Hosting the Leading Websites:
Business Side of Hosting
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Costs and Pricing
Yep, prices are important. But I didn’t collect them. I’d rather you did that, because then you’ll pretty much have to look at their website, fine print and all. If I quoted their prices without the conditions implicit in the contract, I’d likely be misrepresenting them, and I think this is a field where that would be a big problem. So, I don’t list prices. And I suggest you not rely on anyone else’s Web pages about prices or giving comparisons. Get the prices from the Web host’s own website. If a website host wants to negotiate what they’ll charge and that’s why they don’t have posted prices, go ahead and negotiate, but the contract overrides any verbal agreement, so check the contract they send you for the prices they’re going to charge you.
Experience with one Web host over time will tell you even more. In the beginning, and again after about six months, compare your bills with what they said they would bill you. See if they lived up to their word.
The most vital element in determining prices is in what you need. What kind of software do you want on their servers? How much storage space and bandwidth will you want, especially with reasonable growth of the website’s content and traffic? What special services will you expect from the host? Don’t feel overwhelmed from the choices available; what matters is what you want to have, not what a host wants to sell. If you feel a host is offering too many choices, either you don’t understand Web hosting in general, in which case study the subject, or you’d rather a nice host chose for you, and that usually means you’ll be getting bigger bills for nothing more than a nice personality in their sales department. If they’re still confusing, maybe the host is deliberately trying to confuse you, and that’s not a good sign, but that’s not common. Set your criteria before you shop. Set minimum criteria and set criteria for what else you’d like. By implication, anything else is not worth your money. Now, you’re much less likely to pay like you’re the national mint.
Bandwidth, or traffic or data transfer, cannot be unlimited, and you can’t get a lot of it for free. The Web host probably pays their phone company and buys modems and other equipment. If your website has very little traffic, it can share a host computer and one phone-line connection with a thousand websites. If your website becomes busy, it may need a thousand computers dedicated to your one website, every one of them separately connected to the phone company. You can be sure that if your website becomes busy enough the bandwidth will not be free any more. You may be surprised at how soon you’re told to start paying for it. I’ve looked at terms of service of several hosts and all of them had a catch somewhere that would permit charging higher rates to customers who consume a lot of bandwidth. Once you depend on public visitors, you may not be able to prevent your website from consuming a lot of bandwidth. Those may have been terms of service only from hosts charging for bandwidth, but the language would work quite well for free-bandwidth hosts, too. They can get around being free pretty easily. In another industry, a consumer product company said that unlimited does not mean unreasonable. Inventing definitions just for a contract is legal and binding. I consider this a trust issue, in that I would distrust a Web host that says they offer unlimited free bandwidth. If free and unlimited were at all feasible, high-traffic websites like Google and Amazon would likely happily consider an offer of free bandwidth and ditch their own hardware. I haven’t heard of that happening.
Unlimited storage is also impossible. Run away from anyone offering it. The known universe is not big enough for that. There will be a limit and you will pay more to store more. You’ll pay one way or another. No one’s happy to go bankrupt over you. So, if a Web host says they’ll offer it to you, that host cannot be trusted. Pick another.
When you try to figure out how much storage and bandwidth you’ll need, if this is your first website, it’ll be hard to tell. By creating your own pages, you can figure out storage needs before you get a host, because your own computer will tell you how big the various files are. But estimating traffic is hairy. Traffic depends on popularity, and lots of factors go into that. Spikes will drive up your traffic and your bills, both of them surprisingly fast. You could have bragging rights and an empty wallet. But most websites are small and get small numbers of visits, and they’re affordable for years at a time.
You want affordability, not necessarily the cheapest. One website host reportedly offered unlimited bandwidth for three years for one dollar. That should have been a joke, but someone believed it and paid the price from bad service. Low prices can be loss leaders, but loss leaders are supposed to be made up for with other revenue, presumably from you, so look for the catch. On the other hand, expensive hosts may be a joke, too. Price is something to consider but it’s not the only point when selecting a website host.
