Finding the needle in the haystack

… or the rose among thorns. I need a new host.

2 years ago when I picked my last web host I was amazed by the number of web hosting companies, There were zillions of them and they came and went like ants! I thought there would be a shakeout soon but apparently I was wrong.

So how can I filter this down? I want a Windows host that includes MS-SQL, the latest ASP.Net and .Net 4. It should also support blogging - preferably WordPress. So this narrows it down to a few million hosting companies.

ALSO: competent 24/7 get-it-right-the-first-time tech support, US or Canadian hosting, reasonable pricing, and here-to-stay. By “Here-to-stay” I mean they should have been around for years, own their own servers, and profitable in today’s lousy economy.

How do I narrow down my choices to the above?

N.B. Please don’t respond to this thread by suggesting specific companies. I’m looking for a search strategy here!

Thanks in advance!

My personal recommendation is to ignore most of the hosting “review” sites. Many of them are nothing more than a conglomerate of affiliate links even if the host isn’t all that good.

There have been several excellent suggestions already and I am going to share mine even though they may be repeats.

My first stop is usually WHT to browse around the offers forum to see if I can find something that meets my specs and needs. Then I usually search the forum for current reviews.

After finding several hosts, I like to contact their support/billing department through email/ticket/ or phone if they offer it and see what the support is like. I also keep a spreadsheet with notes so I don’t forget who I’ve talked to and what I’ve thought about a particular company.

Once I have gone through this process, I will search Google for reviews. But, as I said, I am wary of many of the review sites.

I try to narrow it down to 2 or 3 companies based on the responses I receive from them. Then I like to compare specs and prices and then make my decision.

Good luck in your search!

Agreed. Since pricing is so competitive nowadays, it all comes down to the extras; mainly support.

I judge a datacenter on whether they update (by themselves) important patches/updates, and how quick they get back to me on tickets. I also have a tech available through chat at the one I use, which is awesome.


Phone support is key for me.

The host MUST offer genuine, instant telephone support. Not just online chat, emails, ticket systems or phone callbacks, but instant telephone support from someone who can press buttons and fix things straight away.

I wouldn’t sign up with a host that can’t offer instant phone support.

I’d rather have an OK-spec server with phone support than a top-spec server without phone support. You always need urgent help somewhere down the line…


I know your looking at search strategy but I have a different way of picking webhosting.

I usually do a search and look at how long the company has been online. Then I read a few reviews to see the pro and cons. Then I contact their support with question or too and see how fast their response time is. Sometimes I even phone their support to see how knowledgeable their staff is.

@bluedreams and @Eastcoast have some great suggestions here.

Like others, I’ve tried many hosts over the years and have a couple I use now that I’ve been with for the past 3 or 4 years.

After checking the host offers the services I’m after and sufficient webspace and bandwidth I tend to go over to Web Hosting Talk and look for reviews from real people. Every company will have the odd bad review, but if they are a decent host the vast majority of reviews will be positive.

Once I’ve done that part of research, I check the host’s own forums to check feedback from more users and to see how the company responds. Here I actually prefer forums that do have people complaining about a few things as it shows that the forum is not heavily moderated.

Lastly I will use the live chat feature of the host to ask specific questions that are relevant for my needs and to see how polite and useful their customer service reps are. I always ask for a bit of history about the company and also about their infrastructure, backup policies, upgrade paths, etc.

It isn’t a quick or simple process, but if you do it well then hopefully you’ll end up somewhere you can stay for years.

Looks like godaddy would work for you. They satisfy all your conditions. I have been with them for years. Only recently I switched to a reseller by the name of because they resell godaddy products but set prices to the lowest allowed for a Pro Reseller sometimes lower than godaddy. I purchase some stuff on offer from godaddy, upon renewal the price was bloody bumped up by huge leap. I would rather pay a fixed regular than be surprised.
got this reseller from IRC programming channels. Came recommended although they are new so I was a bit worried like come and go operation. But it turns out it won’t matter because you still come under GoDaddy so they would just give you a choice or switch you to similar reseller automatically without affecting anything. hehe.
If you are interested in the reseller one then I can try to check in IRC if someone has a coupon code or soemthing. For Godady you can google and find tons of coupons that can get you a good deal :smiley:

Note: Btw, I dont use MS Platform but I assume the service would be same, the prices look same to me. I just did quick peek. And yeah I just bought a domain today with reseller with certified domain thingy but messed up the setup. Waiting for them to fix it for me.

