After introducing our Servers Comparison Engine WH.PerfectDeals.Today few weeks ago in order to help IT professionals and businesses instantly compare thousands of VPS, Dedicated, GPU and MacOS server offers from hundreds of providers in 40+ countries, we are proud to announce the introduction of the Web Hosting Pyramid of Needs™.
During the past few months, we have collected some data about thousands of web hosting providers from different countries. We have analyzed hundreds of websites and discovered a lot of interesting things which are making customers' and prospects lives harder during the selection process in order to purchase the right web hosting service for their projects.
No one can ignore the fact that competition in the marketplace represents the critical driver of performance and innovation. It benefits everyone by enabling customers to choose from an array of excellent service offerings at affordable prices. At the same time, globalization and the low barrier to entry have their advantages and disadvantages. Web hosting providers are facing big challenges and working very hard to survive in this aggressively competitive market.
In this fully virtual world, online trust is required but impossible at the same time. The huge number of available providers and offers is making things more challenging. Providers from everywhere and nowhere are entering and exiting the market everyday which puts customers at risk.
Most people and businesses ask the same question again and again about "How to choose the best web hosting provider?". This is a legitimate question because of the following challenges:
huge number of available providers,
huge number of available offers,
big pricing differences (even for similar offers),
lack of online trust in a fully virtual world,
previous bad experiences with other providers,
online fake, paid, untrusted, anonymous reviews,
people want to get better for less,
people want to get value for their money,
people want to get reliable and secure services,
people want the ease of doing business with a trusted professional partner,
people want to avoid frustration, waste of time, energy and money,
most people who are new to the web hosting industry are not aware about what is critical, important or less important,
The Web Hosting Pyramid of Needs™ as a solution:
The "Best" solution/choice always depends on the customer specific needs. What works perfectly for others may not work for someone. Providers are looking for their ideal customers, and customers are looking for the perfect providers/offers that fit their needs within their budget in a specific location.
As an attempt to help answer the question above and provide some guidelines, we have created what we've called "The Web Hosting Pyramid of Needs™". This pyramid is an inspiration from Maslow's Pyramid of Needs.
The "The Web Hosting Pyramid of Needs™" can be used by customers in order to help them choose the right web hosting partner who will be able to provide the perfect offers that fit their needs within their budget in the location of their choice. At the same time, it is used as an audit checklist for web hosting providers to help them implement the required improvements (tools, processes and people).
The Web Hosting Pyramid of Needs™ is used as part of our new WebHosting Trust Index (WHTrustIndex™) which will be gradually integrated to our Servers Comparison Engine WH.PerfectDeals.Today.
The Web Hosting Pyramid of Needs™ is a five-tier model combining thirty-five (35) evaluation criteria. Every person and business has specific needs and their focus depends on the importance of every need to them. When a deficit need is more or less satisfied it will go away, and we start focusing on meeting the next set of needs that we have yet to satisfy. The five levels are as follow:
1) Availability: This represents the most critical and important aspect. No one wants to have a web hosting service (shared, VPS, dedicated, colocation, cloud, SaaS, etc) which is poorly designed and maintained, frequently down, not stable, not reliable, not secure, etc,
2) Security & trust: Once the first tier needs are satisfied, security and trust represent some of the very important aspects. People and businesses want to ensure that the web hosting provider is a trusted professional entity to ensure the security of their valuable data, personal and non personal information, payment information, etc,
3) Support:This represents an important aspect, not only for fully managed services. Web Hosting providers have to ensure they are providing a quality support/customer services for their customers. This includes self-support via a Knowledge base and other tools, human support via phone, ticket or chat, etc.
4) Features: These are specific requirements to each customer. They include the different service offerings (shared, VPS, dedicated, colocation, domain names, SSL, etc), multi-location availability when needed, integration tools and options (API, etc), any freebies (free services, upgrades and features), the services' technical specs (storage, memory, CPU power, account limitations for shared hosting, etc), etc.
5) Pricing: Getting excellent services with affordable/good pricing is the ideal scenario for customers. But for most people and businesses this is not very critical compared to previously listed needs (Even for those looking for free services). Everyone wants to get better for less whenever possible. We do consider monthly fees, initial setup fees and any other hidden or known fees in the evaluation criteria.
In the following section, we will provide additional details about each tier and criteria:
This tier represents the most critical and important aspect. No one wants to have a web hosting service (shared, VPS, dedicated, colocation, cloud, SaaS, paid or free, etc) which is poorly designed and maintained, frequently down, not stable, not reliable, not secure, etc.
