In the early days of the internet and websites, it was government institutions and large corporations that were hosting websites. The reason was that it required costly hardware and software that was difficult to setup, configure and secure. However as with most technology, over time it evolves and becomes more available to everyone. This is often a good thing, however, as more people have learned how to develop websites, they have also decided that they can make money not only developing websites, but hosting websites and email solutions. Unfortunately many of these people have absolutely no business hosting websites or email as they don’t have the knowledge and resources to do it properly. They take risk with your website and your email. Here are just a few things I’ve seen over the years and things you should question:

How old is the hardware you will be hosting my website or email system on? 
There are company’s hosting websites on hardware that is 7 to 10 years old! It is often still running 32 bit technology and the company who manufactured the equipment won’t even support it anymore. Some company’s will continue to host websites and email on equipment like that and take the risk and hope it doesnt’ go down. If it does, they visit eBay or a salvage company to try and find parts. Instead of setting aside some of their budget for annual hardware upgrades, they pocket it.

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Where is the equipment you are hosting my website, email system or application housed?
If it’s in their basement and they are using consumer grade electrical and internet services, I would definitely take pause and ask myself if that is the host for you. Even if they are hosting in within a data center, they could still be using older equipment, or it could not be configured or installed correctly as they often just rent space from within the data center, but maintain their own rack within that data center. The image is an example of how unorganized one company is and how much they care about their customers websites and email. The cables were so squished against the back cabinet door when you closed it that almost all air flow through the cabinet was blocked. Ask to visit and be given a tour of their data center!

What kind of up time and response time should I expect when I visit my site?
If you combine older equipment and/or poor network connectivity you are going to get a slow website. This costs you time in updating your content and users to leave your website. A properly designed and maintained web and email environment should respond well. Some companies employ web server side caching to help deliver web pages quicker. However, ensure that equipment is being maintained and updated. Many server web caching companies provided web hosting companies with equipment to try so they could get real life testing statistics. After testing was completed, the web hosting company should have at least purchased maintenance for the equipment to keep it up to date, or return it. Some kept it and just continue to use it without any updates. This increases the security risk for their clients and decrease, or even defeats the original purpose of the device.

Check to see if your web hosting company has System Engineers and System Administrators on staff.
Often small companies who setup their own hosting servers do so with little or no System engineering assistance and totally ignore basic system administration tasks and maintenance.

Ensure if a company is hosting your email, they have some kind of continuity program in place.
There are email hosting companies out there that put up an email server and host hundred of domains with absolutely no email continuity program in place. A good setup will ensure that if the email server goes down, incoming email is queued up and delivered once the server is restored. There are some companies that have no such program in place and their clients either loose emails, or they don’t look very professional when the emails get bounced back to the originator.

I could go on and on about some of my experiences out in the industry. What I do know is that there are web hosting companies hosting websites and email systems that simply shouldn’t be doing so! They are investing little to no money in the infrastructure your website or email system reside on while charging you $50 to $150 a month for hosting your site. Ask some questions and ensure you are getting your money’s worth before their son goes into the back room and turns off the server you are running your application on, or someday you realize your website was literally hanging by a thread (in the above picture, the white box hanging by the one white cable is the actual connection to the internet)!