Unbiased Web Hosting Company Review – Just The Facts

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Readers of my professional freelance writing blog know that I have had some trouble with Dreamhost in the past few months. No, this isn’t one of those Dreamhost sucks rants, but rather a comprehensive, fact-based, review of the incidents and responses that occurred while I was hosting websites on Dreamhost web hosting services.

My hope is that others will find this review and point others in this direction so that they can evaluate the FACTS for themselves. My further hope is that this review will inspire others to write up their own comprehensive, fact-based, reviews of other web hosting companies that they have experience with so that we can all start getting the hosting we need without all of the frustration we currently must suffer.

About Web Hosting Company Reviews

There is one thing you must know about web hosts and the people who review them. First, many webhosts, especially the "more popular" or higher volume, hosts offer significant referral fees or other payments to those who send new customers their way.

In other words, if I were to include a referral link with this post, I could get $79 or some other similar amount if you clicked the link and then signed up for hosting services. This is a huge incentive to write glowing reviews and include paid links. So, be very careful about the reviews you read.

Another problem is that people with bad experiences are more likely to go out of their way to both make a big deal out of it, and then to write long, detailed posts about what went wrong. The trouble is, there is no way to know whether this user was wronged, got what they deserved, or maybe was just unlucky. Not even the best company can make every customer happy.

Unfortunately, you have to contrast these long, overblown, tirades with people who insist on chipping in with nothing more than "I’ve use blah-blah hosting for 2 years without any problems."

Just like before, there is no way to know whether or not that user is representative of numerous satisfied customers, or maybe THEY are the lucky one. Or, maybe they have a single, tiny, 5 hits per day, website that you could keep up and running in the background of your laptop if you wanted to.

In other words, the more reviews you read, the more likely you are to come to the conclusion that web hosting companies are just like cell phone companies. They all are terrible at customer service and most of their customers would gladly switch if only they knew for sure it would be any different with another company, but since they all seem to be equally hated, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.

The unfortunate thing is that after actually USING a few different web hosts over the last year or two, I’ve learned that there ARE true, comparable, differences between the various web hosting companies. Unfortunately, you’ll never see those tangible differences on any of the so-called web hosting review websites out there.

If you are still reading, don’t despair. There is hope. In addition to being a comprehensive, based on experience, review of Dreamhost, I will also show you how to find the best web hosting companies to try out AND show you how to find out some additional information about any webhosting company you are researching so that you can make the best informed decision you possibly can, and hopefully, save yourself a lot of frustration.

(Yes, it will take multiple parts to cover all of this information. Trust me, it will be worth it. Keep reading. It won’t take long and I’ll bet you a dollar you’ll learn more from this serious than you will from reading a thousand web host reviews.)

Shared Web Hosting Reviews

Like many webmasters and other website developers, I chose a shared hosting plan. A shared hosting plan means that the server running your website also is running the websites for other users. The key element in this equation is that the server be powerful enough to handle the hosting for all users on the server.

The tricky part is that a user who uses virtually no resources today can suddenly start using a lot of resources. The cliché example is that a website that normally gets a low volume of traffic is suddenly hammered thanks to making the front page of Digg, or being "slashdotted" which means being linked to from the very popular Slashdot.com website.

However, this is typically not the issue. Rather, any webhosting company incurs an added expense for each additional server it purchases and runs in its datacenter. Like any business, a webhost’s revenues must exceed its expenses to make a profit and stay in business. Thus, it is necessary for the hosting provider to minimize expenses by only using the number of servers required to properly service its customers. Getting that number right, is the hard part.

If a server is capable of handling 100 customers each using an average of 16 MB of RAM without any disruption of service, then the host will profit the most by placing the full 100 users on each server. Slashdotting or Digg front page aside, a customer may simply become more successful with driving traffic to their site. This may increase their memory usage to 50 MB of RAM. At this point, the host has a choice, either provide an additional shared hosting server and rebalance the load, or hope that other users on the same server use less than the planned for 16 MB of RAM.

There is a nuance here that is difficult for any hosting service to nail down completely. Is the increase in memory usage permanent? How likely are other users to use more memory? How close is the server to its "breaking point" at this load? Are there other shared servers with more room to spare, and if so, would moving this user, or other users, to that server solve the problem. And so on.

How the hosting company responds to this issue determines how good of a shared hosting provider they are. A shared host company that maintains a large buffer to the end of the server’s resources and errors on the side of more servers (and more expenses) is a web host that will be more stable and, frankly, a better host.

A shared hosting plan provider that chooses instead to error on the side of fewer servers (and lower expenses) is more likely to get the complicated calculus of server resources wrong and thus suffer more downtime, outages, and the like.

There is another option available to web hosting companies. It’s called the Terms of Service, and it is where the real limitations on your shared hosting account are. This will be true of virtually all shared hosting plans.

Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. There are a few different types of webhosting out there and they are very different in how they work.

Any web hosting plan that offers you "unlimited" traffic or disk space is a shared hosting plan.

That is because all of the other types provide you an actual guarantee about exactly how much system resources you get to use. You can’t offer unlimited if you are actually going to try and live up to it.

That should tell you something very important. All hosting except shared hosting comes with an actual guaranteed amount of resources that you get, and they provide much lower limits and they cost more. In other words, those numbers on shared hosting plans aren’t just technically incorrect, they are simply not truthful.

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