Webhost Red Flags
by Jason M. DesRoches
Webhosting, whether it be free or paid, every webmaster requires it. No matter what size your website is, there is a web provider solution for every possible need, and there are some really good deals in today’s hurting tech market if you just simply look for them. However, there are also some guarantees that should send up an immediate red flag, no matter what the price of the service. Below I’ve listed a few of the items that are offered by webhosts that I believe should raise an eyebrow of concern:
1. Unlimited Bandwidth
Bandwidth is the data transfer that occurs every time your webpage is viewed, or each time a file is uploaded to your server. If your website is a total of 45kb in size (including images and other media), then each hit will require 45kb of bandwidth (data transfer) from your site. No matter who the supplier is, someone must pay for bandwidth. If a host claims to offer unlimited bandwidth, I would suspect their policy would change rather fast if your account suddenly started using 10 gigabytes daily. If your host for some reason does not monitor your bandwidth, then it is likely that their server is paying for a dedicated pipe, and will not add additional bandwidth capacity to the server if that pipe begins to bear a larger load than it can handle. What this means is that the offer is legitimate, but you can expect the speed of the server to become slower in time, and if the bandwidth cable become extremely overloaded, then you can also expect to have frequent downtime.
So what is the value and price of purchasing bandwidth? Many hosting companies will provide you with “so much” free bandwidth when you open an account with them. Basic accounts are generally allocated in the neighborhood of 1 gig monthly transfer, while more pricey accounts may provide you with 50 gigs of monthly transfer. The current going rate to purchase additional bandwidth is in the neighborhood of $3-$4 per gig. If you can find bandwidth for significantly less than $3 per gig, then you’ve found yourself a gemstone assuming their server lease price is also consistent with the going rates.
2. Unlimited Space
This is another parameter that is not practical to provide in “unlimited quantities”. However, since this is a static commodity there is more danger to the service provider to offering “unlimited” than there is with bandwidth. If a server runs out of disk space, it cannot simply “clear up” given enough time like bandwidth transfer does. If you host with a provider that gives you “unlimited space” in the best case scenario, you may simply be cut off from uploading additional material if the service provider feels you are going “overboard” with usage. However in the worst case, your account may be suspended or even deleted without warning.
The pricing of actual space can vary greatly depending on where you host. You could spend just a few dollars a month to secure 100 megabytes, or if you lease a server you may spend a few hundred dollars per month to secure a hard drive of 72 gigabytes.
3. Free Bannerless Hosting
This is another ideal situation that may not quite cut it in the long term for a webhosting service provider. Webhosting companies stay in business through one method, producing more revenue than their costs, and hopefully enough to make a living on. If they offer accounts without banners for free, then unless they are drawing profits from another source, their business will not last long. Some hosting providers that operate in this fashion do show banners in their members area, however taking into account the poor performance of the ad market on the Internet, and the cost of running a high end server, it is unlikely that profits from such an endeavor will be enough to cover the costs a provider would incur. Other providers that offer ad free hosting may require you to sign up for several affiliate programs before opening an account. This may help with costs in the short run, however as the websites that they host grow in size, their costs will grow, and become unaffordable unless they are able to produce a new source of revenue. The largest risk that you face when you host with this type of service, is that they will shut their doors without warning, and your website will be gone (you won’t even be able to redirect your traffic from the old site to a new one).
Although rare, it is possible that any one of these three scenarios may provide what they claim, but I reiterate that it is rare. If you do choose to host with a service that makes these claims, I strongly suggest that you do so with caution, and have a plan B ready for a worst case scenario. Choosing your webhost is just as important to the success and growth of your website as your content and business model. The only difference is that your visitors will only become aware of your hosting situation if your speed and downtime become adversely affected.
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