There have been MANY members who have used 1&1 and found it to be nothing but problems. Before you even consider them, read the reviews in this forum board and the Review A Host forum board. Consider yourself warned!



Your recommendation it a very poor and outdated site. It does not have all it’s facts straight. Linux and Windows sites are incorrectly identified and bandwidth/diskspace is grossly inaccurate.

Not getting the warning any more, and I didn’t take a screenshot at the time. Sorry. Hopefully the problem is over. :frowning:

In my opinion you cannot get any better than Cyber Host Pro, absolutely great support. I have been with them 5 years now on both windows and Linux. To start I used the shared, and now I run a reseller, A great standard! if anyone would like to take a look.

@PatrickSamphire - I own I’m not seeing malware warnings (either via Google SERPs, Chrome or Firefox). Would you mind sending me a screenshot so I can get to the bottom of any problem?

Thanks for your help,


I get a malware warning when I visit that site, so I’d anti-recommend it…

So did I. But few days ago they worked good. Seems their web site was hacked.
I believe also that there are a lot of other sites with reviews and you can pay your attention on.

It’s a tough one isn’t it! Like many others I’ve been through a few poor hosts by luckily found a good one 6 years ago :slight_smile:

Some strategy suggestions then…

  1. Open up a new spreadsheet and enter a few columns for host name, the features you need etc. The idea here is to make notes of any possible hosts you find so you can do some comparisons later. I usually use a rating system from 1-5 then mark each host on each feature i want.

  2. Research
    I don’t really need to tell you this one because you’ve started already with your post!

  3. Read through web hosting forums and make notes in your spreadsheet for likely candidates.

  4. Try to avoid hosting comparison sites because they often push affiliate links and are only interested in your money.

  5. Do a whois on the hosts domain name. If they’ve been around for 10 years I’d say that’s generally a positive sign, though established companies aren’t always the best. If the domain is say 1 years old or less it probably means you’re dealing with a startup - that’s not necessarily bad because everyone has to start somewhere, conversely the drop out rate is higher in the first 1-2 years.

  6. Ask friends, family, business acqaintenances
    You never know! Personal recommendations are nearly always good.

  7. Look for money back guarantees
    Several hosts let you try before you buy, and offer things like a 30 day money back guarantee.

  8. Browse through the hosts customer comments forums (if they have one)
    Often a good source of information, it is possible to fake posts but any reputable host won’t.

  9. Browse the web
    In particular search for specific phrases like “[host name] problems”. If you get thousands of results you could safely write off those hosts mentioned. If you get just a handful of results that’s not uncommon for any host, remembering that every host will inevitably get a grumpy customer even though they don’t deserve them.

  10. Hopefully you’ll now have a few possibilities in your spreadsheet. Have a look and you might find one or two that stand out.

As a host myself of some 8 years standing, and a Unix admin of nearly 30 years standing, here are some differentiators that I’ve come up with over the years:

Make sure the host is running something that logically separates accounts, so they can’t access each other’s files and databases. This is called phpsuexec in simplest form. If your PHP runs as DSO under a user like “nobody” then you can access all the other PHP files on the server - not secure, and really open to abuse and data theft; have seen it happen with some of our clients.

Make sure the host does backups (yes really!!), that they are automatic, regular, and are rotated. One daily and one weekly isn’t enough - what if you get hacked? How long does it take them to restore?

Make sure the host runs a firewall of some sort, preferably an active firewall like CSF, that will block hackers. This limits your site’s exposure to hackers, who work systematically through their exploit libraries until they compromise your site.

Make sure your host runs something like mod_security with at least a rudimentary set of rules. This blocks many standard attacks (eg SQL injection).

