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Choosing A Host - Things to Watch For

At last count there were more than 3 million companies offering web hosting services. That is an awful large pond to find the fish that suits you. Just because a company spends a bundle buying favorable reviews and advertising does not mean that company provides a good hosting product and service. It simply means they spent a bundle which they will pass along to you in inflated hosting and design fees.

What you should know about buying web space.

For most people the problem with buying web space is they don't really know what they're looking at when they buy it. Many times they buy what sounds like the "biggest" package they can get on their budget, or they buy the first package they see, and think they are all alike.

A package that claims to have "Unlimited" web space, and transfer may sound like the biggest "package" you can get, but rest assured, there are many more important features, and considerations in buying web space. To make things even more confusing, some hosting companies are cheating and lying to their customers! Take a second and find out how below:

Do I need the free site builder tools... many hosting companies offer?

That depends on how much your site will be changing, your needs and also the site building tools being offered. If you are worried about the initial fee from a web developer for building a site make sure you look at the overall cost. Does it really make sense to obligate yourself to hundreds of dollars per month for site building tools when just a little more up front to pay the developer to build the site would let you maintain your site for $9.95 per month.

Example: You sign up for hosting and a cute site building program at a cost of $99.00 per month. They also do search engine submission and page optimization. Cost for 12 months - $1,188.00

Alternative: Pay a designer $400.00 to design your site, get 12 months of hosting at $9.95 and take advantage of search engine submission for FREE. Cost for 12 months - $519.40

Which one would you choose?
Space, The "Unlimited" Trap.

When shopping for a web hosting company, keep in mind that many companies offer MUCH less space than what's in our packages, and call it "unlimited." In making this claim, the company will cover themselves with some tiny, well hidden fine print (look real close!), or simply rely on their customers not using all of what they are paying for. When the customer doesn't use all of what they pay for, they can use that space to cover another customer who is using more than what they thought they might. One of the problems with this technique is, they have to cheat all the customers that don't use more space than they expected, to support those who do.

What do we mean by "cheat"? Read the fine print closely with the "Unlimited" packages. You'll almost always discover that you won't be allowed to resell, or even give away "YOUR" web space. In other words, should you decide to make your best friend a web site, or let them use your space to build it in a subdirectory ... that's just tough... it is prohibited by their well hidden fine print. The explanation usually is because people would abuse the "Unlimited" space these companies generously give you. To a certain extent this is true ... BUT, what effectively happens, is "YOUR SPACE" is limited to exactly what you need for your site. Note: Some companies will even go as far as deleting your files, and pictures, if they are not linked to a page in your site! A few hosting companies take it a step further. It's not enough to limit you to exactly what you need, but they'll limit you to whatever THEY happen to need to run their servers smoothly! So when you need more space, instead of moving some domains to a less crowded server to accommodate you, they restrict YOUR "UNLIMITED" space and bandwidth so that they can pack more accounts on the same server and make more money!

Here is an example of the above principle at work. This is a direct quote from another hosts web site:

*The unlimited traffic and disk storage policy has been established for the ease of use and enjoyment of all our customers. We reserve the right to limit your disk usage and/or traffic if your site is negatively affecting the performance of our other customers.
Limit it to what??? EXACTLY how much?? They don't say ... pretty much leaves how much space and traffic you can use for your site up to the hosting company. Apparently, it sounds good for them to say "NO LIMITS!" in their ads, and they probably fool a lot of people who don't read the fine print.
With RealWebCo.com, not only do you know EXACTLY how much space and bandwidth you have, but YOUR space is YOURS! We don't care if you back-up your hard drive on it! You paid for it, and it's yours, period! With options such as extra telnet/ftp/pop accounts, your customers or friends can have their own password, to edit their sites.

Sure, we could say "unlimited" because the odds are, you'll never use all the space that comes with your package. Our philosophy is simple ... top-notch customer service means being up front, and honest with customers. You should always know exactly what you are getting, with no hidden charges. We don't want to cheat, or overcharge "the little guy", just on the off chance that another customer might actually use more space than we thought they would. It's just plain dishonest, and that's bad business!

In reality, space itself does not make the package. Even if hosting companies could offer you unlimited space (yes, it's a physical impossibility, but let's pretend), you're still just getting a huge shell of a "vehicle". What's important, is what comes with it! Just as a huge roomy bus with no engine, no air-conditioning, no power steering or brakes, would be horribly un-fun, and difficult to drive... so it is with a web site with lots of space and no features.

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Traffic... They Said it was "unlimited"!

