Web Design and Development

Why Are There So Many Bad Web Hosts? (Part 2)

The Worst Web Hosts EverTo most people, the internet represents the information age — an era of communication enlightenment. However, it’s also created a communication plague that has allowed the proliferation of myths, conspiracy theories, scams, and lies. And most of them were harder to do pre-internet.

For example, it’s pretty hard to fake being a Tom from Texas, when you sound more like an Apu from the Simpsons, or look like a Chen from China. Yet Tom from Texas is how outsourced support desk techs are passed off to customers. (And it’s not like we’re really all that fooled — it’s easy to see when somebody writes with ESL skills that makes Google Translate read like a literary scholar.)

And it’s not just the hosts that are a problem — they have accomplices! One reason so many people find bad hosts is because many large hosts have essentially bribed unethical website owners with large sums of money.

To many hosts, you’re a sucker to be taken advantage of, not a valued customer with whom they exist to give honest quality services. You’re lied to before you’re even a customer, and the lies continue after you’ve signed up. And on that note, let’s continue the list of why there are so many bad web hosts…

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Reason #3 — Outsourced Tech Support

Certain hosting business models target novice web hosting customers, yet support desks are understaffed to handle the volume of questions common to that demographic. Rather than reinvest profits into the business, or adjust service pricing to account for support personnel costs, some hosts simply outsource to the cheapest support services, most of which are based in still-developing countries like India and Pakistan. As a customer, you’ll generally receive the following treatment:

  • Incoherent rambling replies.
  • Excessive-yet-meaningless expressions of gratitude (please, thank you, etc).
  • Support tickets closed without resolution.
  • Time-wasting initial replies informing you that somebody else will reply (because he/she doesn’t have the ability to actually do anything). Quite often, the actual ticket response will be many hours later, sometimes even days later.

Here are two actual responses that I received from tech support in 2011, while reviewing hosts:

  1. “I’ll investigate on this issue and get back to you with an update. Please be awaited.”
  2. “And also please confirm with your friends may hacked your server.

It’s almost not even necessary to point out the ridiculousness of those replies. The first host had a server down for 6+ hours, but seemed unaware of it — i.e., not monitoring their servers! The second host accidentally formatted the VPS node, and then feigned ignorance. Both utilize outsource support from cheap outsourcing services.

Reason #4 — Fake Review Sites

Due to the shenanigans of affiliate marketers (and hosts that encourage them via high commissions), the web hosting marketplace is probably less trustworthy than a random person on eBay or Craigslist. At least the classifieds/auction seller is trying to sell you something, while the “review site” is just trying to con you for a $100 vig.

Rather than advertise in the traditional sense, and allow consumers to weigh their options objectively, some hosts have instead spent their advertising budgets on the affiliate-driven sales model. Hordes of fake “top 10″ lists have sprung up online in response, created by unethical bloggers looking to make a quick buck. These spammy lists only suggest the companies that pay out the highest commissions, and the site only exists to generate commissions. These people don’t care about you, your site, or anything else. All they want are affiliate payout commissions.

Even many of the so-called “user reviews” you find online are fake, too:

  • The host paid a spammer to leave fake positive feedback.
  • The host paid their customers (in cash or credit) to leave positive feedback.
  • The host paid a fake review site directly to receive guaranteed positive feedback.
  • The review site removed negative reviews for hosts that pay higher commissions.

Google search engine results pages (SERPs) are filled with these fake reviews and lists.

What separates web hosting from all of the other affiliate programs online are the odd payout amounts. For example, all of the EIG-owned hosts pay about $100 per signup as a commission on a $5 service. That’s not a typo: five dollars. Even if a person prepays for 3 entire years upfront ($180), which is not typical, the host pays out more than half of it right away. It’s negative economics on steroids! In reality, the hosting plan is treated as just a gateway to other services — more commonly known as “upsells”. More on that in part three…

An often-ignored aspect of fake lists is the power cycle that it creates. The fake “top 10″ host has essentially used its monopolistic-like economic power to drown out smaller competitors, preventing them from gaining more customers. Some of these large hosts can gain more customers in one day than smaller hosts do all year, because of the many fake lists all pointing their way. It’s almost as bad as the software patents that stifle competition and innovation.

While it’s easy to blame the site owners (drug dealers), or even the customers (drug addicts), the hosts (drug suppliers) shoulder most of the blame. They know that they’re doing, and it happens in that wink-and-nod (“fair and balanced”) sort of fashion.

Continued in Part Three…

The 3rd part of this three-part editorial series will discuss the practice of upsells, and the illusion of competition created by the multi-brand megahosts.

If you’re looking for a quality host, we’ve created an objective list of quality hosts on our forum: List of the Best Web Hosts for Shared, Reseller and VPS hosting. Unlike the fake spammy lists, our list is based on the quality of companies, not the amount of commissions they pay out. (In fact, many of the hosts we suggest pay us nothing or near-nothing.)

Have comments or feedback? — Be sure to share your thoughts at this forum post.

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