Beware of “Web Hosting Review” and “Top 10 Web Hosts” Sites

As many readers of this site may already know I own and operate MDDHosting, LLC – a web hosting firm based out of Franklin, Indiana and we have been in business for over 2 years and 3 months as of the writing of this post.  Over the last 27 months I have seen just about every type of fraud, scam, and lie and in my personal opinion affiliate scams have to be one of the larger issues facing web hosting consumers today.

Anybody with enough experience in the industry knows that most “web hosting review” and “top 10 web hosts” type of sites are simply affiliate link farms where the goal is to pull in as many visitors to click on their affiliate links as possible.  Someone experienced in the industry who has “been there, done that” will often see through this and knows to conduct their own research and won’t fall for these tricks but someone new to the industry and turning to Google for advice won’t.  While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that, what bothers me is when the site makes commission in a misleading way.  Some sites actually do write up a decent review of the provider and provide links to sign up which is entirely understandable but some are not so honest and straightforward in their dealings.

One such site that is operating in a misleading way is “AlreadyHosting.com” which is operated by Jonathan Burdon of Murray, Kentucky.  While going over our affiliate sales I noticed that one particular affiliate had an extraordinarily high conversion rate and to be honest I wanted to know what they were doing to achieve a conversion rate of 9%.

MDDHosting "Review" at AlreadyHosting.com Their site “reviews” as of this writing 111 companies which is not a lot when you look at the hosting industry itself as having thousands of individual providers.  When you look at any one of their providers that they review you may be surprised at the utter lack of any content or reviews (I certainly was).  I have pictured the page that I found was sending the affiliate referrals to us and commented directly in the image as to how their methods are misleading. Not only does every host that they “review” offer links to “Promo pricing” and “Coupon Codes & Promotional Links”, but every one of these links goes directly to the provider dropping the affiliate code without giving any promotional codes or pricing.

I contacted Jonathan (read entire conversation here) and explained to him that we felt that he was misleading his visitors by offering links to coupon codes and promotional pricing when those links actually just dropped them on the affiliate URL where no such information can be found.  We let him know that we were doing so pro-actively and that while we could have let him continue sending us visitors and simply refused to pay him any money at a later date but that we simply were not that type of company.

AlreadyHosting.com uses it’s SERP power to be seen for “[Hosting Company Name] Review” which means that the customer isn’t simply browsing for a list of providers but is looking for specific information on a provider that they are already considering.  At the time of this writing I did a Google search for “GreenGeeks Review” and in 9th place is “GreenGeeks Review & Coupon Codes | AlreadyHosting.com”.  Upon visiting this URL you will see that there is no review but there are links promising promotional pricing and coupon codes which anybody that is already considering that provider is going to click on.  As soon as the visitor clicks on the link they are taken to the provider’s site and should that visitor continue researching the company before buying – AlreadyHosting will obtain commission on the sale due to the visitor having been interested in coupon codes and promotional pricing.

In my conversation with Jonathan I explained to him that we were more than happy to keep him on board with us as an affiliate as long as he was willing to modify the page to actually link to the content it claims to link to (i.e. promotional information or coupon codes) or to simply not claim to link to such content if it isn’t doing so and rather than editing the review page to modify or remove the misleading hyperlinks Jonathan decided to respond with a threat:

If you do not reconsider we will keep your
review active and will tell our readers how you treat affiliates and will
directly recommend that they sign up for another company. I will also
invest a lot in SEO for that page to ensure that it ranks high for all of
your keywords.

Upon visiting the “MDDHosting Review” on AlreadyHosting.com after this email exchange I found that he has updated the page with an “Important Note” stating that we had discontinued his affiliate account with us, which we have.  I have no particular problem with this but what I do find interesting is the site claims to be a site containing the “BEST WEB HOSTING REVIEWS” which would lead the average hosting consumer to believe that they either have tried and reviewed the services they “review” directly or they have input from third parties who have done so and as such list them based upon their quality of service and support which is obviously not the case.  Should any of these “best web hosting providers” find that AlreadyHosting.com is misleading their potential customers and committing affiliate fraud by using misleading hyperlinks AlreadyHosting.com may end up having to place this notice on more pages than just ours.

At the end of the day I don’t suggest trusting any of the “Web Hosting Review” or “Top 10 Web Hosts”  sort of sites as they are all affiliate driven and a vast majority of them are simply misleading.  If you do happen across a site offering coupon codes or promotional codes and it turns out there are none to be had make sure to clear your cookies so that you don’t pay these crooks for misleading you.  I highly suggest a resource that is not affiliate driven for researching hosting providers such as the WebHostingTalk.com Forums.

