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cyanide

Questions to ask a Web Host

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Considering a WebHost?

Here are some questions you may want to ask, including some explanations.

 

One of the inherent problems with the hosting industry, is the average person really does not know or understand what makes everything tick. This has resulted in mis-truths, marketing ploys and in some cases blatant lies.

My aim is to break the barriers here and lay it all out.

 

Please keep in mind, the information here is based on my own experiences. Just as you were to purchase any product or service, use your good judgement. And remember, if something is too good to be true... it probably is.

 

1) Where are you located and where are your servers located?

This might seem unneccessary, especially since any reputable internet business would have their location on their contact page. But many hosts have their servers located in another geographic location.

 

2) What are the specs of your servers?

This is probably one of the least asked questions.

If you are planning to run a dynamic/mysql site, then a regular Pentium or Celeron just won't cut it. You're better off with a dual processor, such as a Dual Xeon or Opteron. Celeron's IMO are not suited as a web server, plus they are dirt cheap.

 

3) Hard Drives.

a. What size hard-drives do you use?

If the answer returned is massive 250GB hard drives. Bigger, is not necessarily better. Keep this in mind... The average website on the Internet uses less than 50mb of disk space, but let's be generous. Let's say the sites on this server uses an average of 100mb. The actual disk space available for websites is always less, accounting for OS, software, etc. - so let's say on this drive, it's only 200G, which translates to 200,000mb / 100mb = 2,000 websites. Do you really want to be sharing the server with that many websites/people?

 

The better answer would be 80-150G drives.

That said.... here's food for thought. If a host is using 80G(70G usable) drives and they have hosting plans such as $4/month for 1G of space, that translates to 70 customers per server at a revenue of $280/server. From experience, I know that this amount of revenue barely pays the bills.

 

b. Do you have RAID configured?

A simple explanation: RAID is a hard-drive configuration where 2 or more hard drives work together as one by mirroring each other.

This means, that in the event one of those drives fails, the other picks up the slack and the server keeps going. The failed drive is then replaced, usually with no downtime.

No RAID means: There is only one hard-drive and if it fails, the entire server goes off-line and all of your data is fried. If there is a backup drive, then it can be loaded onto a new drive, once the OS, software is re-installed. In this case, your data is saved from the most recent backup, but you're looking at 3-4 hours down-time.

 

c. Do you run daily backups of your servers?

Daily backups are pretty standard nowadays. As referenced above, this can help. Not just with a server crash, but what if your mysql database gets corrupted and crashes? We had to do this a few times for a client, through no fault of our own, but we were able to grab a copy from the backup and re-load the database. There's no real way of knowing if the host is running backups, so it's good practice to do your own.

 

3) What is involved in increasing my disk space/bandwidth within the plan I buy? Is there any disruption to my site? Are there any extra costs for changing my plan?

For most websites, growth is almost inevitable. You need to have some kind of plan for the future. And the host will be a part of that plan.

 

 

 

Keep in mind, the responses you receive to your questions may not be truthful. We all want to believe that the person at the other end of the email is honest, but in this day in age, you just never know. So use judgement. E-mail 5-6 webhosts so you can compare answers

 

One of the things you really want to examine is the quality of the answers.

Are they too short? and not descriptive? Do most of the answers just contain a link to their faq? Are the answers vague and contain too many grammatical mistakes?

 

 

I will be adding more information when I can.

If you would like to add something, please reply here and I will update my post

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Awesome thread with great, important and relevant questions that could make a huge difference down the road; nicely done cyanide.

 

One question you could help me phrase properly please ...

 

My webhost underwent several DOS attacks over a few months, short period. How would I query a potential host as to what security measures they have in place to prevent downtime and mitigate such issues?

 

Thanks.

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Thanks guys

One question you could help me phrase properly please ...

 

My webhost underwent several DOS attacks over a few months' date=' short period. How would I query a potential host as to what security measures they have in place to prevent downtime and mitigate such issues? [/quote']

Well that's a good question. And it's a good question because I'm certain 80-90% of hosts wouldn't really know how to answer it.

 

The problem with DOS Attacks, is no one is immune and you can't really prevent it from happening. All you can hope for is that the network has some redundancy, technicians monitoring the network are on the ball, have adequate detection systems in order to spot the influx of traffic, before it really hits.

Once an attack does happen, that they have the ability to quickly either re-route the traffic or atleast contain it.

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That in itself is a good answer Cyanide - what provisions do they have in place in the event there is an attack. What aggravated me with my host, is they simply seemed to shrug and say "Oh, another attack, sorry, but that server is down until we can contain it."

 

Ironically, when this has happened, their own site has always remained up and live. So I basically challenged them to provide the same redundancy to "we customers" that they provide themselves.

 

In short, they ended up hiring a "renowned" IT security guy and it has been an issue since - but I'm still keeping an open mind of finding a new host and wnat to be sure this is not a repeat problem for me.

 

What my host failed to realize, is that a few hours of down time is detrimental not only to earnings, but also SERP; the bots find 404 ... move it down and move on ...

 

Thanks for the reply.

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The old shrug... I know it well.

 

We had a similar issue a while ago.. actually a few times over the years.

We got the same kind of answer, when we queried Network Technicians.

