Website Hosting First Time Round

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Choosing website hosting isn’t as easy as you might think and especially when you are new to the Internet. I’ve made a few hosting mistakes in my time and mistakes that set my business back through my own unwise choices. Lets have a look at my mistakes and what I would recommend for a newcomer to hosting.

Free Hosting

Many newcomers believe that free hosting is the solution, it could be at least for a while but then if you are successful free hosting can become a problem. When I set up my first website in January 2001 I chose a free host but had some awful adverts from the host as headers on my site. As the site attracted visitors and earnings I was able to upgrade the account to paid, use my own domain name and lose the overpowering advertising. That was from http://20m.com and you can read my old review here. They are still around but I have no idea if they are as good now as they was back then. That was 16 years ago and I believe now that I was very lucky to have had a good hosting experience first time round.

If you search you can find other free hosting companies but usually they want to plaster their advertising across your site. A few don’t but freebies are usually used to attract future paying customers. I’ve only experienced 20m so cannot comment further on any of the other free hosts apart from saying that free hosts and the smaller companies may not be as up to date as larger companies. That matters when you try to use software or scripts that require the most up to date hosting.

Another form of free hosting is various web 2.0 properties, hub pages, WordPress, Blogger and umpteen other blogging platforms. I use all of those to bolster up my niche sites with backlinks but I would never use any of those for a main website. The reason being that you have no control over it and if the owners decide to take your pages down you lose your work and your income.

They don’t like affiliate links so that’s one reason for them taking your pages down. Other reasons you can’t always fathom. I built a Tumblr blog a few years ago and all it had on it was a couple of articles about Sudoku and a video, no affiliate links, nothing to offend but it was taken down with no explanation after a few months.

If you decide upon free hosting or free blogging platforms I would recommend that you buy a domain name and redirect to your free site. Your own domain name will look more professional and if your site gets pulled you can quickly get hosting for your domain and either install a back up that you have made or copy it from Googles cache. You can learn about buying and registering your own domain name if you click on the link.

Paid For Hosting

I dropped out of home business for a few years and came back in 2007 and went for paid hosting. I must have been mad but I bought a lifetime unlimited package from eBay for £25. Not a lot to lose if it goes belly up I thought but when it disappeared on me 6 months later I was well cheesed off. I had built 6 different sites on the hosting and hadn’t backed them up so I had to rebuild them. Not as bad as it sounds because 3 of them were built with xSitePro (a brilliant website builder but not available now) and all I had to do was set up new hosting for the domains and upload the sites from my computer. Another was an ebook site that Id worked lovingly on with masses of fresh content and lots of sales and download pages for the ebooks. Its never been the same!

Around that time I’d got a separate hosting account at Hostgator for an article directory which I ran back then, that was a good move, but I didn’t want all of my eggs in one basket just in case disaster struck again, so stupidly I found myself more cheap hosting, unlimited sites for $10 a month I think. Everything was fine for a while. I rebuilt the sites and built 2 membership sites on the hosting. That took a mega block of time up, the membership software was difficult to use and took ages to set each part of the sites up.

One day I found that all of my sites had been suspended so I emailed the hosts several times before they replied back. A problem their end that would soon be resolved. After a week it was but I couldn’t log into my site’s control panels or admin areas. A few days later the sites were suspended again and the hosts didn’t reply to my emails. What I suspect now with more experience under my belt is that my hosts were actually resellers for a bigger company and that they must have either not paid their monthly dues or have done something wrong to get their account suspended.

While all of that was going on my Hostgator hosted site was chugging along with no problems so I decided to get a reseller account with them and put half of my sites on that hosting. Remembering the eggs and baskets thing I also decided to pay for a years hosting with the company recommended by the vendors of the membership site software that I was using. The sales pitch made it sound like the hosting was especially designed for that software.

