While we may be latecomers to the web hosting space, in the course of helping you manage your domains and DNS for over 15 years we’ve seen pretty well every trick in the book, and we’ve seen our customers suffer the fall-out from having those tricks played on them by third-party web hosts.
“Please start offering web hosting” was a common refrain we heard from you, and we resisted for a long time because we didn’t feel we had the core competencies to offer it. Once we started looking at it, we realized something key about the entire web hosting industry:
99% of the web hosting marketing is deceptive, misleading and/or bait-and-switch.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise (but it did), given that the situation is the same in the domain industry. But the core premise behind easyWEB was to bring the same gimmick-free reliability and responsiveness to web hosting that you’ve come to depend on for your domains and DNS.
This insight involved a deep dive into the current web hosting marketing trends, and in the same spirit as the near legendary “10 Things You Must Know Before You Register a Domain Name With Anybody” we bring you:
The 7 Great Web Hosting Screwings To Watch Out For
#1) 24×7 Support
What 99% of web hosts mean when they say “24×7″ support, or even “24×7 email support” is that “you can send us an email any time, 24×7″.
That doesn’t mean you’ll actually get a reply. Especially not at that hour. It’s like the old Dilbert cartoon:
When they say “24×7 support”, it doesn’t mean 24×7 response.
There is a related gimmick where the web host advertises 24×7 support and cites “live chat” as one of the mechanisms, they even have the “Chat Now” button on their home page, except you find that anytime you actually click on the “live help now!” button you get a “chat unavailable” or “no operators presently available at this time”…all the time.
The other mirage in 24×7 support claims is a telephone number posted on the website that always, without fail, simply drops you into voicemail (queue cheesy announcer “all of our support agents are presently assisting other callers”…), which will never be returned.
Deal with a vendor who is clear about their support hours and channels and straight forward about what kind of turnaround times you can expect on issues.
Our live support hours are as follows:
Mon – Fri 8:30am – 6:00pm EST
Sat / Sun & Holidays: Noon – 6pm EST
#2) Unlimited Storage, Unlimited Bandwidth, Unlimited Everything
Do you believe in math? Does 2 + 2 = 4? Then read this carefully:
It is mathematically impossible for any business to truly offer unlimited anything at a fixed price. Full stop.
If it were possible, then Google could just buy a $14.99/month “unlimited everything” package from some web host somewhere and trim about 3 or 4 billion dollars off of their operating budget every year.
“Unlimited” means “We are marketing to you” or “We are lying to you” or “Buried in our Terms of Service is a small clause which redefines what ‘unlimited’ means to mean something more like… ‘limited’”.
When you see “unlimited” you should just dismiss it from your mind and move on. You could either move on to the next ostensible “selling point” or you could (should, probably) just move on and evaluate the next vendor.
Incidentally, back on December 8th (2013) I received an email from a web hosting company offering exactly what we’re talking about: “unlimited bandwidth, unlimited websites, unlimited storage” for $14.99/month.
I sent them an email asking the following:
“Hi, I’m interested in your unlimited web hosting offer. I operate a network of 5 websites which push an aggregate 4 TB of bandwidth monthly and require 1.8TB storage. They are non-adult and non-casino. Can I make use your unlimited web hosting package?”
Other than the “your email is very important to us” auto responder, I haven’t heard back since (it is now early January, 2014) This is a good indicator of what to expect when dealing with web hosting companies offering “unlimited everything” at a cost of “next to nothing”.
#3) The tier-1 “data centre”
A lot of web hosts like to put stock image photography up on their websites that are intended to lead the prospect to believe that they are looking at actual pictures of that web host.
We use dell blade racks, like the actual unit depicted here (this one is in staging/setup). When this one is at about 85% capacity, we’ll put in another one, etc.
#4) The Free Domain Name / $1.99 Domain, etc. / Free DNS
This one we’re very familiar with, coming from the domain/DNS space we’ve been warning people about the darker side to various “free domain” scams for over a decade.
The most prevalent variant is that the hosting company registers the “free” domain name in their own name, not yours. If you ever want to switch your website and domain away from them, you find they have you in a bind because they own the domain name you’ve been using.
We never tire of stressing this (it is the #1 tip in our report “Never Lose Your Domain Name Again”):
Always register your domain names in your own name.
Never let somebody else register your domain in their name.
This goes for web hosting companies, web designers, IT consultants and even your employees.
The “cheap domain” ploy is just a loss-leader to get you in the door. The base raw cost to register a domain is under $10, if your lowest end web hosting package is $3/month then they can practically give away the domain and still make money. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s pretty standard marketing.
Except in year 2.
In year 2 what will often happen is your domain renewal is going to “reset” at some higher value, because you will probably not notice this and you already gave permission anyway when you “agreed” to the Terms of Service when you signed up.
(That’s why it’s important to know what’s actually in the Terms of Service at your web host and we try to make it easy for you to do that by publishing our Terms of Service in something called “plain english”)
Then the “Free DNS” part of it is scarier than than the “Free Domain” ploy. Because as we always say here at easyDNS:
DNS is something nobody really thinks about until it stops working.
When that happens everybody figures out real fast that maybe running DNS for tens of thousands of domain names is harder than it looks.