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Jonathan Burdon – AlreadyHosting.com – Archive

This page originally contained an complete email conversation between myself and Jonathan Burdon however due to legal issues (copyright) I’ve been required to pull down those emails.  Fortunately this doesn’t stop me from speaking about Jonathan’s less than ethical actions including cookie stuffing as well as “reviews” lacking any sort of content or value.

Feel free to read about Mr. Burdon and AlreadyHosting.com’s less than ethical strategies to obtain affiliate commissions:

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Installing Apache + PHP + MySQL + MSSQL Extension on CentOS5

This is a short guide that will show you how to install Apache, PHP, MySQL, and MSSQL Extensions on a CentOS5 Server or VPS.  All “quote” blocks are to be executed in SSH (shell) as root.

Getting the server ready to build applications from source:

Check for any RPM installations of the applications.

rpm -qa | grep -i apache
rpm -qa | grep -i httpd
rpm -qa | grep -i php
rpm -qa | grep -i mysql

Remove any RPM installations found with the “rpm -e” command:

rpm -e application_name_here

Install some base requirements to compile and install the software. Continue reading

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Windows7 Ultimate – First Impressions

At first glance Windows7 is a very nice upgrade and in my opinion it is what Vista should have been.  The Windows7 installation was quick and painless and the user experience is very quick and efficient.  I’ve noticed a reduction in system resource usage in Windows7 over Windows Vista.

There is one small thing that is bothering me…  I run dual monitors as I use this as my workstation and it often helps to have things side by side instead of on top of each other.  I have seen the commercials of the “snap” feature and it looks like it would be very nice but the implementation when using dual monitors is less than I would expect.

You can snap a window to the left of the monitor on the left, or to the right of the monitor on the right, but not to the opposite sides of either monitor.  Before you say that it’s because there is no “edge” between the two monitors – my primary monitor is 1600×1200 and my secondary is 1280×1024 and there is definitely an edge when going from the larger to the smaller monitor that i can hit the mouse up against.

I honestly can’t think of a real good way for Microsoft to implement the “snap” feature on a multiple monitor configuration that wouldn’t be more trouble than it’s worth and I can see the argument against even using it if you are running 2+ monitors but it’s the principal of the issue as far as I am concerned.

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Domain Squatting – Really???

So I have a new puppy and I’ve been searching Google to find a good resource for information on the breed and I was surprised not to see any really good forums related to the breed.  I love operating forums and I thought it was a good idea to perhaps register a domain and set up a forum for owners of the breed and this is where the problems started.  It seems that every domain name that I’ve tried that would even remotely work for the forum is parked by some sort of domain squatter as you can see with these examples:

http://www.welshcorgis.com/
http://www.corgis.com/
http://www.corgiforum.com/

This is extraordinarily frustrating and it makes me wonder how many others out there have wanted to start a useful and informative site that gave up because they simply couldn’t register a domain related to what it was they wanted to run a site about.  There are a few Corgi sites out there but the vast majority of them are simply short excerpts with a “Buy my book” link at the end.

At any rate, I’ve got my eye on a domain that’s set to expire here within the next couple of weeks and we’ll see if I can snag it before a bot gets it as it drops off of the registrar.  I’m 99% sure a bot is going to snag the registration the day it becomes available before I even have a chance to check and see if it’s available.  It’s sad that it has come to this.

To close this post on a positive note, here’s a short video of the puppy that has inspired my desire to launch a forum for all breeds of Corgi dogs:

http://welshcorgis.com/
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Are you a host-jumper?

hostjumpWeb hosting providers rely upon long term client/provider relationships to reduce costs and to help pay for attracting new customers.  In my personal experiences it costs approximately $150 to attract the average new client to a hosting provider.  When you compare the average monthly hosting bill of around $5 to the cost to attract a customer you will very quickly see why a hosting provider needs long-term clients.

There are clients that see purchasing web hosting as a long-term relationship with their provider and they look forward to reliability, service, and support for a long time to come.  Realistically most clients tend to stay with their provider until their needs drastically change and this is how things really should be.