Our Firm's response was to diversify. So, instead of tied to one network, regardless of redundancy, we have several. So, the last time it happened, it became a chronic issue, so our response was to shift all clients from this problem network to another one. It was hours and hours of work for us, but no downtime in the process and these clients are happy again.

So, for us, that's how we deal with it.

 

Hey ! This is my 400th Post.. YIPPEEEE :D

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Cyanide, Great questions for hosts!

 

I do beg to differ with one point, why would it matter if a host have servers in other locations?

 

Many hosts have their own servers and still other rent space off other data centers, or have co-location managed servers, why is this bad?

 

The server specs are the same, the trained tech staff are the same, what if they have call centers that are not on the company property? That is saying about the same thing. Using other service provider does not make them a bad host.

 

I think if my host is taking care of me, with trained staff and good prices, I don't care where their servers are as a matter of fact, for redundancy issues I would hope they have servers in other locations, in case their hub goes down.

 

I will agree that if a host sends me back a email that looks like it was written by a 8th grader with misspelled words and grammatical error, I may keep looking, however some hosts don't speak English very well and may not a superlative grasp on the English vocabulary, it would probably go with out saying that they would not write a language any better then they would speak it.

 

Good questions keep them coming!

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HI rsharrer,

 

Okay, let me explain that first point.

First of all, I didn't actually finish it, hence the one-liner.

Second of all, in terms of support, technical know-how, etc... No, it doesn't matter where the actual server is.

 

However, two points

a) Someone signs up for an account with a company based in Newark, New Jersey. But what if their servers are located in an area hit by disaster?... Louisiana, Florida, etc... Don't you think they have a right to know?, rather than having a false sense of security, thinking their site is in New Jersey?

B) A Canadian citizen, with a Canadian business/website signs up with a host in Canada, thinking that for SEO purposes they are in good hands. Months later, they find out their website is in Texas, which explains why their website hasn't shown up for Google's Canadian results pages. What do you think this person is thinking?

 

So, my point is... It's not a bad thing, just people might want to know, that's all

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Well, if you have to worry if they are telling the truth you have found the wrong host. but it is a valid question, the only way to tell if they are telling the truth is to not ask a question you do not already have the truthful answer too. I know that seems like an overly simplistic answer but it it in fact the most truthful one to give.

 

There are quite a few hosting company owners here in our forum, including myself, and I can not think of any of them right off hand that i myself would not be comfortable to host with, you just need to find out what it is you need from your host I.E. large space?, lowest price?, Certain type of control panel, certain amount of email address, etc. Then do your homework and find that host. once you find a few hosts ask a lot of questions.

 

Post the names here and ask about the company if anyone else here is using them. Thing like that.

 

Hope this helps you,

 

Ryan

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... not ask a question you do not already have the .... answer too ...

 

... you just need to find out what it is you need from your host I.E. large space?' date=' lowest price?, Certain type of control panel, certain amount of email address, etc. ... [/quote']

 

Great points Ryan.

 

No trial lawyer would ever ask a witness a question in open-court that they didn't already know the answer to. The same is said for lots of other situations and professions too.

 

If I'm interviewing an applicant, I always have "pre-loaded" questions prepared; there's no right or wrong answer per se, but there is the guaging of honesty, openness, etc.

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Guest Desert Rose 702
yes the post is great

 

i have also found a very good article

"Determine Your Required Hosting Space"

 

http://www.hosting-buyers-guide.com/ar/be/Determine-Your-Required-Hosting-Space.php

 

i hope this helps the other webmasters

thanks

 

Tried to read this article. "The account has been suspended". :frown:

 

Since I am very dissatisfied with the host I have used for a long time because of the recent length of response time to my questions, some I will be asking others:

 

Do you have phone technical support? If not, how long before emails are answered?

 

My ms11.net host (Michael) apparently is the only person who responds to email questions and he seems to NOT be available on weekends. Not good!!!

 

Is there anyone who is REALLY satisfied with their host? And if so, why?

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The one I have used I am satisfied with. In fact I use 3 different ones and so far nothing major has happened. It helps is you can get the cell phone of the person you need to chat with. I got it so I don't have any worries.

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You must for:

Livechat support(phone and livechat both)

Ticket System(response time)

Staff(how much they are?)

Network(what network they are use or from where they are rent servers?)

Which is the level of their support(Will they help you with your domains,transfer files,etc?)

 

Cheers

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We had a same issue when we had our website hosted with another company and we could not afford to stay offline and that is when we started hosting ourselves. Eventually - few years later, we have our own data center, colocation and servers. We are an IT security business and figured, we might as well provide the customers what they do not get with many other providers: security. And it is working fine for us. Here our link: http://www.stealth-iss.com.

We do not charge extra for the monitoring and firewall security we have in place for all our servers. If our customer wants more, such as off site redundancy, automated fail over, website security scans etc, we do provide that at minimal cost - because we believe that security is important and everybody should be able to afford it.

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One of the most important aspects of the leading hosting companies is just how much they care for their global customers. The top quality firms offer email and phone, plus live support options to their clients because they do know that some problems might come up at any time, no matter it is noon or midnight and people may need some technical assistance. The backgrounds of the firms too could be important because for example, most reliable companies have been operating over the net for some years and their positive feedback posts could also tell us lots of things.

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