That was a big mistake. When I tried to install the software I hit a brick wall whenever I got to the final stage. It turned out that the hosting wasn’t suitable as it was and that something needed altering in the ht.access file before I could use the expensive software on the hosting. I got that sorted out and started setting up my membership sites again, yes I’d taken back ups but hadn’t downloaded them to my computer. Every time that I worked on one of the sites for more than 10 minutes it slowed down until it virtually came to a standstill. I complained and they said that there was nothing wrong but funnily enough things sped up after that.

I then discovered something that I’d missed in the small print. Any more than 4 cron jobs per site and you had to pay extra. As the membership software required at least 12 cron jobs to run to its full capacity on each site the extra made average priced hosting very pricy. The thought of paying more when I’d had problems seriously whissed me off and I knew from experience that other companies didn’t charge for each cron job so another hosting company bit the dust.

All along my Hostgator sites were chugging away happily, no downtime, no problems, no stress, so I surrendered and got all of my sites moved to my reseller account. Since then I’ve been happy with this company and have often wished that I had just gone to them in the first place. I probably didn’t because I knew that I wanted to experiment with multiple sites and initially before I started to make money thought the price too high with Hostgator and other well known hosts.

I have had occasional problems, but the service at Hostgator is fantastic. I am a bit technically challenged but the staff on support have patiently helped me whenever I’ve needed help. For instance when somebody hacked into my article directory account and tried to spam all of the authors that was because of a fault in the script that I used to use. I also had problems with my heavy traffic WordPress sites taking up too much of the resources, but support helped me resolve things without suspending or banning my account as I’ve heard some hosts do.

Since then I’ve fairly painlessly upgraded to a VPS account with a lot of help from support. You can read about my upgrade in 2 parts, here and here.

New To Hosting

Writing about this has made me think about my experiences and wonder what I would do about hosting if I was starting over and know what I know now. Probably I would start small with the cheapest shared hosting account on Hostgator or one of the bigger well reviewed companies. I wouldn’t recommend using a reseller unless I knew which company they were resellers to and knew that I would be able to contact the company to retrieve my sites should the reseller get banned.

I’m told that its better to get your hosting from the country that you reside in so as I’m in the UK I would plump for my favourite registrar and hosting company 123-reg UK’s leading domain registrar who I started to do business with back in 2001, or Heart Internet who I’ve heard good things about. Remembering the eggs and basket thing I may try hosting with a UK company the next time I build a UK targeted website, but I wont leave Hostgator.

I wouldn’t go for free hosting because when you pay you should get some support, the amount would depend upon which company you were with. As a newcomer you very probably would need support at some point and I believe that its worth paying for to keep your sites running smoothly.

When you start small its easy enough to upgrade gradually, at your own pace and obviously what you can afford. A decent company will do it all for you and even move your sites free if you are transferring from one host to another. You can always check out niches on free platforms, or use them as I do to help support my main sites, but I would never recommend using them for your money sites.

Use the search engines to find honest reviews of different hosting companies. Unfortunately you will also find glowing reviews from affiliates who want to make money from you. Check out what is said on forums about different companies, usually honest opinions of users. What you will often see is a thread where somebody new asks for recommendations. There will be a whole lot of answers from the bigger companies like Hostgator and Go Daddy to cheap obscure companies. Look at who recommends what and you generally find that the more experienced go for the big companies and the least experienced praise the cheapies, freebies and obscure (even eBay eek!), then I wonder if they will say the same in a years time.

A checklist that I would use now when searching for hosting is:

  • Customer feedback
  • How long has the company been established
  • Level of support offered
  • Other services offered
  • Variety of hosting plans

If you have any thoughts to add to this overlong post, or any questions please leave a comment.

P.S. I found my first website in the Wayback machine and if you click here you can see a sorta version of what it looked like and even old Amazon and Paypal ads. It got a good amount of traffic and return visits considering that it was pretty basic and built using html, no fancy website builder. I loved looking round and found my old message board spam free would you believe. Those message boards were pretty good but they would get spammed to death now.
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