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Site Searching Tips from a Reader

Apr 16, 20045 mins
Data Center

Here’s a letter from a reader. I don’t agree with everything in here, but there are dozens of good ideas and you can hear the voice of painful experience as you read this letter.


I read your column on web site hosting selection and it reminded me of

my experiences in selecting a web hosting company. I have gone through this experience a few times and I have a different method for selecting a hosting company. I here are a few of the things that I have learned from that experience over the past few years.

I look at their web page. I look for a street address, and a telephone number for sales and support. If they can not be easily identified, I drop them from my list. I often look in the phone book, to see if they are listed (,

Try calling the telephone numbers listed. Talk to the folks that answer the phone. Are they knowledgeable on their product, and do they sound reasonable? Are they a reseller? Call the support number during peak and off peak hours, does someone take your call or is it voice mail? How long is the wait? If they offer 24/7 support and you do not get to talk to a person most of that 24/7, this is a good indication of the type of service that you will receive overall. If your web page is offline, and you get voice mail, you might be offline for a long time.

If they are a reseller, they are not responsible for the service so you should drop them from your list. You should deal directly with the service provider, as they are responsible for the service and are more likely to respond.

Is this company local? Local providers sometimes offer better service to their local community.

Do they have redundancy? How much down time will you experience? Is there any notification of down time? How do they notify you of down time? Do they notify you of maintenance operations? What maintenance do they do? Backups?

Do they offer backup email service? If the site and your email is down, customers will not know if you are out of business or just temporally off line. You will loose business if your email is down for more than a few minutes. Factor in a backup email service (, when you consider the web site hosting. If the hosting companies email servers are inundated with traffic, your email will be rejected. The sender will receive a reject notice. You lose business. With a store and forward service, you will continue to receive email when the server is back online, and the sender will not get a reject notice.

Do they have load balancing? Your site may not generate enough traffic to require load balancing, but if they host enough sites, they will require it for the traffic that they receive.

Do they have more than one site and more than one isp? Some hosting

companies do, but many hosting companies use multiple lines from the

same ISP source. This type of redundancy is useless if the ISP goes down.

As an example: The internet traffic on the east coast was cut in half, because an internet trunk line in Baltimore was cut. The web hosting company that I was using had several lines (T10 bundles) from the local provider. All of their lines were down for two weeks while the trunk line was being repaired. My email and my web page was down for two weeks and business suffered as a result. A short time later a contractor cut a major Verizon line near the web hosting company. Again my web page and email was off line for a week while the line was repaired. The hosting company got all of their service from Verizon.

Then there is the technical stuff. Do they offer, Frontpage extensions, perl, .net support, database support, carts, etc? Do they offer SSL? Do they sell certificates? Do they use apache, tomcat, etc? Your web site may require one or more to these to operate correctly.

How much bandwidth do they offer? 1GB, 5GB, 10GB, unlimited? Does the bandwidth usage include email usage, and ftp? How much storage space and does it include email, database, ftp?

Sites like Yahoo are great for posting family stuff, but if you want to run a serious business where your income comes from that web presence, treat it like a business. You need to answer a few questions before you sign a contract or send any money. Who is responsible for your web site? When is it up or down and who do you call when there is a problem? How do you resolve issues, and with whom? There are lots of virtual web hosting companies out there. But they are virtual and anything that you host there will also be virtual including your business.

Adric McDowell