techgeek.com.au’s Guide to Web Hosting

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The beauty of the internet is that you can have a piece of it and you can use it for anything you want it to be; may it be for a technology blog (like us), a personal blog, a e-commerce site, discussion board or just to get your business/brand out there for the public to see. Whatever the reason is, there is only one problem – you need to have a computer on 24/7, and an internet connection that, well, is unlimited; and none of these would be economical and very expensive.

Hence the reason why we have web host providers. They run a business that operates servers to help you get that piece of the web. But, like every other thing in the world, there are different ways of getting it. Now, we present the techgeek.com.au’s Guide to Web Hosting.

So, let’s get started.

Blog Hosting

A majority of the blog services out there (like Windows Live Spaces, Yahoo 360, Blogger, LiveJournal, WordPress.com, Vox, Xanga and MySpace) are free. However, they do put in advertisements on the server, but this is only to gain some profit while running the free service. And while some offer “pro” features, they are all relatively easy to use.

There’s not really any rules to follow to find a blog service to start a blog, since many of the blog services all have different functions and features, and all use a different content management system. However, Windows Live Spaces, Yahoo 360 and Google are interwoven with their owner’s other products; like Windows Live Spaces with its Windows Live ID, which also allows you to use Windows Live Messenger and Hotmail (if it ends with a @hotmail.com domain).

But one of the features that could make LiveJournal, WordPress.com, Vox and/or MySpace attractive is that they all support the OpenID protocol; allowing you to have one profile for a variety of sites. Basically you can use the same MySpace login credentials to login and comment on, for example, techgeek.com.au. You would, of course, need to know your OpenID “username” (which is technically a domain) to login using the OpenID protocol.

Some of the common features at many of the blog services is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) text editor, meaning that if you make a text bold, it would put in the code for you to make it bold, so you don’t have to do it yourself; a media uploader, so you can upload images to their servers (but be careful not to go over the storage limit); and a free subdomain, like blogname.wordpress.com or blogname.spaces.live.com.

While we want to discuss more about Blog Hosting, we don’t want to waste more space; but we will talk about this in depth at a later date. But, for my selections, I would choose Blogger and WordPress.com over any other service, because of their features and their popularity.

Free Web Hosting

techgeek.com.au, in its many variations, started off on a couple of free web hosting sites, but then we moved to paid hosting. We are not saying that free hosting is very, very bad; but we are saying that the options are limited. But, there are very many free web hosting providers out there, and with the economic crisis, there might not be a budget for you to go off spending big on web hosting.

The fact is this: be careful on who you trust your website. While there are many good free web hosts out there, there are also very bad ones out there too. There are several limitations, including a less amount of space (typically below 1GB), low amount of bandwidth, little or no web programming support, a limited number or no databases and intrusive advertising on your websites. But not all sites follow this.

Another limitation to consider is that several sites offer limited support on your account. Since it is free, their support is not as big as the paid hosting service, but many offer “ticket support”, which is where you file a ticket reporting your problem and they will get in touch with you to fix it. Another way of their support (and typically found in several good ones) is a forum, where a community can help you on your problem, or even the admins can get in touch with you.

A great way to check some of the free web hosts is going to Free Web Hosting, a site that is dedicated to providing a directory of free web hosts and allows consumers to review on the sites. This is a great way to check if your site is trustworthy, in good quality and won’t shut down. When looking at their reviews, make sure they are trustworthy, have the amount of space and bandwidth you need (typically, anything with a large number of bandwidth is good), has at least some PHP and MySQL support and has some good support.

But there is one thing I forgot to mention – domains. Well, a small number allow you to have a domain, but you will need to buy it from a third party and redirect its nameservers to the domain. Many, however, offer subdomains. While this may not be attractive, this is the price you pay for having free web hosting.

Some of the better picks are 110MB.com and T35.com; as they offer no ads, but are highly recommended by many users.

Paid Web Hosting

Paid Web Hosting is a better choice for many, since it gives you some more space for your website, more support for web programming, a large amount of bandwidth that you can use and also allow you to have a better quality of support. However, like I said, while there are some good ones, there are some bad ones out there – and we will look into these a bit later.

When looking at the web host, make sure you check if they have answered these questions?

