Reading hosting reviews is one of the first steps to take when deciding on what website hosting service best suits your needs. A lot of positive hosting reviews have an implicit bias, given that many of the sites publishing them have affiliate marketing deals setup – they gain from any referrals made from their site. That doesn’t necessarily mean the reviews are in bad faith, as generally the reviewers will have a number of these deals set up with the biggest and best hosting companies (it’s worth pointing out that TMO also has affiliate marketing deals, but we try to ensure these are clearly marked); it does mean, though, that it’s not a full picture.
Negative hosting reviews can be just as important a factor in choosing a web host. You, as a webmaster, want to know what the bad experiences people may have had with your potential hosting company, as these can often give you a better picture than the glowing, curated reviews you tend to come across.
First things first, you need to find these reviews. Obviously, in a competitive market like web hosting, most of the big providers spend a huge amount of money on search engine optimisation and marketing, meaning that just doing a search for a hosting company’s name won’t necessarily bring out the bad reviews. To get to the bad reviews in Google you’ll need to specifically search for them, using the company’s name and phrases like ‘poor service’, ‘fail’, and ‘unhappy’. These queries should unearth some of the user experiences that these companies would prefer you don’t get to read.
Another way to find poor reviews is to search twitter to see what people are saying about the hosting company you wish to review. Dissatisfied customers will vent their frustration there for the whole world to see.
Obviously searching out negative reviews will give you just that, negativity, which carries the same pitfalls as the positive reviews. You need to be able to read between the lines, to see whether the negative reviews are justified and likely to be applicable to your situation.
No matter what type of hosting you’re looking for, the companies you’re researching will undoubtedly all have a large customer base – hosting as a business relies heavily on economies of scale – so you need to work out whether the negative review you are reading describes a one-off situation, or something more systematic. Try to work out how reasonable the complaint is, and whether there’s a decent explanation or response from the web host.
Not all negative reviews, for example, are well-informed. Just because a customer is pissed off, doesn’t mean that they’re automatically right. A good example of this is when people, using shared hosting, complain that their site was hacked, and hosting account suspended, blaming everything on the web hosting. They find their site suspended, and start writing negative reviews everywhere about the poor service encountered. In nearly all situations like these, though, you’ll find that the site that has been hacked has precious little security, and once hacked is compromising the server for other sites. Nearly all shared hosts will suspend you for this, and when using a shared hosting service you are responsible for ensuring the security of your site.
Another example is when people complain about slow loading times for their site with a particular hosting company, which can certainly be a hosting issue, but often you’ll find that the site in question is a poorly designed site overloaded with conflicting add ons and plugins.
In cases like these, the real question is what kind of response did the customers get from the company. Was there an attemt to identify the problem. Was reasonable advice given or steps taken to resolve the problem? More importantly, how likely is it that you’ll have the same problem?
There are, of course, different hosting solutions to match all budgets, so it’s important as well to make sure that you’re comparing like with like. If you’re looking for a vps solution, but reading a negative review for a shared hosting solution, then you’re not comparing like with like. Vice versa, if someone has lovely things to say about a web hosting company’s premium service, but you’re looking to set up a site on their budget service, it may not be a useful review.
Using both positive and negative reviews to get information about your prospective web host is obviously a good idea, but it shouldn’t be the only factor in making your mind up. You should definitely research the following – preferably getting direct answers from the sales departments of a number of web hosts.