Check that the host has some sort of data redundancy - do they run mirrored disks, etc. Do they have some sort of fast emergency restore strategy, on slow or large servers a restore of cpanel tarball backups (for example) can literally take days.

Don’t get too excited about large disk and bandwidth allocations - at the end of the day many of these hosts will kick you off for TOC violations if you host anything other than small web files, eg ISOs, large zip files, movies etc, all of which can sometimes be parts of sites.

Don’t expect to pay bottom dollar and get away with it forever - at the end of the day, one always gets what one pays for in one way or another! :slight_smile:

Be careful about going with a one-man (or woman) band. It’s harder for them to make it work long term, unless they’re really technical. “Harder” does not mean impossible, I know there are some great one person hosts out there who have clever contingency plans in place and provide great service.

If they fail financially, what will their strategy be - will they close shop and run, or will they sell to someone reputable who will look after their clients? This can bite very hard, and many of our clients had former hosts who disappeared overnight, taking their websites, with no chance of file recovery.

Oh - an important one - are they a reseller or do they have their “own” dedicated servers? Reselling is OK, but the parent company’s backup is always important.

One that is usually OK is - do they have server alerts if their servers go down overnight? or do they wait to get told?

I’m not a big one for 24/7 support, as many times companies claim to have it but all they have is an after hours Indian answering service, which can’t actually resolve real problems. I don’t claim that for our company as I have an ethical problem with saying we deliver something we don’t, even if it would bring in more business.

Don’t get caught up with the “overselling” thing. Everyone “oversells”, it’s more about whether hosts do so excessively, thus making the servers vulnerable to overloading problems. If a server has more than a thousand accounts, it’s just asking for trouble, although I tend to prefer to be much more conservative - having a few more servers is less expensive than having to run around dealing with performance problems all the time in my mind.

I realize this is getting pretty detailed - and that you may not actually be able to ask these questions in real life - but I hope it helps!

Here are some of my thoughts in one of our blog entries on this same topic - hope it helps: What’s special about our hosting?

Oh - one final idea: sometimes partnership with a smaller company gets you better service. Just look for the indicators of stability as well.

Some suggestions:

  1. See if they have online chat support, both sales and technical. Initiate chat, and ask your questions. See if they have answers.
  2. See if they provide trial account. If they have one, use it.
  3. See if they provide dedicated IP. It is a definite plus.
  4. If your targeted visitors are from US, use US host and so on.
  5. Be prepared to experiment. Keep away from big hosts offering small hosting fee. They severely limit the features which one will know only after hosting.

hope this helps!

if all of your potential hosts offer the same server specs and roughly the same price, you are really down to:
Customer Service & Who you want to do business with

customer service and ticket support has been covered by others.
i would suggest asking for referrals. This also lets you test out their customer service too and don’t rely on online reviews, they are too easy to fake. I would also suggest finding out who is behind the business. the host i switched to is 100% wind powered which was the primary reason I went with them. they are also a smaller locally owned business which was important to me.

One thing I’d like to add to the OP:

The purpose of what you need the host for is also important. Some hosts offer variable pricing based on traffic/bandwidth, and offer an infrastructure which can deal with sudden spikes, etc. While others provide you with more space, but limit the bandwidth, which would be more appropriate for a gallery for example.

(I’m sure you already knew this, but I just wanted to point out that the purpose should be part of your search, not just the specs.)

In my personal experience, I’d have to rank support and security as the two most important non-spec factors in finding a host. The actual cost of needing support (but not getting it) or having your security compromised can be potentially much higher than what you’re “saving” on monthly payments.

IMHO, anything below $20 should be avoided unless the only thing you’re running is a small brochure site or a personal blog.

My host is a guy I met on a webmaster forum roughly 5 years ago. I didn’t start using his hosting until maybe a year ago. He seems to have as many clients as he can handle personally, and he manages the servers himself.

We’ve dealt with eachother for so long on the forum, that any time I need support I can ask for exactly what I need and he knows exactly what I mean. My support requests are basically me asking for something, and him replying when it’s ready. I think I’ve only had to ask for something twice in the last year.