The dilemma with purchasing cheap web hosting


Back in the early days of the Internet at the turn of the century?that would be four years ago?hosting companies that were first off the block in the Internet land grab had the luxury of charging high prices. However, even then there were a few visionary holdouts that charged low prices out of the gate and offered the same or better service as their competitors.

    Fast forward. Hindsight is always 20/20. Regardless whether or not these visionaries saw then what the case is now, adoption of the Internet as a major business channel happened at the speed of light. The technology needed to harness the power of the Internet evolved just as quickly. The result – prices dropped – the classic supply and demand scenario.

    Today, the market is saturated with Internet web hosting providers offering a plethora of services with one common denominator ? cheap, cheap, cheap. Once you decide what type of services you?ll need for your specific business or personal web site, rest assured that you will have no trouble finding the services you are looking for packaged at a good price.

    Before you sign on the dotted line, though ? it pays to ask a few in depth questions to make sure you understand exactly what kind of customer experience you can expect as delivered by the web hosting provider you are considering. Similar sounding services can differ greatly depending on how they are defined by the web hosting provider you select.

    Bear in mind that this is not a matter of good or bad ? a web hosting provider is not necessarily trying to deceive you. It is your responsibility to understand what you are paying for and to make sure that what is being offered meets your expectations. Start at the beginning ? what type of services did you determine you would need?

    For example, if you want fast response times, ask the web hosting provider if they have a limit on how many web sites they put on one server. Also ask about what kind of hardware they use and about their available bandwidth. With the server technology available today, a powerful server with enough bandwidth can easily handle 1000 accounts. But you don?t want to find yourself in a situation where you either have to move or upgrade from a shared solution to a more expensive alternative because your web hosting provider uses dinky hardware and doesn?t limit the number of web sites per server. In any case, it is not a bad idea to also ask candidate providers if they offer virtual hosting and dedicated server packages, and how much would it be to upgrade? Ask if there is any time limit or penalty associated with changing your plan.

    Low prices mean that web hosting providers have to judiciously control expenses in order to make any kind of profit margin. Find out if these cost cutting measures are taking place at your expense. What is the provider?s policy regarding upgrades to the newest versions of standard software, like PHP? Do they keep up with new releases or save money by foregoing upgrades? Find out what type of control panel they offer. Will you be working with current software or older (less user-friendly) applications? Another area that is a frequent target for cost cutting is technical support. If the web hosting provider is touting their 24/7 support, what exactly is involved? Is that live phone support 24 hours a day 7 days a week with a toll-free number? Or do you call into a number and leave a message, or send email? Look at their service level agreement so you know exactly what type of support is included in the package you are paying for. If the type of support you want is not included in your package, does the web hosting provider offer it at all? If so, what are the extra charges and how are they assessed?

    That brings us to the last set of questions. Avoid sticker shock from those oddball charges that pop up here and there on your bill. A month of that type of surprise and your web hosting bargain isn?t a bargain any longer. The biggest pitfall most consumers encounter is getting charged for extra bandwidth. Know exactly how much bandwidth you are buying with your package. Make sure the control panel included in the deal has a bandwidth meter. Email alarms that you can set so you know when you are getting close to your limits are even better. If you do go over your limit, what does the web hosting provider charge for the next GB?

    It is simple really ? just make sure you understand exactly what you are getting; that is one sure way to make sure you will always get what you pay for!