Hello, my name is Max Johnson, and I started this blog to help people find the best inexpensive hosting. When I started out as a freelance web designer, it took me way too long and caused me way to many headaches and wasted money to finally find a good hosting company to work with, and now that I have, I want to help people avoid all the problems and bad experiences that I had. To read more about my saga to find good inexpensive hosting, check out the posts in the History category.
For more info on what to look for in good inexpensive hosting, read the articles in the How to Choose Inexpensive Hosting category.
Finally, for a comparison of inexpensive hosting options and reviews on select companies, check out the Comparison: Hosting Companies category, or take a look at our sister site, dedicated entirely to web hosting comparisons.
I think there is a pretty common misconception that it’s a great idea to use your inexpensive hosting company to buy your web address. Its true that when you do that it can be very convenient, since you’re only opening one account with one company and you don’t have to remember a password for both your cheap web domain registration company and your inexpensive hosting company. Also, many companies push the fact that they allow you to make your web domain purchase for free when you also buy inexpensive hosting from them, and a lot of those companies also push specific free domain and web hosting plans. Personally, I think this is a very bad idea – your web domain purchase should be dome with a different inexpensive domain registration company than your hosting company.
Here’s why: Twice, I purchased domains and inexpensive hosting together from a hosting company (the first one was Startlogic, and the second One&One), and both times I got burned by it. If something goes wrong with your web hosting, and you decide its in your best interest to switch hosting providers to a different inexpensive hosting company, then having your domain name registered with a third party facilitates the process greatly. If, for example, you have your domain name registered with a different company, then all you have to do is
1) Sign up for a new inexpensive hosting package with a different web provider,
2) Ftp up a copy of your website to the new web space,
3) Navigate over to your domain registrar, unlock your domain, change your DNS records to point to the new web space, re-lock your domain, and,
4) Wait overnight for all the various name servers around the country and world to update their listings.
5) The final step is to call or e-mail your old web provider, and cancel their service. They won’t have any power over you and you can be as forceful as you need to be in order to get your money back, etc.
If, however, you have your domain name and hosting with the same company, then the process is much longer and more involved. First you would have to figure out how to transfer your web domain away from the hosting company to a new name registrar, which could be a giant headache and may take over a month to do (this is exactly how it was with One&One). Then you would have to still follow the steps involved in moving your site over to a new web provider.
If you decide to open a new web hosting account before you have transferred your domain, even if it’s with the best web site host, then you are still at the mercy of the original company. With some companies, it is almost impossible to get them to point a domain registered with them to the hosting of another company (Startlogic was this way). Then, even if you are able to do it, trying to get your money back, or get the old web provider off your back is much harder when they still have control over your domain name.
Basically you’re negotiating from a much stronger position when you have a different web provider than your web domain registration company. Now you may say, “hey, I’m not expecting any issues with my web host – I’m just doing a simple web page and it should be the easiest thing in the world for them.” I thought the same thing to, however, and managed to have two terrible experiences back to back with web hosting providers…
I encourage you to take my advice – use a different company as your web provider than the company where you have made your domain purchase. Currently I use Web Hosting Buzz as my inexpensive hosting company, and the best place I have found for inexpensive domain registration is Name.com.
Unlike unlimited bandwidth hosting, hosting disk space is a little more straightforward – its pretty easy to get a judge of how much hosting disk space you are going to need. Here’s some general guidelines:
A small to medium static site that doesn’t have a ton of graphics or photos will need a few megabytes.
A larger static site that is more graphics heavy will need on the order of tens of megabytes.
A dynamic site, such as one run by a CMS or blogging software like WordPress will need less than 100 megabytes.
A site with video or significant amounts of images could need hundreds of megabytes all the way up to gigabytes.
So, with these general guidelines, its pretty easy to see that most websites are in the 100 megabytes or less range. With most inexpensive hosting plans like the budget plan from Web Hosting Buzz offering at least a gigabyte, and often hundreds of gigabytes, the chance that a normal user would run out of disk space is pretty limited. If you are at all worried, then go with a hosting plan with at least 10 or 15 gigabytes, and in all likelihood that amount of disk space will be more than enough.
Many inexpensive hosting companies are now offering plans with unlimited hosting disk space, which is physically impossible to provide. If you look into the terms and conditions you’ll usually see a paragraph in the fine print that defines exactly what the limits on “unlimited” hosting plans are, and it is usually something like 10% of the hosting disk space, and 10% of the CPU usage, or something like that. While for most users, this 10% of disk space is effectively unlimited, since it would probably be at least 20 gigabytes, it still is not actually an unlimited amount. So, if you are going to have an unusual site with tons of videos or other media, then trying to use an “unlimited” inexpensive hosting account is probably not going to work very well in the long run.