Network infrastructure availability (uptime/reliability): Network infrastructure reliability represents the foundation of any web hosting provider. Some of the providers own their data centers, others rent servers and colocation spaces from the owners (Sometimes it is a multilevel resellers chain). All professional web hosting providers build and invest in a very reliable network infrastructures. They usually have mature and well defined maintenance, incident and outage management processes and communicate in a transparent way any event to their customers.
Server availability (uptime/reliability): In the shared, VPS, cloud and dedicated server world, server availability is critical. The hardware reliability, server performance and uptime represent a critical differentiator. A poorly deployed, secured and maintained server will have a negative impact on the hosted applications and services. Different management levels are available based on the offers. Self-managed and managed environments are the well known packages.
If you want to monitor your websites' availability from different locations, check this partner's offer. They have a FREE offer (5 Uptime Monitors from 3 Locations Checked and more).
2) Security & trust:
Once the first tier needs are satisfied, security and trust represent some of the very important aspects. People and businesses want to ensure that the web hosting provider is a trusted entity to ensure the security of their data, personal and non personal information, payment information, etc.
Infrastructure security: How the provider secures the infrastructure (network, physical, etc) is important to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the entire IT infrastructure. Some providers document parts of their security practices, processes and implemented measures in their website (or in documents shareable upon request). The security aspects are usually audited by internal teams and/or third party auditors as part of the certification and accreditation process.
Server's security: In the self-managed/managed dedicated server world, the servers' security is a shared responsibility between the provider and the customer. Customers have to read the terms carefully to understand the scope of support and security. In the shared, VPS and cloud environments, the provider's takes care of the physical servers' infrastructure security and the customer is responsible of his own scope based on the management level.
Usually customers are responsible of their data backups. Ensure that you have an effective backup strategy. Test your backup and simulate data restore to avoid any bad surprises when you need to perform a data restore into the production system. You can learn more about some data loss issues related to backup management in this article (6 Notorious Cases of Data Loss All Hosting Providers Can Learn From).
Check the backup solutions implemented and available with your services. You can also get 5 GB free backup storage from our partner and upgrade any time.
You can learn more about server security in this Guide to General Server Security published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
In addition to Denial of Service attacks, hacking, brute-force and other types of attacks, one of the common issues in the web hosting industry is IP and domains blacklisting. If you are sharing an IP address with other customers, its reputation (if blacklisted) may have a negative impact on your services.
If you want to monitor the reputation of your IP addresses, check this partner's offer. They have a FREE offer (for 32 IP/Domain blacklist Monitors against 168 DNSBL Blacklists and more).
Previous hacking & data breaches: Unfortunately not all the hacking & data breaches are communicated by providers to protect their reputation, unless required by local laws and regulations. This aspect usually gives a good indication about how the provider handles security.
Accreditations & certifications: This is an important need for businesses who want to ensure that the provider has mature processes and recognized by third party audit organizations for compliance with the accreditation or certification requirements. The type of certification and accreditation you will be looking for depends on your business compliance requirements.
Years in business: The web hosting industry has low barriers to entry and is aggressively competitive. Many providers come and disappear after a short period of time in business. This is an indicator to be used when needed with caution to ensure that the provider has a certain level of experience in the industry. This can be compared to a person's professional experience. The interpretation of this aspect can be analyzed from different angles. Some providers display in the footer of their websites the year when they started doing business (In the web hosting or in IT services in general?). You can also use the whois information of the provider's domain name to get the domain registration date. Keep in mind that "Old does not mean better".
Datacenter's ownership: A provider who owns and operates his own datacenters is different from a provider who rent colocation spaces, servers or shared web hosting spaces from other providers. In some scenarios where you want to reduce the number of involved parties and ensure accountability an owner may be preferred. Each type (own, rent or a mix) has it's pros and cons. At the end of the day, providers have to build and maintain a profitable business. Any operational inefficiencies will have an impact on how much customers have to pay for their services.
Contact information (office/headquarter address): Does the provider have a valid address in his website? Check google maps to locate the address, you may be surprised. This will give you an idea about the provider that you are going to choose as a partner to take care of your business. Some companies may have mail/virtual addresses in some locations. At the end of the day, providers need to effectively manage their finances to keep their competitive advantage. From the compliance perspective, you may have to select partners from a specific country (location).
Keep in mind that some big companies started in the founder's garage, so evaluate this aspect if it is important for you and your business.
Contact information (valid working phone number): Having a valid phone number of your provider is important, especially when you have issues with the purchased services and other communication channels do not work. Some providers do not publish a contact phone number on their websites. Others may publish an invalid (not working) phone number. Check this information to get an idea about the professionalism level of your provider.
