Choosing a dedicated server hosting provider – Part 2: A Focus on Availability
Okay, I admit - choosing a dedicated server hosting provider is not easy, hence the reason I had to write two blog posts instead of one. That and I received a lot, and I mean a lot, of feedback from industry leading dedicated server hosting providers. I know all of them well and what makes the companies they represent different from other hosting providers. But instead of me rambling on about what I think is best, read on to learn what each of them had to say in my initial interview. Then choose the dedicated sever hosting provider that’s right for you, your business, and your organization.
And if you did not read Choosing a dedicated server hosting provider - Part 1: A Focus on Support yet, do it now so you can pick up where we left off in the previous post.
Real company, or not
It may sound ‘funny’ to say a reputable tangible real company, but the reality is that there are thousands upon thousands of web hosting companies out there, most of which claim to offer dedicated servers but are really just 1-man operations working out of their parent’s basement. Check up on the company you might purchase from. Take a look at the better business bureau for a report on the company and see if they even are a company. It’s real easy over the Internet to look like a big multi-million dollar company, and consumers often can make an un-informed choice that leads to trouble down the road. You may see promises of money back guarantees, service level guarantees and satisfaction guaranteed (which should always be present), but the real proof is finding if there is a company behind those promises to back it up and has an independently verified positive track record.
Hosting companies report that time and time again, potential customers are scared to purchase from anyone because their last ‘dedicated server company’ went out of business last night and their servers and web sites are gone. In reality, they had purchased through a reseller that was not even a real company. When a reseller stops paying their bills - all the customers of that reseller can suddenly have their servers disconnected by the data center that owns the infrastructure. Deal directly with the company that owns the servers and you not only will get a better price but you also will avoid extra delays when you need support by avoiding the middle man.
Customers want to know that the company is stable. “It’s no secret that a large percentage of customers head towards The Planet, Rackspace, 1&1 and other large hosting companies, even if they are ridiculously expensive, just because there is a history of growth and stability,” says Salcedo. “We often see this issue when people request all sorts of documentation to prove different certifications and such of SingleHop.”
Salcedo adds that there is no single way of walking clients through this so they use consistent press releases announcing SingleHop’s continued and stable growth. The company provides customers as much detailed and honest information on their systems and networks. Plus they are courteous, professional, effective, and continue to put out industry leading products that slowly but surely build confidence and trust in customers.
Wills says that Turnkey Internet goes out of their way to help potential clients feel comfortable about working with them by clearly showing customers all the latest technology and premium options they have available. “We take time to explain who we are and what is unique about dealing with us versus another web hosting provider,” he says. “We link and display our better business bureau A+ status and independent reviews right in the footer of all our web pages.”
Turnkey also provides links to news organizations that have written stories about the hosting company to help potential customers get an idea of how the company is progressing. “It can be an uphill battle some times to educate potential web hosting customers to make sure they don’t make an un-informed choice and select what they thought was a company that turns out to be a high school student working out of their mom’s basement.”
Transparency, honesty, openness
Zimmerman says that information and honesty are two important factors customers should look at when choosing a dedicated server provider. “A web host’s site should contain detailed information about their data center facility, the power redundancy and HVAC systems in place, and hopefully with pictures,” he says. “There should also be a description of the network carriers, networking equipment involved, etc. and if possible, take a tour or use other methods to verify this information.”
If the hosting company is not honest to you about their infrastructure and configurations or is hiding that information, there is almost certainly a reason they are hiding that information or a reason they are not proud to publish that information. Hiding that information would also be an indication of the openness and honesty of the company as a whole.
Steadfast Networks prides itself on being open and honest to customers before they sign up for dedicated server hosting services. “We are honest about our configurations and do not hide anything,” he says. “We will not try to sell a customer more than what they need, as we care more about a long term relationship with the customer instead of making quick money.”
“The top issue that a dedicated customer should look into is a company with a penchant for technological innovation as doing so will most certainly demonstrate itself in a long-term commitment towards the most solid network equipment possible,” says Salcedo. “If a company is not reaching up to new heights, its network, among many other things, will always be lackluster.”
Salcedo adds that customers want to get the very lowest price possible, even suggesting that a quick survey of dedicated servers at SingleHop is somewhat costly. But the company overcomes higher prices in two ways. First, they offer bleeding edge technology like LEAP which allows customers to perform various types of automated and advanced tasks right inside their webtop system. LEAP also allows customers to access their site through a mobile system, desktop widget, and even toolbar.
Wills also agrees and says that when you look at a dedicated server company make sure they have the latest server hardware models available. ”A sign of health and longevity of a dedicated server company is seeing that they offer a large range, of the latest hardware (for instance, today the Hot CPU chips are the quad core Intel i5 and i7 for entry and mid range dedicated web hosting servers, and the high end enterprise level CPU’s are typically multi-cpu configured quad core Xeon (E550x series),” he adds. “If you are looking at a dedicated server company which is only offering last year’s server models, it can be a bad sign that the company has to keep ‘flipping’ their servers because they have unhappy customers who keep canceling.”
Understanding server management
Every dedicated server hosting company offers one or more of the following types of server management:
- Fully Managed
Typically if you have no experience working with servers and want to focus on running your business, you need to select Fully Managed. If you are somewhat proficient with servers and have time to manage your own, but do not want to manage every aspect of your server, choose Semi-Managed. And if you are completely competent in managing servers and want full (well, almost full) control over your server, Unmanaged is the way to go. But keep in mind that not all companies offer all three levels of server management.
Toll says that many customers find that the level of server, OS, network, anti-virus, backup etc., management is important when choosing a dedicated server provider. “Most customers want to focus on their business, applications etc., and leave the server management up to the hosting provider. Customers that start out trying to manage their server on their own, often change their decision and move from an unmanaged server to a managed server once they realize what it takes to manage a server properly,” he says. “Unfortunately this decision is often made after something has gone wrong - ie. server was compromised, backups failed to work in a restoration or simply the server resources were utilized to the point that the server was no longer online.”
At NaviSite, all servers are managed. ”We offer different levels of management while at the same time empowering customers with the visibility and access they need to achieve a high level of availability,” says Toll.
So that’s part 2 of Choosing a dedicated server hosting provider. There may be more posts in the future on this topic as new information becomes available. Meanwhile, if you are considering purchasing from a dedicated server hosting provider, take the advice from the hosting experts interviewed in this blog series. Start by reviewing the company’s support options, check to see if the company is reliable, stable, and honest, see if the company provides the latest technology, then choose the type of management you need for your organization. That’s it.
What’s your opinion?
Want to offer more suggestions? Fill out the comment form below or contact me directly.