Throughout the course of any blog’s life, it will most likely be hosted with a company. More than likely, the blog will be hosted by multiple companies. Like any good company, web hosts want to make money and attract new customers. Sometimes, they won’t quite share the truth, or it can be rather misleading. Marketing is a big part of any company’s profits, and some things may simply be too good to be true. These are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a hosting company for a blog.
24 Hour Support
Many web hosts offer around the clock support. If a blog dies, or breaks, or anything goes wrong, it can be fixed in any hour of the day or night. This is specifically lucrative to people residing in different time zones. Unfortunately, 24/7 support might not be all it’s cracked up to be. While most web hosts usually won’t say so, they might not be in a position to provide the level of support available at all hours. An easy example is a hard drive failure. Perhaps the hard drive on the machine hosting a blog goes awry. This isn’t good at all – so a phone call is made to the tech support center in the middle of the night. Someone may answer and records the issue. Though we may assume that everything will be fixed, a hard drive failure requires physical access to the machine. Of course the support center might report this issue, but if the people with physical access to the machine only work 9-5 during the week, it still could be a while before the issue is looked into. It may not always happen like this, but even with 24 hour support, it doesn’t mean the person needed to resolve a problem is actually available to attend to the situation. Therefore, if this is an issue that is very crucial to you, it is important to verify what is meant by ”24/7 support.”
Another technique to attract customers is downtime guarantees. A web host might say they guarantee a 99%+ uptime during the month, or they’ll issue a credit to customers for that month. The first issue that comes to play here is, what exactly is considered ”downtime.” Maybe through no fault of the customer, the software hosting the blog shuts down and dies. Or maybe like the previous example, the hard drive breaks – but the machine has multiple hard drives. Unfortunately, the hard drive hosting the blog in this example was the one that died. The machine is still physically on and connected to the Internet, but missing one hard drive. Would this be considered downtime?
To make matters even more complex, sometimes "scheduled downtime" doesn’t count. If the host informs everyone of the downtime in advance – for upgrades, for example – they may claim that this was scheduled and thus does not count against their uptime guarantee. Sometimes reading through all of the terms actually pays off. If something doesn’t make sense, always ask the web host for clarification.
On many hosts lists of plans, included is are all of the programming languages, databases, and features supported. There are a great many examples of these, including two of the most commonly used ones – PHP and mySQL. Hosts will usually make it quite clear to potential customers that these two key things are installed and ready to go. Sometimes a web host won’t be specific as to what version is provided. Often times, upgrading is a hassle and results in customer sites being down, and so, will stick with older versions of software. Sometimes, the version of PHP or mySQL may be too old to support the blog script of choice. A primary example of this is the transition from PHP4 to PHP5. PHP5 is quickly becoming the standard, and includes some new tools for programmers to use. Because of this, many programmers make it a requirement that the host the script is run on has PHP5 to use these new features. Some hosts are unwilling to upgrade and break the status quo. This in return, may break the blog software either now, or down the road when most scripts require PHP5. Always make sure that the web host’s software versions are relatively up to date. If there is ever any concern, feel free to contact the web host and explain the situation or inquire about what plans may be available to upgrade to a later version.
Billing Cycles and Cancellation Deadlines
At some point or another, it may become increasingly apparent that a certain web host is not sufficient for the blog’s purposes, and that moving may be the best option. Hidden within some web host’s terms and policies may be something about the time required to cancel before the next bill cycle. Some web hosts routinely request up to 30 days notice before a cancellation occurs. If the plan is cancelled 10 days before the next bill, they may require a payment for the next month (or, if you’re on a quarterly or semi-annual plan). Make sure to become familiar with the specific web host’s terms regarding cancellation. That way, if the time comes to move on, changing the place a blog is hosted at can be quick, easy, painless, and hopefully without any extra unanticipated costs.
Within any area of industry, there are good companies and bad companies. Just because a company is guilty of something above does not necessarily make it a bad company. As with any purchase, the key thing is to make sure some research is done. Be familiar with the ins and outs of a hosting company’s policies. Finding the right host for a blog is critical – most hosts won’t begrudge you for simply asking questions about policies, software, or features prior to signing up. If the web host seems unwilling to answer questions before signing up, it may be good to look elsewhere for a blog host.
The above details just some of the cautionary information that is good to know about, before choosing a host for a blog.
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