Provider's website quality: If your provider is not able to maintain a professional quality website which represents his business and brand, how do you want them to take care of your servers, valuable data and personal information? Different aspects can be evaluated (not just the design). So focus on the most important points (content quality, legal section, information completeness and accuracy, etc).
Social media presence: Active accounts/pages (Facebook, twitter, Linkedin, etc) are a good indicators. Do not focus on the number of followers and likes. Focus on the shared content and discussions instead. Some providers choose to be present on specific platforms but not all of them as part of their communication/marketing strategy.
Team/Leadership: Is the web hosting provider operation and management rely on a single person? If so, this may represent a huge risk for your business and operations. Most providers have a section dedicated to their team and management in their website where you can learn more. You can always ask questions about the team (support, billing, management, etc). The experienced team of your web hosting provider can be considered as an extension of your team. Select your partners carefully to build successful relationships.
Reputation: This refers to the global online reputation of the provider, its domain(s), its network (Spamhaus ROKSO, etc) and other parameters.
Note that online reviews published by many websites and blogs have to be taken with a grain of salt. They call them Expert Reviews or Customer Reviews and Rating. Most of the reviews are fake (It is very hard to recognize the genuine reviews, unless you wrote them!), anonymous, paid or do not represent the whole reality. Unfortunately, people still trust online reviews.
As every person's needs and experience are unique, the best way we suggest is to try the provider' services to see if that really fits your specific needs.
Acceptable Use Policy: The Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is a legal document which describes the allowed activities to minimize the risks of impacting the provider's and other customers' reputation, availability and security. The AUP is a set of rules one must agree to abide by in order to use the services. Every professional web hosting provider needs a published and publicly accessible AUP document.
Terms of Services: The Terms Of Services (ToS) is a document where the provider describes any terms related to the offered services. This includes, but not limited to, limitations, payments, usage, support scope, guarantees, service level agreements, etc. The ToS document is a set of rules by which one must agree to abide by in order to use the services. Every professional web hosting provider needs a published and publicly accessible ToS document.
Transparency (status website, etc): Most professional web hosting providers a status web application, web page or website (accessible publicly or restricted to their own customers) where they publish any planned maintenance events in advance and communicate infrastructure, network, servers, services' outages, incidents and events.
Having a status website demonstrates the level of transparency and processes maturity of the provider. Visit the status website of your provider to learn more about past and future events if any.
Different status website options are available (paid "statuspage, status.io, statushub, etc", hosted and open source). For shared or VPS hosting companies, you can build an easy monitoring and reporting platform using the public reports and embed them to your website. For more details check this partner's offer. They have a FREE offer (5 Uptime Monitors from 3 Locations Checked and more).
24/7/365 support: This is important when you have managed services included with your package. You want to have access to the technical support team when you need it (server is unreachable, etc). If you live in a different timezone region than the support team, the 24/7/365 support coverage will become more than important for you. The quality of support is another aspect to be taken into consideration to ensure that your issues are handled by a professional team within a reasonable amount of time. You can learn more about the technical support team of your provider by asking questions, visiting their website and reviewing the service-level agreement (SLA). Usually providers have different tiers of support to guarantee an efficient and fast resolution of the technical support requests and issues.
Ticket support: The ability to communicate with the support team using email (usually via the provider's panel). Checking the response times of the support team is important, especially for urgent tickets when you need a faster response.
Chat support: Some providers offer chat support. This is a great differentiator to get quick answers for your technical or non-technical questions when needed.
Phone support: Not all the providers offer phone support, because troubleshooting complex technical issues via the phone is not effective. Phone support is a good option when other channels are not available or if you need to talk to a manager or the non-technical teams.
Multilingual support: Nowadays, physical distance does not matter. With globalization, customers and providers can be from everywhere in the world. Having access to a multilingual support team makes everyone's life easier. An English speaking support agent cannot be efficient in handling a Spanish speaking customer. Online translation may work, but creates more troubles and frustrations for both sides. So, ensure that the provider's team members speak, understand and can communicate in your language.
Self-service: Most providers have self-service sections in their portals to allow customers perform some tasks (reinstall a server, renew, cancel, install, uninstall, etc). This is very useful to avoid wasting time on tasks you can do by yourself. For providers, this helps them increase their operational efficiency and stay competitive.
Knowledge base: A set of technical and non-technical articles (how-tos, video and text-based tutorial, etc) where you can easily find answers to some types of questions. Many providers have rich knowledge base systems with frequently updated and newly added articles. Having access to a multilingual knowledge base makes customers lives easier and helps reduce support workload. Some providers translate their knowledge base content into different languages to make their lives and those of their customers easier.
