Hosting companies are up against tough – and plentiful – competition, so it makes sense that they do what they can to “stand out from the crowd.” There are consistently free trials, talk of enhanced hardware and inclusions, and plenty of brag-worthy claims about their included features – and, while some of the hype may be true, there are also numerous features that hosting companies make claim to that are just downright silly.
As you shop for hosting, know which traps to watch out for and avoid putting too much stock in features that aren’t what they seem to be or in claims that are irrelevant.
Here are five of my favorites:
1. Unlimited bandwidth and storage
Unlimited plans are a nearly universal offering – most providers offer them, particularly for shared hosting environments. And while this claim isn’t necessarily misleading, it can get you in plenty of trouble if you don’t know that there isn’t any such thing as “unlimited” in the hosting world.
That’s right – no unlimited bandwidth, no unlimited data transfers, no unlimited disk space. Everything comes with limits. And it’s up to you to find out what they are.
The truth is that while, in theory, the service is unlimited based on the “average” user who stays within “normal” usage ranges, there are caps on the service. Also in truth is that this reality is necessary for hosting providers to stay in business. In reality, if every user was on a shared plan and used infinite storage, space, memory, etc., the hosting providers would be placed under unfathomable financial strain in trying to keep up with the costs of the necessary equipment, security, and services.
That said, odds are that you’ll fall within the “normal” ranges that keep you safely in the unlimited zone – however, make sure you know what those limits are. Check out this article – The truth about unlimited hosting for more information about what this feature entails and what you need to know.
2. 99% uptime guarantee
Most hosting companies give an uptime guarantee – and really, anything less than 99.9% uptime is unacceptable. You’ll see plenty of providers guaranteeing 99% uptime – and theoretically it’s close… but that .9% makes quite a difference – particularly when you recognize that time is money.
Uptime refers to the time that your site is up, live, and accessible to the masses… so if the guarantee is that your site will be functioning 99% of the time, that means that it could be down as much as 1% of the time.
Let’s do the math:
There are 24 hours a day and 365 days in a year… 24 x 365 = 8,760 hours per year. Multiplying those hours by the missing 1% (8,760*.01) shows that your site could be down up to 87.6 hours every year – that’s more than two full work weeks of time!
Using the same formula for a provider guaranteeing 99.9% uptime reduces that downtime to 8.76 hours – or just over one standard business day. That’s a huge difference!
Remember – don’t accept anything less than a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Full stop.
For quick uptime & downtime conversion – make use of this cheat sheet made by Pingdom.
3. WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal support
Some providers advertise that their platform is compatible with WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. For users that are leveraging one of these CMS platforms, that compatibility is critical – but the truth is that these site platforms can run on nearly any hosting service; there isn’t anything “special” or noteworthy about it.
Don’t confuse support for the CMS platforms with claims of one-click installation; that one-click installation can save you buckets of time and truly is a noteworthy feature. One-click installation for Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla = good. Claims of supporting these platforms = irrelevant.
4. Awstats and Webalizer support
There is tons of Web analytic software out there, but some Web providers still list in their features support for Awstats and Webalizer. It isn’t so much a problem that they offer support for these, but there is a problem in that these two particular analytics programs are antiquated and outdated. By affiliating themselves with no longer meaningful software, it draws to question the currency and capabilities of the Web host themselves.
On a related note, Google Analytics is a free analytics software that works with any website; you just install a few lines of Google-supplied code into your website’s code.
The reality is that these scripts run on the client’s side, so there is nothing that the Web host actually has to do in order to support these scripts. It’s a way for them to add a bullet point to their features list without actually having to contribute anything…
The bottom line
There are tons of great features that hosting companies provide – however, at the end of the day, hosting companies are businesses out there for the sole purpose of making money; remember that as you shop.
Hosting companies have smart marketing teams that know many a gimmick. I suppose this is the case for any industry, and just as it is important in other industries and applications, shoppers need to be aware of what they are actually receiving in the hosting arena.