The Evaluation of Shared Webhosting Providers and Their Technical Competence, If Any

Browsing, as I am oft to do, around certain large webhosting forums, I am continually, perpetually, and never-endingly amazed at how many utterly clueless people are trying to make a quick buck in the hosting business. I’m not surprised at the level of incompetence displayed by some of these people, but it’s a little depressing, as I feel bad for whatever customers manage to get duped into paying these sundry folks for demonstrably sub-par service, however briefly. (Most new hosting businesses fold or change hands within a couple of months. Many more should, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish.)

So, after discussing this with a couple of friends via e-mail over the past couple days, we’ve hit upon a crude method of evaluating the competence and cluefulness, if any, of shared hosting providers. (This includes providers of Virtual Private Servers or Virtual Dedicated Servers, a/k/a VPSes or VDSes, as it’s essentially the same thing – selling several people capacity on one physical piece of hardware.) It’s not perfect, and it’s a little bit snarky, but, that being said, it’s probably a pretty good benchmark for evaluating a business sector heavily infested with teenagers, ignoramuses, shysters, fraudsters, hucksters, con-men, pyramid-schemers, and the generally clueless.

Without further ado, then…

Hosts are scored on a nominal scale of 0 (zero) to 100 (one hundred) points; it’s possible to exceed both of these limits through prodigal feats of ability or lack thereof. Hosts by default are assigned a score of 80, i.e. a nominal “B” grade. They then gain or (much more likely) lose points as follows:

Business History
Lose 10 points for being in business less than 12 months. (Most new hosts fail within a year.)
Gain 10 points for being in business more than 24 months.
Lose 10 points for anonymous WHOIS data.
Lose 20 points for obviously fake (1111 1st st, nowhere, (111) 111-1111) WHOIS data.

Note that this evaluation should involve Google searches and use of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine; points should not be awarded merely on the basis of domain name registration, as a domain name does not a business make.

Truthfulness, Honesty, and Professionalism
Lose 10 points for Painful “illiteracy” in or on thier website, adz, &c, 2 include teh non-ironic use of txtspk, misuse “of” quotation marks, and Cheerful inability to capitalize correctly!!!111eleveneleven
Lose 10 points for misrepresenting their datacenter’s facilities and network as their own, when they are obviously just a customer or reseller. “Servers located in a state-of-the-art facility with redundant fiber and power connections” is fine, if true; “our state-of-the-art facility…” is not.

E-mail related things
Lose 10 points for using Gmail or Google as your business e-mail provider
Lose 10 points for being demonstrably clueless about how e-mail works – no rDNS, misconfigured hostname, et cetera
Gain 10 points for having sensible backup MX entries
Gain 10 points for publishing a sensible SPF record

Any webhost that used Google for their e-mail is, at best, demonstrating a terrible and discouraging lack of confidence in their own ability to configure and administer a mailserver. At worst, if they’re using Google and have non-redundant DNS, they’re demonstrating a remarkable obliviousness to how e-mail actually works, and should probably be shot.

DNS-related matters
Lose 5 points for having exactly two non-redundant nameservers for the host’s domain
Lose 5 points if those two nameservers are on different IPs. (i.e. wasting an IP address)
Lose 15 points for having more than two non-redundant nameservers on different IPs (i.e. wasting several IPs)
Lose 5 points for having minor to moderate DNS errors for the host’s domain
Lose 10 points for having generally borked DNS for the host’s domain (i.e. demonstrating a general inability to configure DNS correctly)
Gain 10 points for having three or more redundant nameservers

DNS: yes, it’s really that important.

Miscellaneous matters
Gain 10 points for only offering hosting in one location

This may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s my belief that most shared hosts would be better off sticking with one quality datacenter than trying to chase deceptively cheap bargains across nine time zones, and having to deal with multiple upstream providers whenever there’s a network or hardware problem. It also avoids advertising confusion, where services are priced differently depending on location, or where some features (i.e. IPv6) are only available in some spots but not others.

So, running through all this, the maximum theoretical score a host could receive would be 130 points, which I guess is an “A+++”, or something. An “A” with a big gold star? Whatever. The minimum, perish the thought, would appear to be -15, i.e. racking up ninety-five points in penalties. I’d like to think that couldn’t happen, but I’m pretty sure I could find a hosting “business” that came close, without too much effort.

Is this useful? Hopefully…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on November 5th, 2010| Comments Off on The Evaluation of Shared Webhosting Providers and Their Technical Competence, If Any

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