Multi-service offerings: For a long term relationship and in order to be able to expand smoothly when needed, choosing a provider who does offer different types of services (shared hosting, cloud, VPS, dedicated, Colocation, etc) may be a good idea to be taken into consideration from the beginning.
Another approach is to select multiple specialized providers to reduce the dependency level and ensure service continuity as part of your disaster recovery and redundancy plans. Each alternative has its own pros and cons. Evaluate them and identify the right approach that fits your business needs.
Multi-location: Some providers have their service offerings in different locations (countries and states). This allows you to build a robust infrastructure and implement an effective disaster recovery strategies when needed. Services pricing usually vary from location to another, this makes your choices easier to meet your budget, performance and architecture design requirements.
Specs: These are the technical specifications of the services. For dedicated servers, they include CPU model and manufacturer, RAM capacity, number of hard drives, their types and capacity, RAID configuration, number of IPv4 addresses, IPv6 addresses, monthly bandwidth and more. For shared hosting packages, they include the number of allowed domains, monthly bandwidth, number of email accounts, number of databases, number of FTP accounts, storage space, etc. For VPS servers, specs include the number of CPU cores, RAM capacity, hard drive type and capacity, number of IPv4 addresses, IPv6 addresses, monthly bandwidth, physical server specs and more.
Integration tools: Some providers (especially cloud, dedicated server providers, etc) provide a set of tools to allow an easy integration with your external applications and products via API or other ways. This is important if your IT team wants to automate your internal processes (deploy, create, reinstall, start, stop, etc) or other types of tasks.
Freebies: This includes any freebies given for free by the provider when your subscribe to their services. This may be one or multiple options: free SSL certificate, free domain name, free upgrades, partners' discounts or free services, free service for a period of time, etc.
Monthly fees: This represents the monthly fee charged for the service. Check if the communicated price includes taxes or not. Some providers attract customers by displaying the monthly price to be paid if a long term contract is chosen. In other cases, a very attractive special discounted price for the first month is displayed as the monthly price. In this case, providers usually charge a higher price for subsequent months. So be careful and check the pricing details before placing your order. In order to provide better services with competitive pricing, providers invest on automation, self-service when possible, continuous improvements and increasing operational efficiency.
In the web hosting industry in general, customer acquisition costs a lot of money. Providers offer very attractive discounts for long term contracts. As an advice, try to avoid any long term contact especially if you are a new customer and you are not sure if the provider/offer will perfectly fit your needs.
Setup fees: Many providers charge an initial one-time setup fee for some or all of their services. Double-check your order before confirmation, because sometimes the setup fee is not displayed in the main pricing page but added at the check-out step.
Money-back guarantee: Some providers have a money-back guarantee period, where you will get a refund if you are not satisfied with the product and services. You have to carefully read their terms and conditions to understand the duration, amount to be refunded and any limitations related to this program to avoid any bad surprises.
Free trials: Some providers have the option to let you try their services for free during a period of time. This is a great opportunity for you to see if the service really fits your needs from different angles (support, performance, uptime, availability, security, capacity, limitations, etc).
Want to save time and money, get better for less?
You can use our Servers Meta-Comparison Engine WH.PerfectDeals.Today to instantly compare thousands of VPS and dedicated server offers from hundreds of providers in 40+ countries.
As you can see, there are many aspects to be taken into consideration in order to select the best provider who will be able to offer your the right services that fit your needs within your budget in the location of your choice.
You have to take the time to evaluate, identify and understand your needs first. This will make your selection process easier. You can read more about these 7 Tips For Small Businesses to Optimize Their Web Hosting Expenses
The Web Hosting Pyramid of Needs™ is used as part of our new WebHostingTrustIndex (WHTrustIndex™) which will be gradually integrated to our Servers Comparison Engine https://wh.perfectdeals.today.
This is the first version of the Web Hosting Pyramid of Needs™, additional improvements may be added in the future. We believe that web hosting customers' and providers' lives can be simplified. Let's change the status quo together!
About WH.PerfectDeals.Today :
WH.PerfectDeals.Today is a FREE Servers Meta-Search and Comparison Engine built by CITWeb.ca. Comparing Thousands of server offers usually takes hours or even days. With this new Easy-to-use Multilingual & Multi-currency Web Hosting Meta-Search and Comparison Engine, the same task can be performed instantly. It helps professionals and businesses save time & money, get better for less. Offers comparison is based on server technical specs, server location, pricing and more!
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