Payment methods are pretty much the same throughout most kinds of businesses. Even in the computer industry, very few vendors will accept bitcoin or any other virtual currency, cryptocurrency, digital money, or privacy coin. Even if they do, some, maybe most, plan to convert it to traditional money within 24 hours, so you may not gain much by using virtual currency and it may cost you, because converting currency costs money.
Whether you’ll need a credit rating or a credit history depends on how much money will be at stake every month and what the host thinks of risk. If not much money is at risk, the website host will be more likely to take your word that you’ll pay. After all, if you don’t pay, they can easily take your website down.
Purchase orders can be annoying to read, and many Web hosts are not interested in that bush of thorns. You may have a standard p.o. but it’s not standard to the vendor, who may get many different ones all the time. Government business usually comes with a purchase order and a promise to pay some day in the future, which dampens their enthusiasm. You may get quoted higher prices. Nondiscrimination clauses may have little meaning, if a host sets up a separate organization to handle those kinds of customers, while providing the same kind of hosting and business services, or at least you can hope that’s what they provide.
Personal identification may be required, such as for financial, legal, political, or computer-security reasons, and this may be stringent. Firms may have to prove who they are, too. Apparently, hosts in one or another nation may be very demanding, while in other nations they’re mainly worried about whether you’ll pay. Besides governments tracking people’s conduct, one explanation is that in one nation minors are weeded out because contracts with minors may be void. A computer-security argument is that good identification screens out customers who might be on the same server that serves your website and who might upload software that damages your website or copies your visitors’ personal information, but that should be handled by security that separates customers so one customer can’t do that to another. If the identification demands are too high, such as if you would have to provide so much personal information that it could be fraudulently misused and you don’t yet trust the party asking you, you might choose a host in another nation or shop among hosts in the one nation to see if they all demand the same thing. One host reportedly does random checks against fraud and one host may demand it before refunding any money.
You can likely get a trial period, in effect. How to get this varies. Some may offer a free trial period, such as through a coupon or promotion on some website or other. Or, you may be able to invoke a warranty of acceptability if, in the first few days, you discover that the service is not what you needed despite your prior due diligence in selecting a Web host. If you had a free trial, you may not be able to invoke a warranty of acceptability, too, so use the free trial period intelligently and intensely. And some hosts, even after starting to charge, explicitly offer a short period in which you can try it out, perhaps a week and possibly as high as three months, and get a partial or full refund for the unused hosting left. You don’t generally get refunds for domains, so if you seek a refund for a package deal it may be a partial refund only. Plan on testing your Web hosting service thoroughly at the beginning, which means plan on designing many kinds of tests, arranging for independent monitoring services to check your site’s performance, and setting aside lots of time for your testing. And, specifically, try to solve a few problems by using the host’s resources to solve them (such as FAQs, articles, forum, chat, and phone).
Records, Accounting, and Compliance
They probably support accounting, recordkeeping, and compliance reports, but ask the website host, based on your exact needs that you determined before you asked.
Business Methods Generally
Whether the hosts’ business models are as good as their technical abilities is beyond my knowledge. I haven’t used most of these Web hosts, if any, and I haven’t studied their business practices as revealed anywhere. Please do that as you select and use a host. Read their websites for what’s good and bad about each host as well as for their offers and details.
New owners may acquire a host you’re with, but there’s nothing much you can do about that except switch. If you’re a very big customer, you might negotiate a contract that requires telling you about a change, or even closes the account if a change happens, but most customers are not that big.
Many have terms of service, called by various names, on their websites, and you should read those terms and not just the page of offers and prices. You basically will have a contract, even if the host says there is none, and their lawyer knows they have a contract. Violate it and you may receive a threat to sue you.