Imagine a fantastic scenario: you’ve built an awesome website about purple widgets, and your site gets mentioned in an AP news article picked up all over the world, driving a rush of traffic to your website. It’s a great situation to be in – your site is getting attention and popularity, and your revenues are through the roof!
Then, all of the sudden just a couple days after the article has been published, your website unexpectedly goes off-line and is inaccessible for three straight days. You’re rapidly losing credibility and income, simply because you went over your bandwidth limit, causing your inexpensive hosting company to take your site off the web. Your stress levels shoot up as you angrily yell at the customer service man over the phone, trying to get your site back online, or maybe frantically trying to switch hosting companies over to a more reliable, reputable company like Web Hosting Buzz.
This scenario, while not a universal experience, does happen. Hence the attractiveness of a recent marketing strategy – offering unlimited data storage and bandwidth. The idea of unlimited appeals to many consumers, since it allow them to just purchase the unlimited bandwidth hosting and forget about it.
The problem is that the scenario above is just as likely to happen whether you have an unlimited bandwidth host or not.
Unfortunately, it is physically impossible to actually offer unlimited bandwidth hosting. Servers have two main physical attributes – the amount of data they can store, and the amount of bandwidth they can serve. The data storage is a function of how big the hard drive of the server is, and how many other people are hosted on that server. Even on a plan with unlimited data storage, there will be an actual limit to the amount of disk space you can use for your website. Usually, however, this real life data storage limit is quite large, and rarely would a customer ever run into the limits of data storage.
Bandwidth, on the other hand is much more complex. Bandwidth is determined by a host of factors, including but not limited to the type of connection the server has to the internet, and the hardware of the server itself. The bandwidth figure is important, since unlike data storage, people often do run over their bandwidth limits, or if they don’t actually run over their bandwidth limits, the amount of bandwidth they use causes them to use too much of the CPU of the server and gets their site booted that way.
The basic idea of bandwidth is that it is a measure of how much data the server has transferred over the internet, or from an even simpler viewpoint, a measure of how many people visit your site.
Each time someone visits your site and loads your webpage, they are downloading the HTML files, photos, graphics, and multimedia to their own computer in order to view them. If you have website that has a single page with a size of 100kb, and the hosting plan you have allows you to transfer 15gb per month, then your page would have to be viewed more than 150,000 times in the month in order for you to run over the limit. 150,000 views is certainly a lot of views to have in a month, but it is not out of the question, and a larger website with more photos, graphics, and especially multimedia to download would dramatically shrink the number of times your site can be seen!
Since the bandwidth is limited by the physical attributes of the server and its connection to the internet, it is clearly impossible to offer unlimited bandwidth. Even plans that offer high bandwidth hosting in the thousands of gigabytes are often physically impossible. The server has a limit to how fast it can transfer data, and even if it were transferring data at the maximum speed for every second of the entire month, it still would have a limit that would be reached eventually. Furthermore, no sever has such perfectly even visitors that it is running continuously at full capacity for every minute of the month.
So what’s the big deal about unlimited bandwidth then? If its impossible to truly achieve, then how can some hosting companies offer it?
To answer these questions we have to move from technical talk to talk of marketing. People like to compare numbers, and therefore there has been a kind of an arms race between inexpensive hosting providers to offer the most bandwidth, including now plans that claim to be unlimited. If, however, you read through the fine print, you will see that they do place express limits on your bandwidth, usually something like 10% percent of the CPU used or some other obscure figure like that.
So, basically, they lie.
It is not easy to convert a percentage of CPU usage to gigabytes of data transfer over the course of a month, but suffice it to say that if you are limited to 10% of the CPU usage, your data transfer will not be unlimited, and in many cases it will actually be less than what companies that strictly define transfer limits are offering.
What happens then, if your website becomes immensely popular and you go over the bandwidth limit on your unlimited bandwidth hosting or high bandwidth hosting? Usually they will take your site off the internet without warning, leaving you scrambling to get your site back up so you don’t lose too much traffic. Then, the inexpensive hosting company will often charge you a fee for going over your limit. Its kind of like going over your minutes on a cell phone.
In theory, going over your bandwidth limit is a good problem to have, since it means that your site has become very popular. In reality, however, it can be a big headache that can cost you a lot of money to get fixed and get your site back on the net. It is best to prepare by knowing what your bandwidth limit really is, even if you are on an unlimited plan, and working with your hosting company to allocate you more bandwidth before you actually run out if your site becomes successful.
