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Your Web Host – Friend Or Foe?

There’s no way to get around it – your website has to be hosted somewhere. Finding a web host is like finding a mechanic when your car breaks down in a strange town. There are plenty of them, but which ones are fantastic, which ones are semi-competent, which ones are incompetent and which ones are pure thieves?

Before we launch into a discussion about good and bad web hosts, I should probably explain what a web host is. Every website has to be hosted on a web server somewhere. A web server is basically a computer with software that knows how 1) to take calls asking for web page, 2) package a web page for delivery, and 3) send the package to the right computer. Oh, and by the way, the web server needs to be able to tell the difference between a genuine web page request and one that is asking the computer to attack something. Believe it or not, there are bad guys out there trying to get web servers to do all kinds of bad things.

When you order a web hosting package from a web host. you get a place to store your web files where they are available to the public (storage.) You also get a certain amount of work that the computer can do, such as deliver web pages (transfer.) These are the main services you need, but there are other services, such as email and database, available too.

Here are some of my experiences with web hosts. The first high-tech company I worked for was a web host, besides providing design, programming and some other web services to a particular industry. Not a single employee, including myself, had any formal training in web development or programming. We learned by the seat of our pants.

A lot of web hosts today are just someone who figures it’s just a quick way to turn a buck.

In our case, we weren’t credentialed, but we had a great customer service ethic, and if something went wrong we worked double time to fix the problem. But, one time a new tech guy completely deleted a new client’s web site. The words “off-site backup” took on new meaning!

What kind of backup system does your web host have? if the server with your website on it goes down, what will they do?

My next web hosting experience was with a great company, based in Missouri, called Communitech. Their system was great, and their support was even better. But, they were so good, a company called Interland bought them out. It was downhill from there. I teach web development classes, and I put all my course materials on my web site. Three times in one year, I got to class to find out that my site was not functional. When I would call, they would fix it, but their main emphasis was to try to get me to buy a new hosting package. Finally, late one night I got one of the original tech support guys on the line. He said that Interland was cutting back on all their resources, human and computer. All they really wanted was the client base!

So, I moved my site to a local, Missoula, web hosting company, called Modwest. And, I told them that, if they sell to Interland, I’m moving my site.

Do you have a list of other great web hosting companies, in case yours goes bad?

Another company I worked for hosted one of their sites with Interland. The company has a weekly emailed newsletter with links to various articles on their web site. A large portion of their weekly traffic comes on the day the newsletter goes out. About 3 or 4 weeks a year, the web site goes down on the day that the newsletter goes out. And they can’t seem to figure it out themselves. We had to call then to let them know that the server was down. I found out that their web servers are set up so that one site is only on one server. If that server goes down, all the sites are dead. Modwest has their web sites on clusters of servers. If one goes down, the others in the cluster pick up the load. You would think that at the very least, if the Interland servers go down, someone would be alerted and fix it before we have to call!

Look into your web host’s “configuration” before you sign up!

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