What makes good web hosting? When someone searches for the best web host or best web hosting, what are they looking for?
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First though, who am I and why should you care? I recently came out on the other side of my non-compete quiet period, so I can talk about hosting again! Again? Yes, well, I used to be CEO of a mid-sized hosting company. Not a little reseller but an actual hosting company with dozens of staff and thousands of clients spread across over 70 countries.
I know hosting from the inside – and from your side too.
Since selling my business I’ve been blogging on a number of domains. Funny enough, this domain isn’t one of the places I’ve been writing. This has given me a renewed perspective – and respect – of hosting from the user’s view.
My hosting company was started 21 years ago. But now can no longer babysit my own servers and direct my staff to handle things. I’m in the same boat as you now.
What makes good web hosting?
Is it technical “stuff” (hardware)?
Frankly, with today’s advances in technology, the technical side of hosting really shouldn’t be all that different from web host to web host.
I’m sure there are still some sketchy “hosts” out there running on a server sitting under someone’s desk. Most hosting companies now though are in state-of-the-art data centers. They have redundant power, redundant networks, redundant hard drives, fire suppression, 24×7 security, etc.
Aside from an actual on-site visit to a host’s data center (which, actually SHOULD be an option – some of our larger clients would come out for a tour), you may need to just take the host at their word. Look at their site and somewhere they should confirm that they do have standard levels of redundancy and security.
Or maybe other technical “stuff” (processes)?
Business and technical processes on the other hand might vary quite a bit from web host to web host.
One item that can drastically impact performance, for the better or worse, is hosting server density.
Hosting server density means the number of clients that a web host puts on each server. With the hardware being equal, I think you can see how perhaps a server with 1,000 clients on it might run slower than a server with 100 clients.
Of course it isn’t that cut-and-dry for the hosts who really analyze and manage these things. Depending on the activity of the clients, and how well their code runs, 100 clients can beat up a server just as badly as 1,000 in some cases. So there are often better metrics to consider than just the number of clients per server.
Tech stuff aside, what makes a good web host good?
When everything is going well, most clients think their web host is awesome.
But when something goes wrong – and unfortunately it does and will – that’s when you can tell if you have a good web hosting company.
If something goes wrong with your site, maybe just yours or maybe a bunch of client’s sites, can you get through to the host? Do they answer the phone, reply to chats, and respond to emails? Do they provide updates to clients while working on issues?
Are the customer support people little more than minimum-wage workers (nothing against them) working from scripts or do they actually understand their product?
My hosting company took this to an extreme. EVERY single person who worked in support – at all levels – had at least a minimal level of Microsoft certification. Yes, we were a Microsoft shop so that’s what we required in certifications.
Not every host will take things to this level. Really it isn’t needed. It’s nice for sure. I’d love if this were always the case. It’s expensive though.
MCSEs, MCSAs, MSDBAs, etc answering phones can get costly.
That’s why entry-point prices at my company ran close to $100/month (with higher ends in the tens of thousands).
We focused on service and support by certified and experienced technical professionals. And we had to charge for it.
Most people don’t need – or want to pay – for that level of service and support. Especially people just getting started with blogging or .NET development or other web solutions.
Given that, there are WAY more options available at lower ends. In fact, there are decent ASP.NET hosting options available for as little as $10/month now (plus 3-months free). If you wanted to just use WordPress to blog (which is GREAT BTW) then you could find really top-notch hosting for as little as $3.95/month!
So then what makes a good web host?
In fact, what makes a GREAT web host?
It’s the people and the processes. Qualified people who are excellent communicators. And corporate processes that put the customer first.