My name is Max, and I work as a freelance web designer and developer (among other hats). When I started out as a web designer, my first client was a sculptor who wanted me to build him a gallery website for his sculptures (they were incredible). I had learned web design in my free time at school, and as such had always used the school’s servers to host personal or example web pages, so when it came time for me to build the sculpture site, I looked around on the internet to find a place where I could get some inexpensive hosting.
Naturally, since I was going to be paying for it out of pocket I wanted it to be inexpensive hosting, and furthermore, I wanted to be able to host multiple websites and domains on one account in order to be able to expand and do more websites for people. So, after doing some internet research, and looking at some of those “top-10″ or “best hosting comparison” sites you see all over the place, I settled on Startlogic as the host I would use. Unlucky for me that I didn’t know any better…
Startlogic gave me the run-around like none other. Check out the Startlogic page for a summary of my experience with Startlogic. Fortunately I managed to get away from them with my money back and my sanity mostly intact. They are definitely NOT the best inexpensive host!
Next up on my mis-adventure was OneandOne. I also found them just cruising the net, and their price looked great, and I liked the fact that they were described as being the “biggest” and “number one” hosting company on the web. I figured that if they really were that huge then all those people must be satisfied to stay with them and keep signing up, right… Wrong. I can also emphatically say that OneandOne is NOT the best inexpensive host. Read about my experience with OneandOne here.
Now, I use Web Hosting Buzz and consider myself lucky to have found such a great host. I didn’t fully realize how lucky I had been in finding Web Hosting Buzz until I had done some more work as a web designer for clients who already had webpages, and I was forced to interact with their hosting. I came to realize that it wasn’t just Startlogic and OneandOne that were bad hosting companies – there were many others.
Sure, StartLogic and OneandOne had good features and good prices, but what they didn’t have were the customer service to back it up. In my experience working with many different hosts I have found that things always go wrong with servers. Its just in their nature. And having someone on the other end of the line to fix the problems when they arise makes all the difference.
So, for my first client as a professional web designer, I decided to purchase a shared hosting account with a web hosting company so that I could host a number of websites (both mine and future clients). I went searching around the internet, and found a site that had a “top-ten web hosts” list. Startlogic was rated #2, and their comments read something like “best customer service in the field, with a great feature set.” Me being the inexperienced customer that I am said “wow, best customer service, that sounds great, just what I need,” and I entered my credit card info to make the purchase.
Bad sign #1: I waited for the welcome e-mail with my login info, and it took three days to show up. Shouldn’t they have it all automated and shouldn’t the e-mail get their immediately after I click submit?
Bad sign #2: The Startlogic Vdeck control panel is absolutely terrible to work with. They seriously need to hire someone with some user-interface design experience.
Bad sign #3: I was able to log into my hosting account, but the domain I had registered (for my client) wasn’t associated with the account and I couldn’t find the info for how to manage the domain anywhere in the Vdeck. Of course I had been charged for it…
Ok, so the beginning was a little rough. I send an e-mail to StartLogic about the fact that they charged me for a domain and yet it didn’t show up in my account.
Bad sign #4: It takes 6 days for an e-mail to get back to me from a customer service rep. And all the e-mail said was, “will you send the account details so that I can look into it?”
Hmm… It seems to me that from my e-mail and the fact that I sent them my username that they would be able to figure out which account is mine, and look into it without needing to hear back from me. If this is really the “best customer service in the field,” I can’t imagine what it would be like to see a company that was rated one of the worst!
So, I send back an e-mail with my account name and the other info the customer service rep asked for, and start waiting. At this point I’m still not too stressed, since I’m just working away on the website for the client, and I’m not going to need the hosting for a bit anyway, and I assume that the domain will show up in the Vdeck before too long.
Four days later, I get an e-mail back from a new customer service rep saying that he had looked over my account’s communication file, and that he would be looking into my issue. He said before he could do that though, that he would need me to send him my account information and the name of the domain that I had registered…
Uhh… So, this would be the second time that I had sent in my account information, and I had stated the domain I was having problems with in my original e-mail. Can anybody spell incompetent?
Now, I’m really starting to get annoyed with StartLogic and the horrible Startlogic Vdeck. I decide, however, to give them one more chance and send back an e-mail with the requested information and a note saying that if he had really looked over my communication file, he would have seen that I had already sent all the information he requested.
Five more days go by, and I finally get an e-mail back from Startlogic. Big surprise, its a new customer service rep – this time a woman. She says, “Hi, I’ve looked over your communications file, and I would be happy to help you with your issue. If you can just send me back the following information, then I’ll get right on figuring out what the problem is.” And then she asked for the domain name I was having trouble with!