  • Do they support the script programming language (like PHP, Python, Ruby on Rails) that I want or need?
  • Do they have the necessary databases I need?
  • Do they allow me to add more domains, or create subdomains on my web hosting account?
  • Do they have a tool that allows me to add scripts without downloading and uploading it to the server myself?
  • Is the site secure?
  • Does it suffer from downtime a lot?
  • Does it have a good customer reputation?
  • Does it offer the necessary bandwidth and web space that I need for my site?

If one of the answers is no, especially the last one, it does not mean that it is not the host for you. Several sites hide several features that you may not know about, so make sure you contact their sales team directly so you know what you are buying.

Always use the sites that your favourite sites use!

A best suggestion of a web host is the one that a website offers you. This is mainly because a site is hosted with them – and that is a good thing. This provides an example of their own hosting, and if it constantly up, it is more likely to have a better service than many other web hosts. If they don’t list the website they are hosted at, use the website WhoIsHostingThis.com, as they will provide the webhost for you.

However, several sites often buy hosting from a reseller. This site, however, will not list the reseller as the hosting provider, but will list of the hosting provider of the reseller as the hosting provider – and this can get tricky, when several sites resell off other sites that resell off other sites, etc.

Is is constantly up?

It is normal for a site to go down, as they are doing repairs or maintenance. However, a big problem is when a site constantly goes down – in which case, better stay away. Make sure you go to forums, like Whirlpool, to see if the web host is constantly going under and inaccessible for you.

Many sites do list how many times when they are up, but many do it as a percentage. If they say that the service had:

  • 99.99% uptime – it means that the site has been down for 8 seconds a day, or 52 minutes in a year.
  • 99.9% uptime – it means that the site has been down for 1 minute and 26 second a day, or 8 hours, 45 minutes and 56 seconds in a year.
  • 99% uptime – it means that the site has been down for 14 minutes and 23 seconds a day, or at least 3 days in a year.

The Best and The Worst!

There is not really a way to find the best and the worst web hosts; but while we did the best list, we have to thank the people over at HostJury.com for posting their worst web hosting companies. Lets have a look at what they put on their list:

  1. AccuBust – “lowest company on [their] list of reviewed host. In fact they’ve scored a zero for support, uptime, features and price.”
  2. Vizaweb – “Since 2002 Vizaweb has been sucking like a Hoover.”
  3. Serverway – “Customers had an awful lot to say though: Serverway reviews I’d go into great lengths about their reviews given the widespread abuse their own clients.”
  4. GISOL – “Their customers on our review boards have described their service as “painful”, “poor” and “horrible”.”
  5. Greenlush – “Despite their fraudulent past though they decided to shutdown their web hosting operation a few weeks later & converted their site into a web hosting news portal.”
  6. AIT – “Since their humble beginnings providing service though they’ve degraded. I suspect somewhere along the line, their company outgrew it’s team, outsourced or was sold off.”
  7. SmartyHost – “SmartyHost has been dragged through the mud here on HostJury by their own clients with statements like “Their support is pathetic” and over 25 other reviews agree.”
  8. ByteFortress – “After leaving hundreds of users in the dark & disappearing without a trace there isn’t much that can be said about ByteFortress.”
  9. HostOnce – “One client even goes as far as saying “The worst host in the universe”…”
  10. VistaPages – “VistaPages has recently gone as far as requesting to pay us to remove their negative reviews. We didn’t adhere, I never did like dead presidents all that much, let alone the ones still living! After we denied their request they threatened to sick their lawyers on us. I suspect we’ll see them in court soon because their clients won’t stop posting negative reviews :( “\

Source: HostJury

We would also like to add to that list Multitude3. With recent complaints of being the worst hosting by several Whirlpool forum members over the support abuse, the constant slowness and downtime – I have first hand experience over their service; and it was the worst I have ever seen. Granted, at least one of the support team was kind (and it was not the owner, and that helpful person has since left), their hosting left me in tatters when there was constant downtime whenever I wanted to do something.

But with that, lets get on to the list of the best webhosts that techgeek.com.au suggest that you get!

Disclaimer : techgeek.com.au is hosted on HostMonster, but has no deal to promote them. Jay Day works for Alfahosts and Stewart Wilson works for Xeox Host; however, neither have not asked Terence Huynh (the writer of the article) to promote their business.