Choosing a Web Host – Quicksand Features

Your dream scenario is to find a web host that provides exactly what you need for the long term. Your nightmare scenario is getting stuck long term with a host you no longer want. Unfortunately, nearly all hosts offer features that look great but make it difficult to change hosts. Be cautious when “taking advantage” of the following featues.

1. Free Domain For Life – Many web hosts offer customers a free domain for life  as long as they keep hosting with them. Giving you a free domain is of more benefit to the host than to you. You get a small benefit, something worth only about $8-$10 a year. You also get the risks and drawbacks of using the same company for domains and hosting, discussed in an earlier post.  When offered a free domain for continued hosting, you have two safe options. One is to pick a domain that is unrelated to your important websites. Another is to ignore the offer. A domain controlled by someone else, that you can’t safely tie to your important websites, is worth very little.

2. Website Building Tools – Web hosts often offer their customers website building tools. Like the free domain, these builders benefit the host more than the customer. The drawbacks become apparent when you start thinking about changing hosts. How can you move a website that’s in a framework or format nobody else uses? You’ll probably end up rebuilding your website almost from scratch using new tools and techniques. The website builder is anchoring you to your original host. There are numerous open source tools to help you build your website. They’ll work better than the host’s website builder and won’t tie you to a particular host.

3. Long Term Low Pricing – You compare web hosts and get attracted to one that appears to have all the features you want at a very low price. Only when start to sign up do you realize that getting the low price requires a long term commitment. When trying out a host, think short term until you’re comfortably springing for a multi-year commitment. When you’re comparing prices between hosts, use a standard duration such as one year. Compare hosts on the same basis and don’t make a multi-year commitment with a host you haven’t tried out.

4. “Unlimited” – Web hosts almost universally misuse the term “unlimited”. Supposedly the user gets unlimited space, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited everything. This doesn’t mean infinite or unlimited in the conventional sense. It means unmetered, with no preset limits. The host doesn’t monitor your usage until a problem arises or until other users on the same server start complaining. The host is offering its customers unlimited/reasonable resources, and the Terms of Service (TOS) you agreed to back him up. Don’t commit to a host on the assumption that you’re being offered infinite anything.

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