How to Choose a Web Host
Choosing a web host is very similar in nature to choosing the right professional web development company:
Ask Friends and Family Who They Host With
For anyone who is delving around in an area where they have limited expertise and experience, the best bet is certainly asking people you know who have successfully overcome all the obstacles and achieved their objective - in this case, getting a website up and running. There is absolutely nothing better than a personal introduction, whether it be by email or any other means. A personal introduction allows you to explain your needs in terms of reference to someone else's efforts... I need this, but I don't need that" sort of thing. A personal introduction to someone who has already proven to be reliable is by far the best way to choose a host.
Check out Internet Web Hosting Boards
The Internet is full of sites that cater for 'communities', not least the web hosting community. There are numerous discussion boards covering web hosting, all involving people who have been actively involved in web hosting. Get on the boards and ask questions. Get to know people and develop relationships that will allow people to gave you the same advice as a friend or family member would. Be warned though, lots of companies join these boards in a bid to gain customers. Although the 'spammers' (people who leave advertising posts) may be kicked off a board quite easily, more imaginative companies may be very creative in their use of such boards. So, be careful. Your new found friend might be someone trying to get you to buy one of his/her hosting plans! Usually though, it's fairly easy to spot such members of a board, but you should always be on the lookout.
Check Web Hosting Sites
Once again, there a numerous websites dedicated to web hosting. Often, the most popular web boards are associated to a particular site. Many of these sites offer reviews and user comments on web hosts and their services. A note of caution though, as with forums, a number of web hosts feel it is their duty to manipulate these options for their benefit and harm opposition. As the Web Editor of HostSearch.com, John Hughes suggests, 'It's a bottomless pit - some hosts change their IP addresses, use false email accounts - they do anything they can to manipulate reviews and ratings. It's a job keeping on top of it. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter how much effort goes into stopping this type of activity, there is no guarantee at the end of the day that bogus reviews aren't posted on web hosting sites. Although I am pretty sure most reviews on HostSearch.com are legitimate, some are cause for doubt. And as Robert De Niro suggests in the film Ronin, 'Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt.' - you can't ask for a better source of advice than that!"
Spotting bogus reviews can be difficult. If a site has consistently bad reviews, there is not contest - even if it is the host's competition that has manipulated the site, if the host can't keep on top of its bad press, something is wrong. If it were me, I would request my account be deleted just to make sure such comments weren't on the net. If there are equal numbers of good and bad reviews, it could be that a host is getting bad reviews and countering them with good reviews. Or the service really could have such a huge range of quality of service. Likewise, consistently good reviews should be treated with suspicion. It is a shame hosts put this much energy into manipulating things - if they put that much energy into their businesses, they would most likely be successful.
Aside from reading reviews on the Internet, it is interesting to look at 'metrics' sites. These sites monitor a host's performance in terms of the amount of time they stay on the Internet (uptime) and issues like the number of servers they have and the number of sites they cater for (lots of sites, few servers - bad: likely strain on servers and possible future dysfunction; lots of sites and lots of severs - good: the servers share the load). With a combination of information from metrics sites and sites with users comments you should get a pretty accurate feel for what a host can - and does - do.
hopefully this gives you some ideas and you will one way or another, get started with hosting. Once you get started, things sort of take their own path, and little by little you gain more experience, and a better feel for the whole area. At that stage you might want to know the difference between LINUX and Windows, and megabytes and gigabytes - but that's another story!
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