Most Deceptive Ways Web Hosting Companies Rip You Off

by Ryan Smith May 15, 2009

Many web hosting companies have hidden secrets that they don’t want you to know. These secrets are marketing gimmicks and in some cases, very deceptive ways to get your money. Be careful as these secrets can end up costing you lots of money.  To help prevent that we have uncovered and shown you what to look for.

7. Free Domains

WOW, a free domain sounds great doesn’t it? Guess what some web host don’t want you to know? Actually, there are a few different tactics going on:

1) The domain is free but you don’t own the domain they web hosting company owns it. Do you know what that means? Yep, you are stuck either hosting with them forever or you have to pay them what is equivalent to a ransom just to get your domain in your name.

2) The first year was free and now when you go to renew it each year they often charge $24.95+ for renewal. That’s like a 250% mark-up over what the average coast of a dot com domain name usually cost.

Now all web hosts are like this and it’s best to ask questions in the pre-sales process to find out who owns the domain name and how much do their renewal fees costs.

6. Web Hosting Review

Web Sites Web hosting review websites are created for the sole purpose of making affiliate income. Often times the reviews on these websites are fake and created by the owners of the review website. It is no conscience that the highest paying affiliate offers have the best reviews and somehow make it to the top positions. As an actual web hosting company we have been told by numerous review websites that we could get to the top of their list if we pay them the high affiliate payouts.

Web hosting review websites dominate the search engines including Google. Often times you can find that more than half the websites in the top ten of a hosting search are not a hosting company, but a review website. Why? Well, the web hosting industry has some of the highest affiliate commission payouts around and some of the top tier review websites receive up to $150.00 per affiliate sign up.

5. Unlimited Storage

Unlimited Storage sounds great doesn’t it? That’s what *most* web hosting companies want you to think. The real truth of the matter is that there really isn’t a thing as Unlimited Storage. Sure, storage cost has dropped significantly in the past few years but Unlimited Storage is a marketing gimmick that many people fall for.

Here is how web hosting companies get around it. Have you ever read the complete Terms of Service of your web hosting company? If you are like most people, you browse it, but don’t completely read it all. Buried in the TOS you will find a section that mentions Server/CPU Usage. To sum most of them up it basically says if your web hosting account uses more than “X%” of the servers CPU Usage your account then violates the TOS and is subject to termination.

Now, it’s important for just about every shared web hosting company to have something like this in their TOS to protect other accounts on their servers due to improper coding and whatnot. However, many web host are using the Server/CPU Usage to get out of offering the Unlimited Storage they promise in their marketing.

4. 100% Uptime Claims

Great, you have found a web host that has a 100% Uptime Guarantee but what does that really mean? Do you actually get your money back if the web host is not up?

Uptime Guarantees are a huge marketing gimmick and the consequences for the web host are generally so minor. In order to get a full refund for a months worth of web hosting, your website would have had to of been down for a week. The truth is most customer will never notice if their website was down for a few hours and out of those that actually notice only a small fraction will ever ask for some sort of credit.

Plus keep in mind what generally isn’t included are things like; Acts of God, Server Maintenance, Wars or any other natural or unnatural events. What is an “any other natural or unnatural event”? Your guess is good as our but as we read that in many of the TOS it makes us think, and can mean anything. (blame the lawyers)

Wait that’s not all, are you ready for the kicker? The real kicker is that many of the uptime policies are only valid for Network Uptime. Network Uptime means the entire network of web servers your web hosts has. So if you happen to be on the one server that isn’t working properly the Network Uptime Guarantee probably won’t apply.

3. 24/7 Email Support

Have you dealt with web hosting companies that claim to offer 24/7 email support but often don’t reply to your initial tickets for 8+ hours? And we are talking about a human reply and not some automated message saying they will get to your ticket. There is a reason many web hosting companies don’t offer 24/7 phone and email support. They can not deliver! So instead they offer their so-called 24/7 email support.

Let’s be honest, how are you going to know if they are actually working or sleeping? You won’t and often times many of the budget or small web hosting companies won’t reply to your tickets in the middle of the night. Occasionally, some web host can only get to your support requests after the company owner gets home from his day job.

We are not saying all web hosts are like this and a good way to check is to find out where the company is located and send them a support request in the middle of the night, their time. You should be able to get a human response back within an hour or two at most. If the response takes longer then you might be dealing with one main operation that will probably come up short on your support needs.

2. Testimonials

Sure testimonials can provide great information about a web host but can you trust them? Do you really think a web hosting company would put up testimonials that were bad for them? If a web host has testimonials on their website you will only find two kids:

1) Ones they made up to make you think they are great.

2) Ones they hand picked to make them look good.

Either way is this really helpful information? No way! If you really want to find out how a web host is doing try using Google or Twitter to search for independent reviews.

1. Web Hosting Awards

Web hosting awards are very much like the Review Web Sites. Actually, most of the web hosting awards come from review websites. Want to learn why?

Review websites only make money when they can get traffic from PPC or Search Engines. One of the ways they get their high rankings in the search engines is because of all the links they get. By creating web hosting awards they get links from the companies they give the awards to. Many of the award images are links that point back to the hosting review website. To a web hosting review website this is an easy way to obtain links. Some are even devious to write the code where the image will not display unless the link is intact.

Ryan Smith
Ryan Smith was the former Director of Operations for McKremie.

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