I hope that this story I share with you all will serve as a cautionary tale. If you are thinking about hosting your own website or blog, please read on, and hopefully you won’t make the same mistakes as I did.
So during Christmas break one year (I think it was two or three years ago now), I got the idea in my head that I should do what everyone else is doing and host my own website. The advantages seemed obvious to me: I could post my artwork on my own domain name (which, if you don’t know what that is, that’s the “yournamehere” part of www.yournamehere.com), I could not worry about censorship from some overhead entity, and I could make a community around my stuff. I didn’t really think too much about the problems that could come with this, and I jumped in headfirst.
I checked around to see what kind of hosts I would want to work with, and I eventually decided on DreamHost. I can’t remember exactly why I picked it, though I think a portion of it was that if I wasn’t satisfied, I could contact them and get my money back within 60 days. That, and they had an option for just having a website hosting package for a month (most places do it in yearly installments) so I was like, “Well if I don’t like it, it’s only a month and I can let it expire or something.”
Here’s where the problems started.
I was ready to go, and I purchased a plan. I thought, “Oh, they say it’s $10 a month, so they’ll only want $10 for the upfront costs and an extra $10 for the domain registration (buying my own name).”
That’s not how it works.
When you make a purchase for web hosting, they expect you to pay for the YEAR, UP FRONT. So my assumption of a $20 purchase became a $122 purchase in less than 5 minutes. Not to mention the registration fee of yet another $10, so the total cost was $132.
I was freaking out, mostly because at the time of purchasing, I was a first-year college student and I didn’t have an ass-wad of cash in my back pocket, but I went through with the purchase, anyway, thinking “Well, these hosts are suppose to make making a website easy, right?”
No they did not.
What I got after the sudden price jump was a “control board”, or a set of fancy links on the side of the page, that I had no idea what the terms meant. I don’t remember all the terms I encountered, nor do I care to. But I distinctly remember feeling the sensation of going over my head and having a slight panic attack.
I thought, “I’ll just make things easier and put up a WordPress blog, since I have no clue how to code stuff.” And fortunately, this host had one-click WordPress installation.
Problem was I didn’t know how to operate WordPress after it was installed.
So after about twenty minutes of this overwhelming madness, I decide that I no longer want my own website or hosting, so I go to call DreamHost to cancel my subscription.
DreamHost does not have a phone number. All they have is a “Help Forum” and “Help Wiki”.
Let me just say I hate “Help Forums” like vegans hate meat. I find Help Forums completely unorganized and they always ask THE SAME STUPID QUESTIONS that are absolutely irrelevant to me, and anytime I ask for help on a complicated issue, the user just reply with very general advice and completely ignores the specifics of my question.
I could be like “I can’t access my external hard drive on this computer because of the operating system not being compatible, but all my important documents are on it. Is there any way to get this information?” And some shmuck will answer, “Did you try plugging it in?”
So instead I found their email address, sent them a message saying I wanted to cancel, and within about two weeks, I no longer had a subscription with them and I got $90 back (they didn’t return the money for the domain registration or the cheap set-up fee, which I can live with).
So if you are thinking about getting your own website, seriously think about it. Look into as many hosts as possible, and generally ignore ANY advice you read on forums that discuss web hosting: half of the people on those things are trolls and don’t provide an objective view. If you know people who host with particular web hosts, ask them about their experiences. That will tell you more than any forum will.
Also, I read somewhere to “avoid any sites that say ‘unlimited (insert some feature here)'”. Ignore that. If you find a web host you like that promises unlimited whatever-it-may-be, just go for it. I haven’t heard of any problems from those kinds of hosts…so far.
In the meantime, however, I know I will keep using free blog services like BlogSpot. They’re easy to control, interactive, and best of all, free.