Tricks of the Trade

Value Hosting Australia has undertaken a lot of research and investigation into the hosting industry, here in Australia and overseas. We pride ourselves with an upstanding and honest approach to potential customers without giving misleading or deceptive information.

This page is to inform you of the tricks and scams that some hosting companies execute to entice potential customers to sign up. These tricks are more prominent in overseas companies, rather than in Australia, but you should still be aware when choosing who to host your website with.

1

  TRAFFIC ALLOWANCE

Don't fall for it! One of the biggest marketing ploys to entice you to sign up is the 'traffic allowance'. This is the amount of data that visitors download from your webpage.

Scam #1: In the Terms and Conditions - "Traffic allowance does not include images, audio/video files or any pages other than .html"

This is ridiculous. All webpages include images and graphics, with some displaying flash with audio and video files. With this policy, you would be charged for visitors downloading any image from your website. The only thing that would be free in your traffic allowance is the .html file that is transferred.

eg. Lets say your .html file is 10k and you have 30k of images for one page. If you receive 50 visitors per day to this one page, your daily traffic would be 2Mb total, but only 0.5Mb is a part of your free allowance.
If the dodgy hosting company charges 20c per megabyte over the allowance, you would be hit with a bill for an extra $9 per month. That's an extra $108 per year that you SHOULD NOT be paying.

Scam #2: Some hosting companies blatantly over-inflate your traffic usage just to get a few more dollars from you.

Scam #3: There have been reports lately that a company in the US created a program that downloads your entire website 2 or 3 times per day just to increase your traffic usage. According to your statistics it would simply look like you have extra visitors, when in reality, it is your hosting company scamming you.

Scam #4: Be VERY wary of web hosts offering unlimited or enormous amounts of traffic! Every host around the world pays for the traffic entering and exiting their servers, and therefore must pass on these costs to the customer. When hosts offer unlimited traffic, please read the fine print which would state (if they bother at all) that traffic is unlimited until you reach a certain point. If your site becomes too popular, they will simply cut you off because you are costing them too much money in the bandwidth your site uses compared to how much you pay them each month.

2

  DISK SPACE

Scam #1: It's becoming common practice for hosting companies to offer huge amounts of space, knowing quite well that either:
1) You will not use all the space anyway,
2) You are only allowed to use the space for personal reasons, and not for businesses,
3) You can only upload webpage files and images. No mp3, zip files, or any form of backups.

After taking your money and you spend time uploading your website and files, the hosting company emails to tell you that your account will be disabled immediately for breaching the policies. Sorry, no refunds either!

Scam #2: OK, this gets a bit technical. For example, 'Dodgy Hosting' says you have 50Mb of space.
Conventional binary numbers state that in 1 Kilobyte is 1024 bytes*. 
So for a conventional 50Mb, this should be 50 Megabytes x 1024 = 51,200,000. This is 51.2 Megabytes.
'Dodgy Hosting' would screw you by giving you a clear 50 Megabytes. That's 1.2 Megabytes missing.

OK, it's not that much, but when 'Dodgy Hosting' have 1000 customers, they're saving themselves 1.2 Gigabytes (1200 Megabytes) of space by screwing you!

*Binary theory: There are only two values a computer can store information in, 1's and 0's. Binary theory states that there are 1024 bytes in 1 kilobyte, or 2^10 (2 to the power of 10).

3

  "UNLIMITED"

Don't be fooled! Having some unlimited features is always good, but always be suspicious if the hosting company claims 'unlimited traffic allowance' or 'unlimited space'. These are ploys to lock you in, if not being downright deceitful.

Have you ever heard of a computer hard disk with unlimited space? Wow, the manufacturers would be billionaires! It is logical and obvious that no web host will really let you use Terabytes of hard disk space.

And bandwidth/traffic costs money. There is certainly no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to bandwidth. Offering unlimited bandwidth or enormous amounts for no charge is highly unlikely, since the web host would be charged for the bandwidth they use. Check the Terms & Conditions, since 'unlimited' might in fact be 'unlimited until you reach 1Gb' - technically not unlimited at all!

In fact, there are laws in the Trade Practices Act that deem it illegal for Australian telecommunications businesses (ISPs, Web Hosts, Phone) to advertise anything as 'Unlimited' unless it is well and truly unlimited (which is very rarely the case).

4

  UPTIME

Of course server uptime is extremely important. No-one wants their website and emails offline, even just for a few minutes. But be very very cautious of dodgy web hosts blatantly lying about having 100% uptime, or even 99.999%. 

If your web host truly has 100% uptime, that means they have never upgraded their server software, security and probably don't have many customers (thereby questioning the viability of the business itself).

