Choosing Your Perfect Web Host

Dear Friend,

Adam here ^_^.

It's tough succeeding in the world of websites. Believe - it took me six years of on-my-own battles to get where I am today. There are just so many variables you have to have under your control.

But of all these variables - web hosting is easily the most important.

You can have the best site in the world - with the best design and the best idea behind it - but if you don't have a strong host backing you up...

You lose.

(Or at the very least, experience thousands of needless headaches.)

But what makes for a strong host? What are the key qualities that special host should have to give you the best chances for success.


There are 6 rules I strongly believe everyone should follow to find a brilliant host. If you're thinking about learning how to make a website or want to get a site online or are shopping for a new host, make sure to double-check these...

6 simple rules!

(Actually make sure to triple-check them - they're that important! ^_^)

» Understand Web Host Pricing

With web hosts, price doesn't usually relate to quality. Expensive hosts might be ripping you off and cheap hosts might just be giving you what you pay for.

Still though - it's important to pick a host that fits your budget. Don't try to live month-to-month with your host. Instead make sure that at any given time you can afford to pay for a couple months of service.

(You shouldn't need to get an extra job to support your web creation hobby!)

Related to pricing, make sure your host doesn't tack on extra charges. What extra charges? Well...

The 2 most common sources for rip-off charges include. . .

(1) Charging for support (ridiculous, right?)

(2) Charging for additional bandwidth usage without telling you first

Oh, there's one final pricing thing of absolute importance. This is probably the most crucial pricing-related matter out there...

Never prepay for more than three months of hosting at a time. Ignore all discounts they offer you - they'll be worthless when their service deteriorates and you're locked in. I've never prepayed on anything Internet-related and not regretted it. There's simply no motivation for your host to provide a good service if you give a year's worth of payments all at once. It's not a good idea.

Remember: High-quality hosts almost never offer long-term prepayment plans. It's all the 12-year olds who run hosting companies (you'd be surprised) that want fast money upfront who sell hosting on a yearly basis.

» Understand Space / Bandwidth

Make sure you don't fall for hosts that offer "unlimited" bandwidth or space. There's simply no such thing.

Imagine - You're buying a computer and the salesman exclaims, "This new Dell has infinite HD space and infinite RAM."

Suspicious, right? It's like buying a house with infinite rooms or a car with infinite gas mileage. It's simply absurd.

(Also, and this is very funny to me, most hosts out there that offer "infinite" capabilities are usually the cheapest ones in terms of pricing. I wonder why...)

Now, while you shouldn't look for unlimited space or RAM, you should aim for a lot - much more than you need - because you want your site to have the room to succeed.

It's doubtful that you'll use more than a couple GB of bandwidth per month or that you'll need more than 50 MB of space at first. (Internet files are generally tiny.)


You'll want enough bandwidth and space to spare so that when your site gets featured on CNN, you're well prepared for the inflow of visitors. ^_^

Also, you should be on the watch for deals that are too good to be true. One example is a host who offers you 50 GB bandwidth / month and 100 GB space for only a few dollars a year.

There's a concept in webhosting called overselling. It basically means hosts will give you a ridiculous amount of bandwidth / space because they know you will only use a fraction of it. By doing this, they can cram an ungodly number clients on one server (even though if everyone was to use their resources to capacity, it would fry things many times over).

Overselling is incredible hard to detect. Almost every hosting company uses it to some degree - and done in slight moderation, it's very forgivable. Just be aware it exists and watch out for overly good deals.

» Understand Advanced Features

Make sure your host offers mySQL / PHP support.

These two advanced features mean a lot if you're serious about developing your web skills. With PHP, you can update thousands of pages with a cough and add things like polls and membership options to your site.

Maybe you don't know how to create a mySQL database now, but you're a fast learner (^_^) and it'll hurt when your host doesn't have the features you need.

» Translate Uptime Claims

This is a really tricky area to monitor. Every single host on the Internet advertises 99.9999999% uptime (or something similar). However, in my experience, a lot of these claims are either bogus or misleading.

Downtime happens for a number of reasons. Sometimes hosts will advertise 99.99% network uptime, which is entirely different from server uptime. If the software on your server causes things to crash, that's not considered network downtime.

It's like finding out the new house you just bought (which is located in a beautiful, rich neighborhood) is infested with man-eating rats. Sure, the neighborhood's great, but the house itself - which you live in - is worthless.

Believe me, I've been hurt by this before (my first paid host in fact - 99.99% network uptime - but their server was down every other day).

There's really no way tell a host's true uptime record from just reading their website. Make sure you do some research and read what other customers have to say about their record.

Downtime is scary!

» Test Support

E-mail your host before joining them. See how fast they respond and see how polite they are in responding. If they don't respond at all, move on. If they respond quickly and politely, investigate them more.

There's absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing worse than a rude, unresponsive host. Even if they're giving you the best deal imaginable, I strongly recommend giving second thoughts if they give you a bad vibe.

» Investigate Site Management

There are two ways to manage your hosting account. The first is graphically while the second is through absurdly difficult-to-learn SSH / Telnet prompts (think DOS).

Make sure your host gives you a very clean, easy-to-use graphical management system to manage your site. It helps a lot.

There are quite a few graphical management systems out there. The four biggest are Webmin, PLESK, Ensim, and cPanel.

After reviewing all four extensively, I strongly recommend cPanel over the rest. Webmin is too basic, PLESK looks and functions like a dinosaur, and Ensim is incredibly cluttered and confusing. cPanel is by far the best, though the design is lacking a bit.

» Make or Break

Again, hosting is the foundation for your web success, it's your best friend really. Hosting can make or break you.

When I started producing sites, hosting woes almost broke me time and time again. But I was strong and kept fighting back.

(One of my first hosts shut down their service with absolutely no warning, almost vaporizing my site and leaving me in a horrible bind! Unbelievable! And this wasn't the only hosting nightmare I've been through.)

2010 Update: Since I wrote this article I've received numerous emails from people asking me to recommend a web host. If you need help, drop me an email and I'll do my best to help :).