I’ve never been picky when it comes to accommodation. Growing up in a middle-class household, I was never lacking in basic needs but I’ve always been taught enough humility to always appreciate what we have. I like to think of myself as never entitled but also never lacking in standards and that mentality was tested last year when I went on a romantic getaway with an ex. It turns out that the hotel I booked was undergoing some construction and for reasons I could never possibly fathom, they gave us a room on the wing that was undergoing construction. It was during the off-season and the hotel was at low capacity but we had to wait until the third day of our five-day stay to finally be moved into a much quieter room.
That experience taught me to be more thorough when it comes to choosing hotels which is getting increasingly more important now that I’m relying more and more on AirBnB for my accommodation. With the world moving ever closer to the digital realm, our definition of accommodation too could use some major rethinking. It’s not enough now to simply apply our standards to the physical spaces we occupy as our digital identity is just as important. Just as we pore over reviews before booking a hotel, it’s about the time we do the same to web hosting services that house our websites.
The quality of digital accommodations
If you’ve ever rented or leased an apartment, you should know very well just how much of your experience is going to be decided by your landlord and/or building management. They’re going to have a lot of control over your day-to-day living situation and they’re also the first person you’re going to run to whenever there’s a problem in your place. I once for example lived in a building where tenants are expressly forbidden to have any work done in their room without permission from the management which was mildly annoying as even the act of having my air conditioner serviced required me to deal with bureaucracy.
This issue is even more important for businesses as their place of operation can have a direct and pretty sizable influence on their bottom line. I once read of a case somewhere in Asia where a shopping mall had some problems with their underground ventilation system that led several employees and customers to pass out on the premises, leading to temporary closure of the mall in question. It’s not just the temporary closure that hurts business as I’m guessing the mall’s loss of credibility would also create some more problems down the line.
From the outset, websites might not fall under the same restrictions that might befall physical spaces but trust me when I say that there’s almost always a digital equivalent to everything. From the level of customer support, accessibility, the level of provided services, etc, there’s quite a bit you’re going to have to pay attention to when choosing the right web hosting services. Your web host is going to quite literally serve as the foundation of your website and you’re going to want to avoid the following 4 mistakes when choosing a web host.
You’ve fallen prey to the ‘free’ trap
If something is available for free, you are the product. Facebook, Google, radio stations and broadcast TV almost all run ads. Government-funded services such as ABC do not run ads but practically every other ‘free’ commercial services available out there either nickel-and-dime users for money or they run ads. This is to say that nothing is ever really free and if a web host is offering their service free of charge, you’re going to have to give them something in return which typically comes in 3rd part ads. That might sound harmless but what if you’re a business offering toys for 6-12 kids only to have ads of a sleazy nature appearing on your website?
Not paying attention to the voice of the people
In the digital game distribution platform Steam, users are encouraged to write reviews that will promptly be displayed on the store page for said game. Let me tell you right here and now that if you’re looking for both the best and worst humanity has to offer, Steam user reviews have them all in spades. I get that customers can be some of the most entitled and ungrateful bunch of people but they’re also capable of being critical and insightful. This means that whenever you’re about to commit to a product and/or a service, it’s always best to first read to what users have to say to give you an idea on what you should expect. Make sure to read multiple reviews however as one is never going to be representative enough.
Pay attention to terms and conditions
This is actually quite similar to the first point as even if they’re offering their service free of charge, there could be some additional restrictions placed on you in the terms and conditions. This is why you want to pay extra close attention to the fine print when comparing services and why you might first want to get in touch with a representative before fully committing to a web host. If you’re somewhat technologically inept, which by the way isn’t something to be ashamed of; you want to make sure to include someone from your development/engineering team in the conversation to ensure you’re not missing any details.
Going with the best service available
How is going with the best service available a mistake, you ask? Because the best tend to be the most expensive as well and the goal here is to find something that’s best-suited for you, not something that’s objectively the best. Just as how you might not need a full kitchen in your apartment if you’re going to order in most of the time, you want to make sure that you’re not going overboard with your hosting package. Make a list of the features you need, features that would be nice to have and features that you’re never going to use and make your decision based on these three categories.