Just as "unlimited space" is a physical impossibility, so is "unlimited transfer". Beware of companies that offer this as a feature, as there is always some type of fine print that releases them from actually giving you "unlimited traffic". One common stipulation, is to offer you "unlimited traffic" with a little link to the fine print of:

"If you use more than 20% (or even 10%) of system resources, you don't qualify for 'unlimited traffic'. "
Bottom Line: if you are limited to a percentage of system resources (or limited to anything else for that matter) then it's nothing short of a lie to represent a hosting package as having "unlimited" traffic! There are other stipulations, and deceitful methods that many companies use to give you the illusion of unlimited traffic, and once you sign a contract for a year, you can't even back out of it, and find a respectable hosting company.

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Cgi-bin... Do you need it or not?

It's important that you understand when you buy web space, exactly what is offered in any given package. This means understanding each feature, so that you'll know if you want or need it, that is available to you. Just because you may not know how to write your own cgi-script, doesn't mean that you won't be able to install a script that you get elsewhere!

For example: if you know you're going to want a guest book, then select a hosting package that either comes with a guest book, OR gives you your own cgi-bin, so that you can either get your own guest book script to run, or write your own. We provide you with both...already set up! Why? Because if you want a guest book, but don't know how to write your own, you'll have it.

Having your own cgi-bin is extremely important, because cgi-scripts are used in so many ways to do so many things. Almost anything interactive on a web site is done with cgi-scripts. With your own cgi-bin (not just access to a community one) you have the option of using scripts that are needed to run your site. There are many free versions of just about any script you can imagine all over the net. With our packages you can either use the ones we provide or install your own. Here are a few examples of some scripts:

Guest books
Site searches
Forms (to email the webmaster, etc.)
Counters
Bulletin boards
Shopping carts
Rotating banner ads
Site traffic statistics programs
Random text displayer
Free for all link pages
Electronic postcards

AND MUCH MUCH MORE!

Even the footers (links, logo, and copyright) on all of our pages are put there by a script (using server side includes, or ssi, which we also provide free support for). If we want to add another link there, we change the text in ONE file, and ALL of our pages are updated at once.
We don't require that you have your scripts pre-approved. In fact, with RealWebCo.com, you get your OWN cgi-bin! Don't settle for having "access" to a hand-full of scripts that some hosting company piled there for everyone to use. Even if you know nothing about cgi-scripts, with a little reading, and some practice, most scripts that you find (for free) are easily implemented into your web site.

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Email Features... How much is enough?

100 - 500 - Unlimited POP accounts!! Wow ... such a deal!! Now think about it (And read the fine print on sites that offer unlimited POP accounts) - How many POP email boxes do you really need. You probably already have one with your dial-up provider - maybe a few free web-based accounts as well. Unless you're running a site for an extremely large company, chances are you'll never need more than 10 to 15 POP email accounts for your site since you can use aliases/catch-all features for most instances. Many companies advertise "Unlimited Pop accounts" because it makes their packages seem bigger, and probably 95% of all of their accounts never use more than about five of them anyway.

With RealWebCo.com, your account is setup to receive all emails sent to anything@yourdomain.com in the main pop email box of your account, which by default is yourdomain@yourdomain.com

You do not have to edit anything to accomplish this, but of course you can change it if you like. The difference between a pop account and an email alias, is that a pop account has its own login and password. Think of a pop account like a virtual email box, while an alias simply forwards to somewhere else. As described above, any alias not specifically told to forward elsewhere is automatically forwarded to the main pop account of yourdomain@yourdomain.com

If you do need more pop accounts - we can of course provide them, however most email needs can be handled through the alias and forwarding functions we provide.

Be sure to check what other companies charge for autoresponders, email aliases, email forwarding, and mailing lists (usually 5.00/month each, IF they even offer them) when comparing prices (we say "other" companies because ours are free, and unlimited) Now hold on! ... you said unlimited was impossible?? True! Better use the number 500 or 1000 for email aliases, forwarding, autoresponders, and mailing lists. Even though any mail sent to whatever@yourdomain.com comes to you, without you having to change a thing, there's probably a limit to the number of combinations of keys and numbers on any given keyboard.

These are extremely important features that many companies charge an arm and a leg for! If you had to pay 5.00 each for these features, and you only bought five of each, you'd pay $100.00 per month for these features alone.. that's not counting any web space, traffic, an email account, or anything else. In short, you're much better off not buying these features separately, because they add up quickly. If we charged only 5.00 each, and use a low number like 100 as a ceiling for "unlimited" (That's only 25 of each for email aliases, forwarders, autoresponders, and mailing lists) these features would cost $2,000 PER MONTH!

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Misc. Features... What do they do?

Secured Socket Layer

Check to see what they charge for SSL access (if you ever decide to accept credit cards on your site, you'll HAVE to have it). Here's one "unlimited" hosting company's quote:

"$449 One time setup fee, and $20 monthly fee The secure server setup includes the purchase of a $349 Digital ID from Verisign."

At RealWebCo.com, we don't try to sell you your own certificate from Verisign, because there's no reason why you can't just use ours, and save your money! We give you FREE Access to our site certificate, and SSL encryption. There's no charge to set it up, and no charge to use it, no matter how much you use it!