Going back to our pictorial example of the “Tier 1 datacenter” above, do you see that P.O.S on left-hand side? That’s the DNS server.
Well, what can we say? We practically/literally wrote the book on this subject.
From “10 Things You Must Know Before You Register a Domain Name With Anybody” to the later PDF report “Never Lose Your Domain Name Again“, we’ve made a career out of educating, exposing and not doing all of the myriad domain name scams and swindles out there.
On the DNS side of things, you can bet we know what we’re doing there, since we’ve been at it full time since 1998.
So while most conventional wisdom states “Don’t register your domain with your web host”, is for the most part valid, we truly are the exception that proves the rule. Having said that, you are by no means obligated to register your domain name through us.
#5) 99.9% Uptime Guarantee
The problem with most SLA “guarantees” is that they are usually accompanied by a lot of fine print that basically makes it impossible to ever invoke them. Exemptions usually include DDoS attacks (which are basically the most common and highest probability cause of a network outage) and “causes outside the direct control of the [ insert web host here ]” which is almost, by definition, the cause of any outage (after all, if you can control it directly, you can control it to not take the service down).
If there is a bona fide outage, and they actually let you “claim” under the SLA, it is usually implemented as a partial credit based on the outage length. In other words:
Most SLAs are not designed to guarantee uptime, they are designed to get you to agree in advance on a value for downtime.
“1 day credit for every hour down” sounds pretty good when you read it but basically it just means that your if business is offline for 3 hours in the middle of the busy weekday, you’ll only have to pay 27/30th of the full pop next month. Depending on your web hosting package, it means you’ll probably save about $1.50 to $7. How much is your business worth?
Lets not quibble. You don’t want to have to worry about measuring downtime or filing notorized affidavits to claim partial credits. You just want the service to work, you want your vendor to be reliable, transparent and effective at addressing problems. If they consistently do that, you’ll stay, if they don’t, you’ll find somebody who will.
We try to keep things simple and drawing from our success in the domain name and DNS provider space, we just use the same Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back policy. For monthly billed items like easyWEB we will refund up to 3-month’s worth of fees at any time, any reason if you are dissatisfied with the service.
All we ask is that you tell us your reasons for leaving so that we can endeavour to fix it.
#6) Useless extras: free Search Engine Submissions, SEO Services, #1 on Google Guaranteed, link exchanges
In an effort to “add value”, a lot of these budget web hosts will bundle a pile of “add ons” to incite you to buy which may not only “not add value”, they may actually cause harm to your brand.
Things like search engine submissions are useless. All they do is automatically fill out a form at google to add your domain to the index, something google was going to do anyway, probably within the hour. It doesn’t affect your rankings within the index.
Be very wary of those that go on to purport “SEO services” (search engine optimization) and leave skid-marks out of there if they are audacious enough to promise you #1 search engine results (true, you will rank #1 in google when you search for your own, exact domain name, but that doesn’t require any special voodoo to accomplish).
But what may very well happen, depending on how sloppy, clueless or shady the web host is, is they may get you banned from google, or penalized because they may employ artificial link-building strategies or other questionable tactics that, let’s call it for what it is: attempt to game the search engines.
Search engines spend a lot of time and effort on detecting these tactics, so even if they “work” for the moment, you will wake up to a day of reckoning down the road, when the next search algorithm update occurs and you get bumped to page 20, or even worse, purged from the index entirely.
At easyWEB we have a few “extras” too, like automatic virus and malware scanning of all your uploads, and keeping off-premise backups of all the data in case of catastrophic failures.
Now that’s a value add.
#7) Honesty / Forthrightness
A lot of web hosts subscribe to the “say anything” mantra to win your business.
You’re looking for a green powered web host? Hey, we’re a green host! We’re carbon neutral!
PCI compliant? Sure we are!
Secure? Of course!
Anti-gravity Machine? Check!
We’re blunt. Sometimes to a fault. Here’s how we would answer a couple of the frequently answered questions from above:
Green powered? We buy carbon offsets via Bullfrog Power. It’s not the same as being “green powered”, we still chew up fossil fuels, drive cars to the office, etc. but we try to offset that by paying for an equal amount of renewable, alternative energy to be pumped back into the grid. We’ve been doing this for a few years.
PCI Compliant servers? NO. If you are going to sell stuff from your web site you should know that these are not PCI compliant.
What this means: you can use external payment gateways and services where you do not store the credit card details. This includes Paypal, or long-time easyDNS customer Mal’s Ecommerce and you could also look at bitcoin.
This shouldn’t stop you from running a business online, whether it’s a kitchen table business or a full-on web retailer (in fact easyDNS has been in business 15 years, we’ve done tens of millions of dollars in business and we outsource all of our payment processing. It’s one less thing to lose sleep over).
If you must have a PCI compliant website, then you should absolutely NOT be using a shared hosting environment like easyWEB. Get a dedicated server or a VPS somewhere (Linode or Digital Ocean are good).
At the end of the day, many web hosting companies use gimmickry and misleading language to lure customers into a false sense of rapport and reliability.
At easyWEB, we are taking the same approach to web hosting that we’ve been bringing into the domain name and managed DNS space for 15+ years:
It’s worked well enough for 50,000+ easyDNS members in over 100 countries worldwide, and we’ll do it for you too.