Inside Out

Notes on seeking wisdom and crafting software

How to choose a web host

Lemme shout it aloud: I am a big fan of free webhosts :) Until recently, one of my friends made me realize(brainwashed!) that probably I had had my part of the freebies :P And its been long since I last did something php-ish, so the thought of getting hands dirty with web programming made me take this bad decision of getting a host.

And dude, choosing the right host is much tougher than expected. It ate up some 10s of my sleep-hours and a few man-weekends :( Finally, yesterday I gave up(damn it! set IDontCare=true) on my FindBestHost greedy approach and purchased a hosting package.

A few suggestions for those looking out for webhosts:

1. **Apply filters**
<u>Define your purpose</u>. Why you need a web host? What kind of
websites you plan to host? Any special requirements? How much
resources(space/bandwidth) do you think you'll spend?  

As an example, here are my answers: I need a webhost to host a
blog(pleaseeeee not one more!). Mostly the website will be personal
and will host my dev work, some projects. Since I am a
self-proclaimed web hobbyist, I would need flexibility in terms of
scripts (RoR?). At max, I will put in 5-10 domains in the web space.
Considering a GB per site, will take up 5GB and assuming a moderate
crowd will use my web resources, lets allow 40GB per domain per
month, that would make bandwidth around 200GB per month.


2. The search begins!

Use your favorite search engine. Ask around.
SetGTalkStatus/Twitter/Spam/Scrap/Write-on-wall your contacts. If
they can refer, your hard job is done. Don't waste time on more
search. Jump to the next step.  

In case you're shy to ask people, you can look in some good
webhosting forums (e.g: WebHostingTalk). They're good. Lots of
webhost guys roam around there. I got around 14k results for a
simple search query "recommend host" :P I think first 3-4 pages
should suffice.
[This]( is a good
starting place as well.


3. Test the host!

At this time, we should have a shortlist of 4-5 hosts. Now for each
host try this:

-   Go to []( Search for
    the webhost. Have a good look at the number of domains coming
    into the host and going out each week. You can country wise
    breakup of top hosts. For me the most important criteria was
    domain in/out analysis and total domains hosted.
-   Do a "You suck" test. Query your favorite seach engine for
    negative reviews of the host. E.g: Go to your favorite search
    engine. Query for "[webhost] sucks". Safely ignore the [Web Host
    Name] [TheBigCheapAndBestWebHost]
    websites. A good choice would be query in Blog Search.
-   Consider having a chat with the sales/support people at the
    webhosting live chat. Sometimes the time they make you wait will
    immediately give you a feel of their customer service :)


4. Beware of these!

-   The "foobar" offers. Before you sell out cash on \*any\* offer
    that gives you substantial discounts, make sure you're aware of
    their normal(non-foobar) pricing. Unless you plan to change host
    every billing cycle, you will be charged against the normal
    pricing. E.g: A webhost offers 4.95USD as foobar price and
    normal pricing is 7.95USD.  
   And I never understood the rationale behind the \*.95USD pricing
-   Overselling. I was really astounded at the number of companies
    offering unlimited resources. So I went around bugging their
    sales/support guys on this. They say you can't store personal
    files(Does it translate to "all your files must be web
    accessible"?). I doubt if they have shared hosting customers who
    distributes legal 1gig files! I wish I could copy/paste the
    chats I had with these guys :P Clearly these people are
    overselling. They'll put in your site in some server with
    probably a few hundred more poor domains. IMO unlimited bandwith
    can make sense for people who publish streaming content. But
    does the resource usage policy of these shared hosts allow you
    to stream enough?  
   I would suggest to take a limited resource plan. I agree we all
    love greedy algos, but lets truly have an estimate of the
    resource usage before getting lured away on such offers.

Hope this might save a few minutes while deciding for a webhost. Good luck!