One also has to allow for datacentre system and network upgrades, which may result in null connectivity for short periods of time each year. With so many links in the chain, realistically a budget web host could not achieve 100% uptime over a 6 month period.

Please note that close to or even 100% uptime can theoretically be achieved with mirrored co-location servers at multiple data centres,  all being synchronised together. This is a very complex and expensive arrangement, which is typically well beyond normal resources of your average budget web host.

If your web host claims 99.999% uptime, that means the server has still gone offline for about 5 minutes per year. To restart the average server after an upgrade of any software will take 1 to 2 minutes minimum. Some upgrades also require the server to be offline, so software upgrade time could be 5 - 30 minutes plus reboot time.
You would hope that your web host is maintaining their server and applying security updates several times a year. This would account for several server reboots every year, even with nothing wrong.

Uptime is usually a gimmick. We fully acknowledge that these statistics are important, but as a customer you should be aware of some realism behind these claims. 99.999% uptime is a gimmick. An average uptime of 99.85 - 99.9% is very good and shows that your web host is maintaining their servers and applying security patches/updates as required.

5

  FREE HOSTING or SPACE ON A FRIEND'S SERVER

Sure, it's hard to resist the offer of anything free. What do you have to lose? The old cliche 'you get what you pay for' is absolutely true in the hosting industry. What is the motivation of a web hosting business to maintain their servers and ensure security and reliability if you give them no money? Servers and networks cost a lot of money, not only to setup and install, but also to maintain on an ongoing basis. The attitude of a lot of 'free' webhosters is that if a server crashes, there is no rush or time priority to fix the server. Why should they stress over a server that costs them money, but doesn't bring money into the business? Your website could be down for days, or as we've heard many times before, sometimes weeks leading into months!

If you are offered free hosting on 'a friends server', you should be extremely weary! Is this friend a professional web host or is it a hobby? Are they, or do they have server administrators to maintain the server? Have they been in the hosting industry for at least a few years? Do they offer technical support? What would happen if their server crashed? 
If you plan to host your business website on a friends server to save a couple of dollars per month, you may want to consider the above questions.

6

  WHY NOT USE SPACE INCLUDED WITH MY INTERNET? (provided by some ISPs)

This one is easy to answer. In most cases, your Internet Service Provider's core business is Internet access via dialup, cable, adsl etc. Their main technical expertise is limited to Internet access. This is very different and seperate from web hosting. 

Web hosting requires specialist knowledge, technically advanced equipment, redundant networks and requires fulltime dedication to maintaining servers. Most ISPs only offer webspace as an 'added incentive' but the webspace is very limiting. Usually, you cant use any scripting such as cgi, php or databases. Usually, you cannot attach your own domain name to the webspace. If you have technical problems with your website, commonly your ISP doesn't care to help, since this is not a part of their core business.

Web hosting is a specialist field. Why trust your business or personal website to someone who doesn't specialise in the field? It's comparable to traveling in a hot air balloon compared to a jet airplane - we're the airplane :).

7

  CUSTOMER SUPPORT

This is very important and when deciding who to host with, this should be a factor that is just as important as the technical considerations.

You will need to read the fine print or email the hosting company. If they don't respond within 24 hours, you should move on. It is inevitable that you will require some assistance and having access to fast support is very important. Make sure they don't just provide support during 1pm and 3pm on a Friday.
Make sure you have other means of support available to you such as phone, instant messaging, forums etc.

Some companies will just leave you out to dry. They have your money, so they don't care anymore.

8

  COSTS - SETUP AND RENEWAL FEES

Everyone is looking for a bargain, but when something looks too good to be true, it usually is! A more recent dodgy trick has been to offer customers a very cheap signup fee. Customers assume that this fee is the monthly cost, but when the next month comes around, they get hit with a much higher renewal fee. Always check for the signup and renewal costs! Make sure it is clearly stated.

Some companies use the poor excuse of inflation to increase their prices. These companies automatically increase their hosting fees by a certain percentage each year on the grounds of inflation. Check the Terms and Conditions (if they bother to mention it!).

Then there are setup fees. This isn't exactly a trick, but it's more about milking you for more money. Some hosting companies charge you to setup your account on top of the monthly/yearly charges. We think this a pretty low act so we do not have setup fees on our hosting accounts. We believe setting up your account is all a part of our business procedures and the customer should not be hit with fees to compensate us.

THE GOOD PEOPLE AT Value Hosting Australia

We hope you have been enlightened to some of the tricks and scams. Here at Value Hosting Australia, we pride ourselves on earning an honest living. After all, we don't want to be sued or abused by disgruntled customers! Before choosing to host with any web hosting company, we urge you to do the research.