I was beginning to wonder if this was all some sort of scam.
I sent an e-mail back. Here’s the text:
Yes, you can help me, but no I won’t send you the information you requested, because I don’t care about getting the hosting working anymore. I would like you to help me get my money back (as promised in you 30-day warranty), and to transfer the domain I registered with you guys over to Name.com. The customer service I have received has been terrible, and the hosting and domain that I purchased never worked for me, so I would like to cut my losses and switch over to a different host. Please send me back an e-mail with information on how to transfer over the domain to Name.com.
PS. Since I have some experience with the StartLogic customer service team now, I fully expect you guys to screw this up. Therefore I will send an e-mail and call the support desk every single day until my domain is transferred.”
Of course, after sending this e-mail, nothing happened for 5 days (and 5 e-mails and 5 calls), but eventually I did get my domain transferred to Name.com and got my money back. Why did I chose Name.com? I actually asked a friend of mine and he gave me the recommendation for them, and since then I’ve been more than happy with the service at Name.com.
Similarly, I ended up eventually (with a misadventure with One&One first) using Web Hosting Buzz, which has been a great web hosting company for me. Web Hosting Buzz has allowed me to cut through all the headaches and hassle, and provide exactly what I needed to keep me sane, and my client’s websites up and running. And unlike the horrible Startlogic Vdeck, the control panel interface for Web Hosting Buzz is excellent.
Finally, I would also strongly recommend keeping your domain registrar and hosting company separate. I know its very tempting to sign up for one of those packages that has a free domain included with the web hosting, but if anything ever goes wrong (as it did for me with both Startlogic and OneandOne) then its much easier if you have your domain with a different company – you can just make a backup of everything on the web server, cut your losses, and run.
So, back when I was still relatively new at web design, I was cruising around the net looking for web hosting after my bad experience with Startlogic, and I found One&One at one of those “Top Ten Hosting” pages that supposedly reviews the different hosting companies and declares which ones are the top ten to deal with (last time I ever trust one of those sites, by the way). I see One&One on there and along with checking out a couple of other ones decide that One&One looks pretty good and the price is right for both their hosting and their domain registration. So I decide to bite and buy a domain and the basic hosting to go along with it. This is where the headache starts, and is certainly the last time I buy hosting without doing my research. Now I use Web Hosting Buzz, and highly recommend them.
I start getting set up, and the control panel One&One has is just about the worst thing to work with. Ever. Impossible to do anything I want, and there’s no support documents anywhere that tell me what I need to know in order to be able to figure it out. I mean, seriously, it wouldn’t cost One&One all that much time/money to pay somebody to write up some REAL support documents that actually tell people how to use the hosting services. And I already know a thing or two about building a website – I can’t imagine how terrible this would be if I were a total newbie…
So, as I’m wrangling with the hosting and trying to figure it out, I make my second major mistake – I decide to buy a second domain from One&One. Stupid.
I go through with the process, my credit card is charged, and I wait three days, and the domain doesn’t show up in my account with One&One online… So, starting to feel kind of frustrated, I decide I’ll call up customer service and see whats up.
A lady answers the phone, and I literally can’t understand a word she says. Part of the problem is the accent, which I don’t recognize and can’t understand. Also, the volume coming from her end is extremely low, so I have to strain to hear it. 10 minutes of wrangling with her we’re still at square one and she hasn’t been able to understand my problem.
I start demanding to talk to her manager, but she keeps refusing me – says he’s busy and unavailable to talk to customers at that time… Now I’m starting to get kind of pissed. I tell her to take down my phone number and have her manager call me when he is available.
Five business days later I still haven’t heard back from One&One I call the customer service again. Same run around – this time the dude on the other end of the line understands my problem, but can’t help me with it – he doesn’t understand what is wrong on their end. Six more phone calls to One&One (all initiated by me) and I’ve still gotten nowhere. There is no customer follow up, and I never talk to the same person twice. Half the people either can’t understand me or I can’t understand them.
So, after about a month of wrangling, I finally give up and want to cancel my hosting, get my money back for the domain I never received, and transfer my other domain away from One&One over to a different host. Hah! Good luck…
I’m going to spare the rest of the details, but suffice it to say that six months later I finally got reimbursed for the domain that I never got, and two more months after that I was able to transfer my domain away from OneandOne. I never got back my money from the hosting and ended up paying for the whole 12 months. Anyway, at least I was able to prevent them from charging my account for more time by proactively calling them up and swearing at them over and over again…
In summary, my customer experience with One&One was one of the worst customer experiences I’ve ever had… The small amount of money I saved by going with One&One was definitely not worth the headache and pain of the experience.