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Ten "Golden Rules" To Follow When Choosing An Web Host
By Dimitar Avramov, first publication in HostPapers.com

I have been managing a web hosting company long enough to know who in this business plays by the rules and who doesn't. Making the right decision when choosing a hosting service is a difficult enough now and it will become even harder. Why?

The hosting market has grown a lot within the last two years and many newcomers stepped on the scene. Most of them have been attracted by the industry's promise of significant growth. The Asian market is projected to increase by 15% per year until 2008. It should be noted that this prediction does not include the Japaneese growth rate. Europeans spent 1.8 billion dollars for hosting in 2003 and expectations for the coming years even higher. According to the Market Researchers, the European hosting market will reach $6.8 billion by the end of 2005. In the UK only consumers and businesses will spend $1.7 billion for hosting in 2005.

Attracted by the good omens many of the new hosts get down to work without having a complete service solution or a plan how on their business development. As usual with newcommers, the brand new companies often try to beat down the prices or start offering high rate, or even unlimited, banwidth and space to the potential customer. By flooding the market with a "mess of big promisees" providers only confuse most people who seek hosting services. Many of the new companies fail to meet requirements and as a result the industry's quality of service does not live up to expectations.

We have to work hard to prevent this situation of having a large number of unhappy customers. The industry should introduce more strict rules and standards that must be respected by both providers and customers. Of course we shall also keep the market open and to prevent any chance of an oligarchy led by a few big corporations.

How to keep the hosting industry's growth is a substantial debate. Realizing the importance of this issue I can put in my thoughts into the discussion. Here are my suggestions and advice to new web hosting companies and especially for those who need to choose their new web hosting provider.

1. Make your Own Research
Forget Testimonials at the host's page. Although we also have them and what is written are true opinions, no doubt, you have to see for yourself if the company is as reliable as it claims. Just contact them and ask for information you will need to know. "Where is their data center located?", "What happends if I exceed a bandwidth limit?", "Do you provide basic help with scripting?", "Am I going to have full control over my domain and if not do you register the domain at customer's name?" etc. Ask any question that might affect on your online business.

2. Ask for reviews
Ask for reviews about particular provider in the leading hosting/webmaster forums. This way you will be able to find out more about host's reputation among its peers. You will see what are the pros and cons of the service. Note there is no "perfect provider" but there are a lot of awful ones.

3. Check for Provider's Business Establishment
Check if a host states its business address or phone number. If a particular host doesn't have this information on its web site or does not provide support phone number it may mean it have no physical offices. Hosts like these are not incorporated in any country. So they can go offline or close business anytime they want. Ask the hosting company representatives if it has legal presence; where are they incorporated and where do they pay their taxes. You should not really bring business and profits to people who are not responsible enough. Paying taxes is substantial engagement of any business worldwide. It is always better to support companies located in your own country if they provide good service at a low cost.

4. Require Phone Support
When choose a host be sure whether they provide phone support. Hosts generally provide phone support if they are reliable enough. It doesn't need to be a Toll-Free phone but having one is an advantage.

5. Go for Companies That Offer Reasonable Pricing
Take a look at the host's pricing. Price under $10 a month for 2 GB space / 50 GB banwidth or more is not a good sign. It means the host oversells heavily or tries to underbid the market. Stay Away!

6. Get Information about the Provider's Policy
Make sure you check Host's Policy. Some providers have very strange Terms of Service (TOS). They don't take any responsibility for the service they provide and state in their TOS they can close your account for no reason anytime they decide. Be sure the provider respects its customers' privacy and will not sell your contacts to third party.

7. Do Not Tolerate Illegal Activity
Avoid Spammers and Internet Piracy. I was spammed 4 years ago by company that now has a reputation of a good host; that doesn't mean we should support spammers. So never sign up with spamming hosts! Keep in mind that a host that performs such illegal activity may at some point turn harm your direct interest as well.

8. Check Host's Brand and Business History
Check host's whois information! Go to archive.org and find more information about the previous business years of a hosting provider. If this company has a business experience in selling vegetables you cannot expect them to have good knowledge in providing reliable hosting services.

9. Support Competitive Providers
Do not ignore smaller hosting companies in favour of the "big guys". Big players often don't care about your web site simply because they host thousands of web sites like yours. This of course does not mean you necessarily have to go for hosting to the guy next door who runs a server in the basement. Spend some time to learn more about the offers you think are worth it.

10. Ask for Host's Business Engagement
Ask the hosting provider for it's business engagement. What are their plans to improve the service. How does the company contribute for the industry's development?

» Dimitar Avramov is a founder and former CEO of Host Color LLC
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