How do I evaluate a shared Web host?
Finding a decent virtual or shared Web host can only be achieved by conducting
in-depth consumer research and evaluation. Many tools exist online that
can assist the individual and small business find an extremely reliable
hosting service. With the myriad of choice available, it is necessary
for the consumer to discriminate. Since shared Web hosting is conceived
as only a low-end, low-margin commodity by the industry itself, it is
necessary for the consumer to be very wary. There are literally thousands
of Internet presence providers (IPPs) who offer shared and virtual Web
hosting services. While many provide extremely good service, others provide
service that is less than desirable. In order to find suitable Web hosts,
consumers must conduct due diligence.
shared hosting clients must therefore ensure that they test the technical
capacity of any host thoroughly before they procure their services. Advanced
testing of a potential host will reveal whether the solutions they provide
are reliable enough for your high-traffic site. Remember that your Web
host must be trusted to provide solid network infrastructure. If you select
a host that cannot provide robust connectivity, then your site's availability
to the world will suffer. For this reason, informed consumers will evaluate
potential hosting firms before they sign-up.
that consumers will not waste their good money on bad services. Reliable
testing results can be obtained through the use of sophisticated network
tools that monitor hosting performance. Such tools will determine how
often a host's servers experience outages and will generate a list of
probable reasons why hosting services are unreachable. It is advantageous
for you to use such tools to ensure that the host you select will provide
minimum downtime. Most hosting firms boast about their relentless commitment
to excellent service and server responsiveness, and usually the crowning
jewel of this commitment is 99 per cent uptime.
most hosting operations use this promise of incredible uptime as a hard
sell, few consumers actually test whether these pledges are true. Smart
consumers of hosting services, on the hand, are the first to authenticate
these service guarantees. They usually consult the services of an established
server monitoring companies such as NetMechanic.
(www.netmechanic.com) provides an integrated suite of tools that detect
problems with your Web site. The company's "Server Check" product
is an excellent choice for ensuring that your server is up 24 hours a
day. The tool will ping, traceroute and attempt to access your site via
http on a regular basis to verify that your server is up. For a small
fee, the service monitors your servers round-the-clock, and contacts you
by your choice of pager, cell phone or e-mail when your server goes down.
The tool will also generate specialized performance statistics in real-time,
so that you can monitor outage patterns to ensure that you're getting
quality uptime from your host.
also routinely attempt to check server response from your own computer.
If you are using a regular 56k dial-up connection, then you should attempt
to pull up sites on your prospective host during peak and non-peak hours.
A battery of low-cost tests is available on the network layer level of
your operating system. You can test a potential hosts' network and server
responsiveness from your MS-DOS or UNIX line prompt. In order to obtain
a true representation of the host's services, you should select Web sites
on your host's network that are typical of the services they render to
their normal clients.
thus avoid testing the host's main Web site or premier customers. These
sites are mission-critical to a hosting firm and thus are afforded an
extremely high level of maintenance, which is not always representative
of typical service.
to locate a typical client of your prospective host, execute a "whois"
search. Whois is an application that looks up critical information about
any Internet domain. This information includes ownership, location of
the host, and most importantly, its block of network numbers. By executing
the "whois -a yourhost.com" command at a UNIX line prompt, you
can search your potential host's entire block of network numbers, and
seek out a normal customer who is hosted on an individual network address.
The customer that you use should have the approximate services that you
seek. Use the ping and traceroute commands from either your UNIX or DOS
prompt to test server responsiveness. You also can obtain many free or
shareware WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) network tools for the
Windows platform that can test server responsiveness. An excellent suite
of bundled network tools is provided free-of-charge by CyberKit Technologies
Using a line-prompt
or WYSIWYG application, attempt to "ping" sites from the prospective
host on your computer. Ping is the networking equivalent of sonar. The
network tool is used to verify that a given server is actually reachable,
and measures the delay that occurs when sending a data packet to it and
a "traceroute" from your computer is also an interesting and
informative experiment to run on a hosting company. Traceroute applications
allow you to map the direction that data travels over the Internet. By
conducting a traceroute, you can determine whether the data you have requested
from your prospective host will take a direct or indirect path to you.
The most successful incident of a traceroute is therefore when data takes
the shortest route to your computer.
conducted manually on a regular 56k connection will give you a rough indication
of your client's response time if you were to choose the prospective host
that your testing. In essence, these tests determine whether a host provides
the lowest level of network latency, ensuring that data is passed to browsers
and other Internet applications as quickly as possible. Your aim must
be to ensure that the delay between request and response from a prospective
hosting service is as short as possible. Making this determination is
only possible if you conduct serious tests on prospective hosts before
hosting your content there.
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