Adult Webmastering Basics: Part 10: Hosting

Domenic R. Merenda
In this installment of our ongoing series on Webmastering Basics, we'll take a look at choosing a Web host – often the most important decision you'll make regarding your site:

You’ve put in a lot of hard work getting an adult website together, and it’s almost time for the world to stand up and take notice. The site design is spit-polished, the content is fresh and well displayed, and the webmaster (that’s you!) is ready to make some money. But wait. The web site is down, and the phone number to the host is disconnected. You’ve already submitted to the TGP’s, and you’re starting to get emails telling you that your site is down, and you are blacklisted. You’re ruined. How did this nightmare happen? It’s simple. You chose the wrong host, and their unreliable service and poor availability have set you back months, possibly indefinitely. In this article, we’ll explore ways to prevent this from becoming a reality.

Types of Hosting
Several types of hosting lend themselves to the adult industry. The type you choose will depend on the focus of your site, your tolerance for disruption and hassle, as well as your budget. Ranging from the Freehost to your own server, pricing will certainly vary. The good news is that many web hosting companies offer special deals, which will change on a monthly or weekly basis.

Freehosts, as the name implies, allow webmasters space on their servers in exchange for a banner on your site, the right to redirect your 404 errors, or any number of click-generation services. A new trend in this area is free hosting provided by sponsors. In exchange for promoting their programs, some sponsors are now offering to host their affiliate’s websites free of charge. Many will also provide free content and promotional tools in the bargain. Expect, in some cases, to get what you pay for in a freehost. Because you are not writing a monthly check, you have no leverage with the freehost when it comes to support. If this is a tradeoff you’re willing to risk, then a freehost just might be the right option for you.

Shared hosting allows your sites to reside on a server with multiple other webmasters. This allows a web host to decrease the overall cost of running each site, and offer you a better price. For sites without heavy-duty traffic, this solution provides a good package at an affordable price. Not all shared hosting, however, is equal. Some shared hosts also allow IRC bots and shell access, both of which can be a security concern. Adult sites are prime targets for password hackers, and having these elements in a shared hosting environment is asking for trouble. Err to the side of caution and look for a host that doesn’t offer these type of services to other customers.

Dedicated hosting provides your site or network of sites with its own server for whatever purposes you deem necessary. This means a private FTP, priority access to the web server’s processes, and in many cases, a super user account on the box. Multiple dedicated servers (called a “server farm” in the technical community) allow advanced load balancing and a distribution of resources. This type of technical heavy hitting leads to a more robust and reliable solution. Many dedicated hosts also offer managed hosting, which allows you to concentrate on your sites, not on worrying about the servers.

Reputation, Service, And Taking A Byte Out Of The Bandwidth Pie
As with any vendor, make sure you check references and online resources before signing on the dotted line. Any large host is sure to have at least a few dissatisfied customers, but lawsuits and dedicated Anti-XYZ Company websites aren’t a great sign. Do your homework, as changing hosts is seldom an easy or painless experience.

Pricing structures vary depending on the quality of the bandwidth, buying power of the host, and byte consumption by the webmaster. The larger the host, the bigger their bulk order will likely be, lowering the overall cost of bandwidth. Beware of smaller hosts offering prices that seem too good to be true. While it is not always the case, some hosts will purchase lesser quality bandwidth to compete on pricing with the bigger fish. Expect to pay from 50 cents up to a few dollars per gigabyte when you’re first starting out, and from 10 cents to 45 cents per gigabyte after you’re established and consuming bandwidth. Long term contracts will often lead to price breaks.

When everything is running smoothly, service isn’t an issue. When your website goes down, however, it’s the ONLY issue. 24 hour service is worth paying a premium for. A few hours of downtime can cost you not only signups but reputation and links. Email, ICQ, and phone service should all be offered.

In Sight Of The Finish Line
With hosting considerations wrapped up, we’re rapidly approaching the conclusion of our series. Next time, we’ll take a long look at what legal challenges today’s webmaster faces, and the steps you can take to minimize your exposure to jail time.

Stay Tuned!