Comparing Virtual Domain Hosts Checklist
Comparing Virtual Domain Hosts Checklist, The following is a checklist to aid in your search for the perfect host. Each aspect of this checklist is addressed in more detail later in this chapter.
Find a list of host candidates and begin your virtual host study. E-mail them inquiring about your special needs and specific pricing. (Do this even if you have no special needs.) Here is where you’ll cut your list dramatically—only consider those who respond within a day, and in a friendly manner.
Visit their sites,
looking for information on their companies. Note the speed of their servers. (Many things can affect speed, such as your own dial-up connection, so check a few times, during different times of the day to make sure it is running smoothly; if possible, have others check the server from their systems as well.) If a server is slow, or is down, chuck it off your list now!
Find their client lists and visit some of their sites,
noting the speed of the server to make sure they don’t run their own sites high speed, and run their clients on bogged-down servers. Note: You want your pages to appear as if you are running your own server, and so will a good service provider. Therefore, a provider should be hesitant to give you a list of clients. However, many small companies like to be listed on a provider’s client list (since they see that as additional traffic), and any good business person will have at least a couple of clients who don’t mind acting as professional references.
E-mail a few of their clients, asking them if they are pleased with their host. Oh goody, we’ve eliminated a few more.
Now, think of an annoying question and give the remaining candidates a call on their technical support phone numbers—use 800 numbers if possible. Choose a question to which you already know the answer, but act like you’re absolutely clueless (“if I turn my computer off, can people still see my pages?”), or read through the next chapter, and ask a technical question about software, hardware, and so on. This is, of course, the main reason you’re using a provider. Note how long you are waiting on hold. If you have to leave a message, do not tell them you are a new customer, just leave your annoying question and wait to see how long till you get your reply. How friendly and helpful are they?
Pick your favorite.
Ask whether you should register your domain name or if the host will do it. It’s easier to have them do it, but it could cost extra. Chapter 3, “Your Domain,”; has more information on this.
If this all seems like too much trouble, consider the trouble of having your system go down once a week, or missing an important deadline because your inhospitable host won’t answer your phone calls, or finding out that every time you turn around there’s some added charge.
When we started with our first small site, we simply used our dial-up access provider as our host—let’s just say it didn’t turn out very well. So take our advice, spend the couple of days now, and save yourself endless amounts of frustration.
Where to Look
If you use an ISP to dial-up to the Internet, the ISP is a good place to start. Many offer reduced hosting rates to dial-up customers. Beware though, as a general rule we usually steer clear of hosts who offer dial-up access, because their dial-up customers demand too much of their server’s resources. Another problem is that many people have gotten into the ISP dial-up business without much forethought. After paying for the hardware, software, and bandwidth necessary for a decent server, there’s not a whole lot of profit. In order to keep a decent margin, and keep prices competitive, dial-up providers often have to push their equipment to the limit. This causes slow speeds and frequent system crashes.
There are exceptions to this rule,
however. If the provider runs its dial-up and WWW hosting services on separate servers, or if it has massive resources that can handle the load on its system, it should be fine. The best case scenario would be to use the same ISP for all of your needs, but it’s often too difficult to find a company capable of doing this.
Local computer magazines can be a good resource if you are interested in using a local host. You will generally find these in supermarkets, libraries, and coffee shops. Even national publications can be a good place to look for a provider. Again, it doesn’t matter if they’re out of your area, although the threat of “coming down to the office to straighten things out” doesn’t hold much water when your provider is a thousand miles away.
Beware of deals that sound too good to be true. You may see ads for WWW hosting that offer huge amounts of storage and bandwidth for a small price (especially in national magazines). These people are generally counting on high volume, which will lead to very slow speeds.
If you’ve had no luck so far, or would like to expand your search, your next stop should be the Internet. A couple of great resources are http://www.yahoo.com/Business_and_Economy/Companies/Internet_Access_Providers/ and http://www.thelist.com.