Crash And Burn

The Right Service

For Jagemann and company, service was key. To get it, she went to one of the major companies for her Web hosting needs. But UUNET isn't the only choice. PSInet is another leading Web hosting company that offers similar hosting capabilities. Combined, these two companies handle the majority of the hosting for Web sites in the United States and are generally considered the best in the field. However, these larger providers can be costly; basic shared-server pricing begins at $300 to $600 per month, as opposed to the $25 to $200 range you may be paying now. Dedicated hosting, which means the hosting company dedicates an entire server to one company, costs about $1,500 per month.

Some Internet companies, such as TALPX Inc., can afford to pay such prices (and reap the rewards): Besides being scalable, large hosting companies feature uninterruptable power supplies and generator backups. If power outages do occur because of weather emergencies, these companies can still keep their customers' Web sites up and running.

If you don't want or can't afford to pay such hefty fees, you can still find some level of security by using a reputable Web hosting company, one that's less expensive and not quite so robust yet still offers the kind of customer service support you need and want. To find other companies, try the Web Host Guild, an organization of more than 60 Web hosting companies that have been certified to offer the highest-quality Web-hosting services possible.

In order to become a certified member, the Web hosting companies-which come in all sizes-are required to create incremental backups every 24 hours in addition to full backups weekly. They must also have a Web page allowing customers to check the status of the company's network. Simply scan the Web Host Guild for members-some offer services for as low as $25 per month.

Before you sign up with a company, make sure to ask some important questions: Will my Web site be deployed on two servers, so if one server crashes, all the traffic will be routed to the other server? Will I be in a shared-server environment? If so, with how many other companies will I be sharing server space? Will my Web site be monitored every day? How will it be monitored, and how often? How often do you experience crashes? What is your contingency plan if there is a problem?

Despite the many safeguards a Web hosting company can provide, according to Dodd, it's still the responsibility of the owner of the Web site to make sure the site doesn't crash. "First and foremost, you should empower yourself as much as possible to understand what's realistically supported within the server environment that you've set up with your hosting company, as well as your hosting company's philosophy on shared-server environments," he says.

Dodd also recommends having a service-level agreement in place indicating the level of restitution the owner of a Web site can expect in the event the site crashes because your hosting company acted recklessly in the number of sites it hosted in a single shared-server environment.

Whichever hosting company you eventually decide on, you should always concern yourself with minimizing site outages. Keep in mind your Web site is where your customers experience your brand (sometimes for the first time). If your Web site is unreliable, it shows your brand may be, too.

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Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at mcampanelli@earthlink.net.

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This article was originally published in the April 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Crash And Burn.

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