Web Hosting Myths Revealed And How To Choose A Good Hosting Plan

5/21/2008 Back

Web Hosting myths revealed and how to choose a good hosting plan

5/21/2008

Web hosting is not really that complicated. What makes it difficult to choose is the long lists of features offered that make the understanding the offers so confusing and so difficult to compare when shopping for a hosting service. We have listed some of the web hosting offers advertising scams and some advice to make this process simpler.

Web Hosting Myths

Myth #1 - Unlimited bandwidth

There is no such thing as unlimited bandwidth. Normally this is offered as part of the low cost plans. Hosting companies refer to bandwidth as the amount of data that can travel through a data circuit per second.
This definition is incorrect as bandwidth means the width of the allocated band of frequencies. Either way it is limited. The limitation starts with the capacity of the data channel and ends with the server hardware. At any point there is cap on how much data can be transferred. But still the discounted hosting plans advertise it. The cheaper the plan, the greater the chance that it includes “unlimited bandwidth”. It is a simple speculation with false advertising.  Most enterprise plans clearly state how much data transfer is included in the agreement so the customers can adequately set expectations. The more data transfer the hosting company offers the more data transfer they have to pay for. So what makes it that the cheaper your hosting plan is the more bandwidth you get? It is simply a false promise. You actually get a lot less data transfer than a limited bandwidth plan. Shared hosting plans are normally sold to customers who do not need or do not care about connection speed and service uptime. Several hundred customers (many times close to 1000) share an outdated hardware that in many cases resides in someone’s basement over a single DSL or Comcast connection that is not even strong as half T1. This is a gamble with the fact that the small websites  will never get much traffic so the chances that all of the customers will cap the data pipe at the same time are slim. And if this happens your site simply times out. On an 800 customers hosting server only one website can max out all of the resources if it serves video or if users upload large files via FTP. You will not get as much data transfer as you need. You will get as much data transfer, as there is left. So don’t be fooled. Unlimited bandwidth is too good to be true indeed. There is a difference between unlimited and unmeasured data transfer.

Myth #2 - Unmeasured data transfer provides unlimited data transfer.

Unmeasured data transfer means that the host does not impose any limitations on the data transfer and you can use as much as it is available. What is important to look for is what is the hosting center’s capacity and not so much what the sales copy says.

Myth #3 - Unlimited disk space

There is no such thing as unlimited disk space. Your resources reside on the hard drives of the web server hosting your site. Each hard drive has a capacity. Once filled up to 80% it may become unstable. More over it is not very wise to use very large hard drives on an application platform as it takes more time to back it up and this may interrupt other operations. Unlimited disk space is a false advertising normally used by discount hosting plans so they can maximize the number of clients on one server. In this case you actually are getting much less disk space than expected. 

Myth#4 - Unlimited email accounts.

Each mailbox takes disk space and the exchange of emails taxes the server resources and the data transfer. Why some hosting companies advertise that – to get you to buy their plan. They know very well that you will not need more than 10 accounts and if you do need more they do not care if they will work. Otherwise they would not have made a false promise.

Myth #5 - 99% uptime guarantee means that your website will never be down.

Lets do the math:
1 year = 365 days
365 days = 8760 hours
8760 hours * 1% downtime = 87.6 hours downtime
87.6 hours downtime = 3 and a half days of downtime

Your hosting company did not make a false statement. Hardware needs scheduled maintenance and 3-4 days is plenty of time unless something goes really wrong. For example if the “unlimited” disk space hard drive burns out. In this case it may take longer to recover the machine. What is important here is that the downtime is scheduled, it is done after business hours and you are notified. But "99% uptime" sounds very good on a sales copy – much better than "4 days maximum down time"

Myth #6 - You have to host your website with the company you purchased the domain name from.

Your domain name is your property as long as you renew it. You can host the site anywhere and use DNS to point the domain name to the web site. You purchase domain names through a registrar and this is different than with hosting a web site.

What hosting plan to choose?

What you really need to look for is the following list of features.

  • The connection capacity on which your site will be hosted.
  • The hardware your site going to be hosted on. Make sure the server has RAID arrays configured and is an up to date machine.
  • Make sure daily backups are included.
  • Make sure the company provides the level of support you need.
  • Make sure the level of access you need is included.
  • Make sure the hosting company has redundant connections.
  • Make sure the hosting company has redundant power supply.
  • Make sure the hosting facility is secure and not in set up in a basement of a house.
  • Make sure the hosting platform meets your web site requirements.
  • Make sure there is no long term contract.

Everything else on the long list of features is mostly a list of features of the operating system and server software that is running on the machine or just a  list of things to make the offer sound good.

Most common web hosting arrangements

Shared Web Hosting:

The web server is shared by multiple users. Customer shares server space and data transfer from the same pool with many other customers.

Pros: Cheap

Cons: Unreliable, unsafe, slow in most cases, bad hardware used to cut cost, small bandwidth used to cut cost. Everything other that the cost is a drawback of this solution.

Dedicated Web Hosting:

A server which is used solely for use by one customer. The server is leased and stored in the data center of the host company.

Pros: Lower upfront cost, hardware maintenance is responsibility of the hosting company

Cons: Higher long-term cost, software is client’s responsibility, no control over the hardware configuration, to keep on budget clients settle for a lower end hardware, long term contract.

Collocated Web Hosting:

The customer owns the server and does not share it with anyone. Most common arrangement is where the customer rents space and connection only. 

Pros: Client selects the hardware of choice, client controls the setup, lower long term cost, better performance, most reliable
 
Cons: Hardware and software maintenance is client responsibility, physical access may be inconvenient. Higher upfront cost.

The most problematic are the low cost shared public hosting plans. However some companies are serious about their hosting and may offer a decent low budget plan. These are suitable for small personal websites. If you are looking to host a business application such as ecommerce for example you should definitely look into more robust hosting plans and avoid long term contracts whenever possible. And always make sure that it includes daily backups.

Good choice for smaller budgets could be a hybrid between the three hosting plans. For example we offer hosting solutions that take advantage of the benefits of the three hosting plans to achieve desired performance and meet budgets.

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