Featured Internet Marketing

How To: Choose a Hosting Company That Won’t Drive You Insane

I spent the morning trying not to pop every blood vessel in my head. My blood pressure increased as I had to dump first one, then a second hosting company in a period of 8 hours.
I won’ go into the details. It’s still too painful. What little stomach lining is left needs some time to recover. Suffice it to say I ignored my Four Rules For Picking A Hosting Company.
Site hosting is critical to an internet marketing campaign. If your servers choke, you get no customers. If your hosting company’s tech support is clueless, you’ll lose time (which equals money) and years off your life.

Four Rules For Picking a Hosting Company

  1. Phone Number. Does the hosting company have a tech support phone number on their site? If they don’t, don’t use them. I ignored this rule. And spent two hours trying to figure out how I talk to tech support.
  2. Site Stability. Does the hosting company’s site work? I ignored my instincts on this one, too. I looked at the hosting company’s site. It ran slow. I signed up anyway. Insanity ensued.
  3. Clarity. If your prospective host can’t explain whether they, say, support stored procedures in MYSQL 5, they probably don’t know how to restart a server, either.
  4. Cancellation Policy. Find this on their site! If you can’t, call their sales team and ask. One of the hosting companies I fired today actually charged me $50 to cancel my account. Ouch.

Price: You Get What You Pay For

The first two hosting companies charged me $7.95/month for a pretty full-featured hosting package. Seemed too good to be true. I let my guard down, I admit.
The most expensive of the bunch? MediaTemple cost twice what the others did. And they’re worth every penny.
I had my site up and running in an hour. One hour. (And no, I’m not getting paid by MediaTemple.)
Follow the Four Rules. You’ll stay younger.

CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. Thanks for this post. We are going to have to change hosts again when we change designs sometime soon and you are now the third trustworthy person to recommend Media Temple … our current host (starts with a D) is a total bust and the previous host (starts with a Y) was a nightmare too … we probably won’t be making the change for a month or so, so might ping you to see how it’s going!

  2. I feel your pain.
    I went through the same experience over the course of the last three months.
    Too much squinty print to read with some, never mind the other nightmares that may ensue.
    So after going through 4 hosting companies, moving sites twice, then Media Temple was recommended after a friend suffered the digg effect and their host shut down their site for using too much BW.
    They are well worth the money, and really, it’s cheap peace of mind to know it’s all going to work and you can focus on other parts of busuness. IMHO

  3. Hands down: Rackspace is the best, if you can afford it. But, they are officially “Managed hosting” services, so they charge a pretty penny.

  4. Yup they’re awesome.
    For managed/colocated hosting, I also have to give a shout out to Adhost, here in Seattle. I’ve used them for 12 years. That’s a long, long time.

  5. Hi Paul. I just tweeted about your post. I agree it’s critical to find a top notch hosting provider, as it can make or break your online business (or worse, it could hurt your clients)…
    I would add checking references and asking very specific questions about size of website, number of visitors, how the company handled downtime, -human- customer support, etc. If you hear great things from a number of customers, then you might be in good shape.

  6. Hi Ian. I have no idea why I called you Paul! I’m sorry about that… 🙂 I had a great conversation with some people about your post. I think many don’t think about hosting until it’s too late.

  7. I have to agree with your process. The problem is that to many people are looking for simply cheap and not looking for quality in their hosting solutions. Unfortunately they end up with cheap service in many cases. No they are not all like that, but the majority cut to many corners to give quality customer service.

  8. 2 other very useful measures:
    1) Look if the hosting company has an affiliate program. Be extremely cautious to choose a hosting company that has such a program and don’t think about it if they pay their affiliates a lot. They probably need this affiliate program to attract new customers/victims because none of their current customers want to tell their friends and family (service too poor).
    2) Never trust hosting review websites. It’s better to pick a hosting company that is *not* listed on any review website. Such review websites try to earn money using the affiliate programs of hosters and they will put the ones who pay the most at the top positions. Unfortunately, the hosters who pay the most in their affiliate program are mostly the worst hosts as they need to pay such a high amount of money because they can’t attract customers themselves.

  9. # I ignored this rule. And spent two hours trying to figure out how I talk to tech support.
    Site Stability. Does the hosting company’s site work? I ignored my instincts on this one, too. I looked at the hosting company’s site. It ran slow. I signed up anyway. Insanity ensued.

  10. I read that shared hosting is not good, because your IP address is shared with many other sites. But some shared hostings offer a separate IP address. Is that almost good as dedicated server hosting too?

  11. @Tarhely There’s some question about IPs but I always prefer having a dedicated IP. The most important thing is to be on an IP BLOCK that doesn’t include spammers. So a separate IP address might not be enough. Even a dedicated server might not be if you’re on the wrong IP block. It pays to research it a bit.

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