When you took out your last hosting package how many pre-sales questions did you ask? Most of us will ask 2-3 questions before we purchase web hosting, usually they're no more than simple ones just to put our mind at rest that we're dealing with a genuine, professional company (especially if it's a brand you've never come across before) but maybe it's time you started asking more specific questions, you may find you weed out the real quality hosting companies from the simple good/reliable ones.
I have a very recent example of this; my employer tasked me with finding a new host for a little side project they were doing, nothing fancy, shared hosting would do, not cheap web hosting but I didn't have a massive budget to play with either. I didn't want to spend too much time on it so I simply went for one of the brands I knew, you all know the one, the US company who spend way too much on cheesy TV adverts.
Hosting was purchased and activated almost instantly, like you'd expect from any decent web hosting company, regardless of how cheap, or not cheap their web hosting services are. Got my details through, ftp'd up the website files, created the database, re-pointed the domain name blah blah blah all standard stuff I've done 100's of times with various web hosting companies.
The boss was happy, website was live, taking orders, running perfect! Or so I thought... I showed the website to a friend (I was proud of the design of the site and wanted to show it off) and he commented that the website seemed "sluggish", I was surprised, I thought the site was snappy and not at all sluggish!
I asked my friend if I could have access to his hosting so I could compare, both our websites were Wordpress based and cost about the same, his provider was HostPresto and whilst not in the cheap web hosting bracket they were hardly expensive for the web hosting package he had, both our web hosting accounts used cPanel as well. I was actually shocked at the difference, my hosting was not slow by any means but I could now see what he meant by "sluggish" everything just had that little delay on it, elements of the website, features within cPanel.. hell even logging into the cPanel was slower.
So now I knew there was a difference in our hosting companies, or the service they provide, even though they were the same sort of price, both companies had good reputations, on the surface they appear pretty even, so why the speed difference? It could only be the elements of the hosting that you cannot see.. e.g. their network architecture, hardware etc. are you entitled to ask about these items during pre-sales?
I decided to have another chat with the pre-sales guys at each hosting company, mine and my friend's, I asked about hardware, network setup etc. my hosting company did not really give definitive answers, I kind of got the impression the guys on the chat did not know the answers to the questions I was asking.
When I spoke to HostPresto the guy on chat seemed more knowledgeable about the internal systems my websites were hosted on (Maybe it's a smaller company so the guys on chat are closer to the interval systems??) He gave me details about the network, the servers and one important factor the hard-drives my data would be stored on... SSDs!
For those who do not know - SSDs (or solid state drive) are the new type of hard drives that outperform their prehistoric ancestors, they do not actually have "disks" within them and work using integrated circuit assemblies as memory. When I say "new" I mean they've actually been about for a while within home computing but it's only recently they've started to come in the sort of high capacities that makes them any use for web hosting companies. The reason why they're better? It's quite simple, data can be written and read from an SSD much much quicker than a standard hard-drive.
Now I am not saying this is the only reason why my friend's hosting was quicker than mine but from my own research it stands to reason that a host using SSD-based storage for their servers is going to have an advantage of one that uses traditional hard drives. So next time you're looking for a new hosting and are talking to pre-sales, ask the questions that you wouldn't normally, ask about the hardware, the network setup (even on shared packages) if they can't answer or give generic replies... maybe it's time to move to the next web host on your list.
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