Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Hosting solutions

This is sort of "off topic" for me, but this morning's events reminded me again of an article I read in the SB Post back in early October. Adrian Weckler was advocating that Irish companies go with US-based web hosting companies rather than their Irish counterparts.

I agree and I disagree with him.

I've had the Newshound hosted with a US-based hosting company for 3 or 4 years or so. I chose them originally because (a) the price was right and (b) there was no reasonable alternative in Ireland. I had been using an Irish company before that, but they charged a whole lot more for a whole lot less.

Looking back, I think I should have done more research before choosing my hosting company. I may have found a better fit, but at that time I couldn't have anticipated the technical developments that I've added since. Still, they did offer a much, much better deal than my Irish company.

Weckler emphasizes web space in his article. Space is important, especially if you have a photograph-dependent site. Anything less than 500MB will be totally inadequate. A 2GB limit sounds good.

But, possibly more important (certainly for me) is uptime. Some sites guarantee 99% uptime. Others guarantee 99.9% uptime. Others guarantee 99.99%.

There are 720 hours in a 30-day month. If your site is up 99% of the time, that means that every month your site could be down over 7 hours. You may not think that's a lot, but those 7 hours may not be while your customers are sleeping or golfing. It could be the busiest day of the month and the busiest hours of that day.

Even 99.9% is probably inadequate. Your site will be down three quarters of an hour every month. Sufficient for many, but not for any serious eBusiness.

I would recommend that any serious eBusiness should be looking for 99.99% uptime and at least 1GB of web space. Presuming you can use Linux tools, PHP scripting and MySQL are also MUSTS. There are other factors to consider too.

And, the last (& possibly MOST important) consideration is how difficult is a potential hosting company to contact when things do go wrong. I hate overpaying if I don't have to, but I'd be willing to pay a little extra for a company that I could actually get on the phone any hour of any day.

This is important no matter what guarantee you get because sometimes your site will go down due to factors that are outside the control of your web host. Your guarantee won't mean anything, but if you can at least find out what's gone wrong it will help somewhat. If all you have is an e-mail address, then when your site is down, it's almost a certainty that so is your web hosting company's. And, their mail servers are probably down too so e-mail contact is out.

This is where an Irish company going with an Irish hosting provider might (and I emphasize might) do better than with a hosting company in the US. I know I wouldn't sign-up with any Irish host that didn't provide me with real 24/7 contact information. If an Irish company's not willing to provide that to their Irish customers, then I agree with Weckler.

Are there any hosting companies out there who want to make me a reasonable offer?