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Hosting CautionsOne thing I do when I'm researching a new website host is to search for complaints against them. Now, you'll find complaints against every host, so just finding a few hundred or even a few thousands complaints doesn't mean a whole lot.
You have to take the complaints you find with a huge dose of skepticism. For example, one host I recently checked out had about 2,000 search results for "host name sucks". That sounds like a lot of complaints, but when you start checking the search results many of them aren't complaints at all, but host review sites trying to lure people to their site with tricky page titles.
This particular host has over a half million clients, so 2,000 complaints (if they were all real, which they weren't) isn't very many complaints at all. That's just 0.004 percent of their clients that have complained . . . but the rabbit hole goes deeper still...
Many of the complaints that seem legitimate will prove to be from the same people hitting site after site with the same copy and paste complaint as they seek revenge for a self-perceived grievance.
There are three kinds of people that file complaints:
People with Legitimate ComplaintsIt's hard to sort out the legitimate complaints from the unfounded ones, but people with legitimate complaints more often offer detailed objections tempered with reason, while people with unfounded complaints often write emotional tirades.
You'll also find complaints against a web site host number in the tens of thousands when the host really is bad, rather than just a few hundred or even a few thousand. Remember too, the longer a host has been in business, the more complaints they're likely to have against them. A host that has been around 10 years will naturally have more complaints against them than recent start-up.
People with Unfounded ComplaintsSome people have unrealistic expectations of a web host. They may expect support for 3rd party software, or expect their site to never be offline for even one second (servers are computers and need to be rebooted once and a while, just like your desktop system or laptop), or any of several valid reasons a site goes down for a few minutes.
Every host experiences some downtime. It's when it becomes chronic or takes too long to get back online that you should have a real concern.
Also, many times the person complaining about a host violated the host's terms of service, often repeatedly, and has been served several warnings, but the client continues to violate the terms of service he or she agreed to when they signed up.
Let's be realistic here. A host doesn't just cancel an account—and so cut their own income—because they want to jack someone around. Sometimes the host has no choice but to cancel an abusive account holder. These are ofter the people who complain the loudest while denying any fault of their own.
Dirty Hosting TricksSome unscrupulous hosts will file complaints at review sites against a competitor to try to sway people to themselves. They'll praise their new host (which is really themselves) in glowing terms after filing their false complaints, but check out the "recommended host" and you'll often find as many, if not far more, complaints about them as the host they purportedly have a grievance against.
These same unscrupulous hosts will write glowing reviews about their own company using a multitude of aliases. We have to face the truth, anytime the public is allowed to rate products and services, there will be those who abuse the venue.
A dirty trick host review sites do is to delete complaints filed against their favored (highest paying) hosts. This makes their top ranked hosts look all the better, seemingly legitimizing their top ranking. Let me explain.
When I was new online and naive to the ways of host review sites, I opened an account with one review site's top ranked host. My site was popular and used a lot of bandwidth, so before I opened the account I informed the host of how much bandwidth my site used, and they told me no problem, I could use double that amount.
Not long after getting my site all set up, the host called me and said it was using too much bandwidth and I'd have to move it to a dedicated server. I was already paying $30 a month, but now they wanted $100 a month more!
I told them of their promise, and they changed their story and said it was using too many CPU cycles instead. I told them I'd find a new host. They told me I had until midnight, less than 9 hours away, then they'd shut my site down.
I filed a complaint with the host review company where I found that host, and my complaint was deleted within the hour. I contacted the site owner, who informed me he'd received hundreds of similar complaints and was "investigating" them, so he deleted the complaints until he could check them out.
Long story short, that host remained the top ranked host for the next several months after that. They had the highest paying affiliate program. The host used promises of mega-bandwidth (back when bandwidth was very limited compared to nowadays) to sucker people in, then used underhanded tactics to get them to switch to more expensive accounts.
Their reputation caught up with them though, and they were eventually forced out of business.
Deceptive behavior on the part of hosting review companies has been documented by Hosting Reviews Exposed better than I've done here, in case you think I'm exaggerating.
The Host with the MostWhen it comes down to it, all hosts have their share of clients that have had a bad experience with them. All hosts have plenty of unfounded complaints against them as well. Having said that, there are some hosts that are a cut above the majority, but even they will have their detractors.
I don't put a lot of stock in the complaints unless there are several thousand of them. Remember, when you read a complaint you're only hearing one side of the story. A lot of times the host will have a far different side to tell. That's if the complaint is real to begin with.
I used to recommend people ask their friends who they recommend, but as I've learned, unless the friend you ask is fairly experienced and knowledgeable about web hosting, you're as likely to get a bad recommendation as a good one.
While it's OK to ask for recommendations, it's better to know how to make your own decision. That's why I wrote How to Choose a Good Website Host, to help people like you make your own choice based on your own research.
I have also put together a really big list of website hosts for you to surf, compare, and choose from if you go that way.
Otherwise, I've put together a recommended list of the best shared hosting, business hosting, and dedicated, co-located, and VPS hosting for those that don't have the time or desire to do the research.
Hope that helps!
Free PDF ebook...
How to Choose a Good Website Host
Download: Right-click Here and choose Save Link As (Firefox) or Save Target As (IE), or similar wording if you use another browser.
Description: This FREE guide to choosing a good host explains the criteria I use to choose a hosting services provider. It includes giveaway rights if you want to share with your own website visitors or friends.
Rather than trusting hosting review sites, who have their own agenda, trust your own judgment or the recommendation of someone knowledgeable you know who has demonstrated integrity.
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