No host is perfect – every host is going to experience issues from time to time and what is more important than whether or not they ever have issues is whether the host is directly at fault for the issue or if the issue was something that shouldn’t be held against them such as hardware failure.  Just because your host experiences an issue is not reason alone to leave that provider unless they could have prevented the issue and chose not to or they simply handled the situation poorly.  Most clients understand that issues happen and as long as they are kept informed as to what has happened and what is being done to resolve the issue they are willing to work through the issue.  If you find yourself changing hosts every single time your provider has an issue you may want to consider giving your provider a chance to handle and resolve the issue before deciding to move. Continue reading

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Starting and Running a Web Hosting Business – Part One

SLDALThere are many qualities that are required in an individual for them to start and grow their own successful web hosting company on their own from the start.  Many people see web hosting as something that is simple to provide and requires little to no work which couldn’t be further from the truth.  There are many aspects of web hosting that the average first-time web host will not plan for or even think about such as their web site which can be simple but is very important if you are to function as an online business.  Other aspects of running a web hosting business range from obtaining the correct licensing as required by local laws to having a basic understanding of business management and accounting.  While most are not a jack of all trades, they can often get by based upon what they know and have people they can ask for help if they need it.

The most important quality required in a person starting their own web hosting provider is resourcefulness – when you are new to hosting there are certainly going to be roadblocks that you come across and questions that you do not know the answers to.  Being resourceful means that even if you don’t know the answer immediately you know where to look to find the answer.  The vast majority of support issues that clients raise could be answered simply by visiting Google.com and typing in the question or a description of the issue.  Unless you are an expert on everything (keep dreaming) then you either need to be resourceful or you will very quickly find yourself being asked questions you cannot answer which leads to very unhappy customers and bad reviews. Continue reading

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Another Day, Another DoS

Disruption of Service (Graph)

Let’s face it – the world tends to be a very hostile environment and the internet is not much different.  From viruses and trojans to distruption of service attacks – it happens all day every day and it is only a matter of time before it affects you.  I have personally dealt with two DoS attacks in the last two weeks and both for very different reasons although the end result is about the same.

Last week the DDoS, or distributed disruption of service, attack was motivated entirely by financial gain for the attacker.  The attacker had previously attacked another hosting company called A Small Orange and had attempted to extort $7,000 from the company to stop the attack.  ASO did not bow to the demands of the attacker and simply worked to filter out the attack and return service to their customers.  While some of ASO’s customers were not satisfied, many times when a provider is put in this situation there is not much that can be done.

The attacker moved on from ASO to my company and sent a message to our sales department informing us that we were next.  The attack began about an hour later and peaked at about 4.5GBPS which is enough to  bring down most small data centers in their entirety however our data center SoftLayer Dallas was able to filter out the attack within 10 minutes to restore full service.  The attacker subsequently moved on to their next target which was VectorLevel who was hosted with Colo4Dallas at the time.  The attack at VectorLevel brought Colo4Dallas to it’s knees until the attack was null-routed at C4D’s upstream provider.  At the time of this writing Colo4Dallas’ web site was unreachable and as such I am not directly linking to it. Continue reading

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LiteSpeed Licensing – 39 Months To Make Owned Worth It???

LiteSpeed

I was doing the math on the licensing structure (we’ll go with the 1-CPU Enterprise license as this example).

I will start by saying that I realize it is in LiteSpeed Technologies’ best interests for you to lease your license from them as this gives them the most profit/income etc… where as an Owned license is generally seen as a larger up-front investment to reduce long-term costs.

I am also aware that I am comparing monthly lease to a yearly ownership as I am wanting to compare the extremes (smallest up-front investment vs the largest).

Owned licenses are an investment into LiteSpeed Web Server/Technologies and I always look at investments based upon how well they will return and how long until they return. A 39 month wait until the investment begins to return is a tad too long in my opinion and as you read on you will see the details of my analysis of their licensing program. Continue reading

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LiteSpeed4.0 vs Apache2.2 In My Eyes

LSvsAPI will start this post by saying that I have used Apache for more than 2 years in production environments and I am quite experienced at optimizing Apache to accomplish the goal at hand should it be handling thousands of connections simultaneously to serving dynamic web sites quickly and efficiently while minimizing the memory footprint.

I have in the past fought tooth-and-nail for Apache’s ability to match LiteSpeed Web Server’s speed when serving web sites.  Apache can be configured to be nearly as fast if not just as fast as LiteSpeed but the problem is that Apache requires in my own personal testing nearly two times as much memory and FastCGI to come close to LiteSpeed comes out of the box.  LiteSpeed claims to serve static content up to 9 times faster than Apache and PHP up to 50% faster.  While I won’t go into depth as to which one can do what faster, I will go into why I chose to move my company from Apache to LiteSpeed and what benefits we have seen.  If you want to see benchmarks that compare LiteSpeed and Apache I recommend you search Google. Continue reading

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