Horrors and Remedies
A whole host of things can go wrong, and it’s no comfort to be told that it works out okay for other people. Your site is dead or looks awful, the host is taking your money that it shouldn’t be touching, or the host is not paying attention to you. These are just examples.
For financial issues, such as credit card overcharges or debit card problems, such as when the host fails to refund a promised amount, you may ask your credit card company or other financial institution for assistance. Recurring charges can be a problem to watch even after you’ve cancelled the Web hosting service, and your financial institution may help you stop future charges.
Regulatory oversight is limited. Some nations filter what crosses national boundaries or within their nations. In the U.S., no government agency that I know of specifically looks at hosts, like they look at banks and physicians, although some agencies look at businesses generally when they may be misleadingly advertising or fraudulent. You can write to one of those agencies with the facts, your complaint, and what you would like done about it. It helps to check what the law forbids first, so you can try to bring your complaint within all four corners of what the law says. Sometimes the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a local or state consumer affairs agency, or a state attorney general’s office can accept complaints about misleading advertising, fraud, or other issues even though the host is not registered with any such agency. While a human being can provide hosting under their real name and be paid for it, anyone using a different business name or any organization other than an individual human being may be required to have a business permit, permission to use a business name, or other legal instrument, perhaps from a state or municipal agency, and if they don’t have that you may contact the responsible agency. When choosing which agency to contact, one consideration is where the host is incorporated, organized, headquartered, or doing business, rather than where you are. Federal agencies are generally limited to cases involving interstate commerce or commerce going outside of the U.S., while state and local agencies handle what’s within their respective borders. Here are initial contact links:
- State and territorial governments, possibly including links to local agencies
- Indian tribes in the U.S., possibly including leadership
- For other nations, contact those national governments. However, if the issue for that nation is simply the transit of a signal through national territory but not local hosting or local user interaction, the national government may not be able to do much, but you can ask.
The Internet does not have its own official regulatory system that watches the hosts that connect to it, or not much of one. The Internet organizations do deal with the signals that are sent through the Internet, and if a host misformats badly enough the content might not get through to its destination. Domain registration does have some regulation by contracts within the Internet industry, mainly through ICANN (Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers) and some hosts offer domain registration, but ICANN does not regulate Web hosting. If the problem is in an intranet (a network usually within one organization), the supervising organization that owns the intranet can deal with the issue, but when the traffic is on the world-wide Internet then that organization may have little or nothing to do with it.
Do not count on being able to sue in many cases, because often the distances between jurisdictions, the relatively small monetary amounts involved especially if you have to pay for a lawyer (although small claims court or a government administrative agency might help if you and the host are in the same jurisdiction), and often limitations in the terms of service will make suing either impossible or a pointless waste. Look out for arbitration or a duty to sue far from where you live or work. If suing is out of the question, be aware of that before you sign up with a Web host, so you don’t commit to more than you can afford to lose at any one time. If you need the ability to sue, look for a host with substantial assets of its own; consider the possibility that its most valuable physical asset may be its servers, which may be leased, and, if you seize them to fulfill a court judgment, you may have to pay monthly bills to the computer owner and to pay that owner for moving them to your address without permission.
To tell the public about your view or your experience, good or bad, you can post a review at a website that publishes reviews of Web hosts. This website generally does not publish them (or any whether negative, positive, or otherwise), but does link to reviews by other people at a variety of websites, and you can visit those websites to see if they’ll welcome your addition. When you draft your review, focus on what went wrong or right but avoid personal attacks. Saying that someone violated the law can itself be illegal unless you can prove it in court, and a review website may prefer to delete the review rather than go to court, so stop short of saying that someone violated the law, civil or criminal. Some companies’ legal terms may forbid disparaging comments (I saw that in one overseas firm’s terms), in which case either that’s illegal or you should stay factual. But, in any case, you’re still left with plenty of room to say what’s wrong. Sometimes, companies respond, to explain things, whitewash things, or fix things.
The links except for ICANN were as accessed and that for ICANN was as accessed .