a month, picking a hosting center can be a daunting quest. But, the good news is that I think we're reaching the end of this era soon.

So let me step back a bit to tell you my own experiences with hosting. I've currently used five different hosting centers since I started online. I've paid anywhere from about $6 to $20 a month depending on features. Over that time I've had system failures, outages, lost files, 85% uptime in one case, virtually no support, and slow page response.

Now I can't really say that everything has been negative. There have been moments of stability, support and good feelings. But, really not that often. And, so far in my book no one has stood out for me. And when I'm trying to make money online this is a huge impact!

What are the basic steps for hosting? Let's start with that. Let's say you've purchased a great new marketing package that consists of .php files and a MySQL database. Sounds simple, you're excited to run it - all you have to do is find hosting that supports this. Easy!!

Almost all hosting centers support PHP scripting, MySQL and a bunch of other utilities on their Linux servers. All you have to do is sign up with your credit card, create an account, use a utility to create your database instance, upload your files and launch! (Ok, easier said than done!)

Now comes the real trouble. The files you uploaded don't work, the database connection is failing and you're getting security setting issues for the file system. You try to contact support but they're offline - now what?

Top Hosting Problems

What is the problem here? Well, there are multiple reasons but the top ones, I think, are:

  1. Many hosting centers are not very good at managing many sites on single servers. I think that many don't even care for the price you are paying.
  2. A lot of these centers are fronts for a larger, offshore company that sells virtual centers. These are divied out to buyers to act as virtual hosting centers. (Funny story, I happened to use a center like this only to find another center that had copied the pages from the first one that still had the old company names and copyright dates.)
  3. Your price is mostly a direct reflection of the support you'll receive. Paying $3/month doesn't pay the salaries of a large support staff.

I could go on here but my point is this: if you are going to use a hosting center then I would suggest the following:
  1. Make sure the hosting center is located in your own country.
  2. Find a center that offers 24x7 support preferably by phone - but a quick response ticketing support system will work too.
  3. Try to talk to the sales people first - ask them about support, features, how many people work at the center, uptime - even ask them where they are located (do they work for the center directly?)
  4. Make every attempt to use a month by month plan rather than a 6 or 12 month plan if you need to back out. If it is bad - get out!!
  5. Use the internet for hosting reviews to see how other's experiences have been. Choose a center with a high rating.
  6. Choose a host that seems large, well established with an extensive infrastructure. This helps assure your site's uptime.
  7. Don't forget to check that your site supports your website files - php,, cold fusion, etc.
The good news that I refered to earlier is that this model is dying out. Small hosting centers will start to dissappear. The reason? The big guys are moving in and they're cheap; real cheap.

Amazon, Google, Yahoo, EBay and Microsoft are starting to see the value of a massive, shared, flexible infrastructure that can be extended to you, the user. Their own huge computing network can be partitioned in small chunks as virtual hosts allowing customers to deploy websites for pennies. Things like the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud is an example of what is coming. Even Blogger from Google is a kind of free host.

Get ready for the future, but for now - use my advice above. And, hopefully, you won't quite a jaded as I am with hosting.


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