MSQL2 Support

Useful for creating and maintaining databases on your site. RealWebCo.com provides this feature at no cost to you. You simply set it up through the control panel. We allow 4 databases per account.

Server Side Includes

Used for many purposes, such as site-wide traffic counters, banner rotation programs, and much more! (see the cgi-section for another example) RealWebCo.com provides this feature at no cost to you.

Microsoft Front Page Extensions

An extremely popular program written for web page design, for people who don't know how to program the code to make web pages, and professionals alike. RealWebCo.com provides support for this program at no cost to you. We will set up your account to be compatible with Front Page extensions at your request.

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Support... Can you reach them when it counts?

Almost all web hosting companies offer some form of support. The important questions to ask are:

How qualified are the people in support?

How do I contact support?

How long does it take support to answer my question by email?

What if I can't send email to support? Is there a phone number I can call?

If support is "free" why should I have to pay long distance charges to contact them by phone?

All of our technical support staff are highly trained, and experienced in every aspect of your service. You can rest assured that they are more than qualified to handle support for your account and actually enjoy helping you.

We handle support requests through email, web based form inquiries, and fax. Some hosting companies advertise 800 live support to their customers. From experience, we've found manning a 24 hour support phone line is not cost effective and we wouldn't trust a contractor to handle the calls. With a world-wide customer base, live 800 support just isn't practical. Besides - the last thing we want is to have our customers sort through some silly phone menu and then have to wait "for the next support representative to handle your call." Our staff is usually able to answer questions by email in 12 hours or less, many times getting you the information you need in just minutes! In fact, if you haven't heard from us in 24 hours, we want you to contact us and let us know about it! We'll make it a priority!

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Referrals... What's in it for you?

Once your web site is running, and especially if your hosting company lists you as a client or lists your comments in a "testimonial" section, you will find that people will ask you what you think of the company that is hosting your site. They'll want to know what you think of the support you have, and if your company is all they claim to be. Most hosting companies don't offer referral incentives, but we believe that you should be rewarded for the time it takes you to answer email, or explain our services to a friend.

That's why we give you a FREE month of service, for every referral you send us that signs up for our services!

We believe that people are going to seek you out and ask questions regardless of whether or not we list you somewhere on our site. We believe our services are excellent enough that you will naturally be excited about telling your friends, and others who ask, all about us. We are confident that you will be happy enough with our services to recommend us to these people, if we reward you for it or not... It's just our way of saying "Thank You"

If, for ANY reason, you are not completely satisfied with our performance, we want to hear from you! Contact us and tell us what's wrong, and how we can make it right for you!

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They said I'd get a free toaster!!

In an attempt to distract you, a few hosting companies are now offering "Free" Airline Tickets, cd's, and other merchandise.. even PIZZA! Talk about insulting your intelligence! They seem to not only think that their visitors are gullible enough to fall for their "unlimited" lies about space and bandwidth, but they also seem convinced that people will be so happy about getting a free pizza that they won't pay any attention to their lack of web hosting features, over-priced packages, misleading tactics, etc...

One company even claims to offer a free computer with purchase of an annual package! We respond, once again, with "Read the Fine Print". There's always a catch that makes the deal pretty much worthless:

The airline tickets are for limited dates and/or require you to stay a minimum number of nights at specific hotels charging outrageous rates. You'll never use them. The computer doesn't have a name (did they say it was new?), or a monitor, modem, CD-drive, etc.... It barely has any RAM, and you'd probably have to spend a ton of money to upgrade it enough to even run an operating system like Windows 98! You'd probably spend more trying to upgrade it than if you bought a name brand online.

Ask yourself if you would rather have the price of your web hosting package (with fewer, inferior features) jacked up from now on, so they can afford to "give" you a useless, outdated computer you could buy for 35.00 yourself anyway? Take a minute to browse the discussion/news groups, and you'll find that these same hosting companies are being repeatedly bashed by its ex-customers, for poor (or "non-existent") customer service, down-times exceeding FIVE DAYS IN A ROW, and other night mares, which are sure to include "computer" problems and disappointments as well. Don't get yourself stuck in an over-priced annual contract with an unreliable, underhanded company, just to get an oversized paper-weight.

Plain and simple... We're in the web hosting business. That's what we do. (and we do it well!) We're not carnival marketers, or scam artists, nor are we even the least bit interested in taking advantage of anyone, especially not the intellectually challenged people who might think "Well, they don't have quite what I want, and they are a little expensive, but they do have unlimited everything, and I sure would like to have those free fingernail clippers and the beef jerky!"

You can find a few cheaper services, and a LOT that are more expensive, and nowadays you can probably even find a few that will offer you some swamp-land in Arizona, or a free peanut butter and jelly sandwich (if you sign up for a year) but you won't find a better web hosting service anywhere in the world at any price!

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