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Web Hosting Gotchas

Here are some things to watch out for when selecting a web host.  Some are tricks, some just business practices of the industry or minor problems.  You can usually find them by carefully reading host's terms of use and acceptable use policies.

  • "Unlimited" space, transfer, etc.  This is usually just an advertising gimmick.  Almost all hosts that have "unlimited" plans, specify in their Acceptable Use Policies that no site can use an "excessive" amount of resources.  If you use too much disk space, bandwidth, or CPU time, these "unlimited" hosts will ask you to upgrade or leave.  We recommend against using "unlimited" hosts so you know exactly what you're getting.
  • Daily transfer limits.  Very few hosts have such limits, but you should be aware that you can't just multiply by 30 to get the monthly transfer limit because transfer usage is uneven.
  • Setup fees.  Few hosts hide the fact that there is a setup fee until you get to the signup page.
  • PayPal-only payment.  Few hosts only accept payment by PayPal, not by a credit card.
  • Limits on file size.  Some hosts limit maximum sizes of files (not to the total space used for all files, but the maximum size of a single file).  This can prevent customers from putting files for download or having big graphics.
  • Not allowing downloads.  Some hosts won't let you use a large percentage of your available transfer for file downloads.
  • FTP transfer limit.  Few hosts have limits on FTP use.
  • Bad uptime guarantees.  These guarantees usually have multiple qualifications, such as making only unannounced uptime count, often making them useless.
  • Limit on database size that is only listed in the terms of use.
  • Very high extra space and additional transfer costs.  It is normal for extra space and transfer to cost more than they do for the initial account, but these additional costs can often be way too high.
  • No emergency phone number.  Many cheapest hosts only have email or chat support.
  • Severe limits on resource use.  All hosts impose some CPU limits on shared plans but some hosts  forbid all resource intensive scripts, such as message boards.
  • Slow setup.  Many hosts are not fully automated (sometimes to prevent fraud) and the setup can take a couple business days.
  • No support on weekends.
  • High domain name prices.  We don't recommend using hosts for domain name registration because many hosts' prices are not very competitive.
  • No control panel.  This may be OK for experienced webmasters but many new users need a control panel.
  • No POP access to emails.  Some hosts only offer Web access to site's email accounts.
  • Limit on monthly site hits.  Few hosts do that in addition to transfer limits.  
  • Long commitment to the host required.
  • No money back guarantee.


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