Skytopia > Projects > Technology/science articles > Finding the best internet web site hosting services using Google

Finding the best web site hosting the Googalistic way

Created and researched by Daniel White © 2005+
Article published 14/10/2005 (last updated 22/12/2005)
Condensed version of this page found here - ("The Best Web Hosting Providers")

Key Google searches:
Negative
N1 = "i hate host x"
N2 = "host x sucks"
N3 = "host x sux"
N4 = "avoid host x"
N5 = "problems with host x"
Positive
P1 = "i love host x"
P2 = "host x rocks"
P3 = "host x is great"
P4 = "host x is * great"
P5 = "recommend host x" (+ others - see page end)

Dreamhost is the top web hosting company (for high bandwidth / space) according to my research. Use special promo code: T4Z365 to save $50!
So you want to find a quality hosting provider for your forthcoming internet site eh? What would you look for in a host before taking the plunge? If you didn't want to take any chances, you may do some research by looking at various web hosting service review sites on the internet. More likely though, you would probably look on message boards, forums, and ask friends for their opinion. This site takes that concept to its logical conclusion. We've scavenged the whole web using Google, and searched for various positive and negative phrases such as "I love host x" or "host x sucks". This way, we can find a rough consensus towards a particular host if there's enough data available.

Naturally, the question will arise; how can one be sure the results containing glowing praise about a host are genuine and accurate? Of course, the conclusions can never be perfect due to lack of data, word/service ambiguity, bias, and plain advertising. But it turns out that the vast majority of comments are written on personal sites, forums and message boards. Under such circumstances, posts are more often genuine than not, and for the forums at least, moderators are likely to detect if a recommendation is spam or not.

Top 5 web hosts under 10 dollars per month

Most of these budget hosting plans below are perfect for
the majority of people. But why are they the best?
Read the page and look at the giant table to find out why.
Host Name Basic specs:
disk space, monthly
bandwidth and cost
Popu
larity
Negative
to positive
comments
SCORE
1
dreamhost.com
4800 MB 120 GB $7.9534849 / 24981.7%
2lunarpages.com3000 MB 400 GB $7.95989 / 6678.7%
334sp.com50 MB 1 GB $2.20
200 MB 4 GB $6.60
502 / 2873.8%
4directnic.com20 MB ^^ GB $0 skytopia
20 MB 2 GB $1.25
604 / 3872.8%
5crystaltech.com1000 MB 20 GB $2.95
2000 MB 40 GB $8.95
564 / 3370.6%
Host Conclusions: If you intend to have a relatively big site with lots of visitors, I would go for Dreamhost.com. You get 4,800 megabyte of disk space, 120 gigabyte of bandwidth (that would easily cover thousands of visitors per day to your site!), as well as all the usual goodies such as PHP, MySQL, CGI, PERL and streaming media. Use special promo code: T4Z365 to save $50!

Otherwise 34sp.com and Directnic.com both do good cheap offers for prices under 5 dollars a month if you're willing to forego the extra bandwidth and disk space.
The internet searches were made during the last couple of weeks of September 2005, with updates for the top 10 in late December. Subsequent checks (mid October and December) show that Google gives results more or less the same as before. You can always verify the results for yourself - In the main table further down the page, you'll see the exact number of searches I made in Google for a particular search term. Careful though, as Google can be a bit temperamental in the number of results displayed at any particular moment (sometimes you need to reload the page or visit different Google Data Centers to retrieve the maximum amount of results possible).

It wasn't easy. I had to filter out Google duplicates using custom made software, and look for spam and advertising among the results. Searches such as "recommend host x" were particularly problematic, so in these kind of cases, each and every result was checked by hand to see if it was a genuine post from a real person. For full details on my approach towards filtering and phrase selection, see towards the end of the page.

If you're getting impatient, at this point you may just want to glance at the table to the left and trust the conclusion. Otherwise keep reading on.

Table hosting details
The gigantic table below sorts web hosts by how good or bad they supposedly are. (Try this link if you want to see the hosts sorted by popularity). You'll find that some high ranking hosts may not have the specs you require (like if you want more than 20 MB of disk space, or higher than 1 GB of bandwidth per month). Equally, many of the cheap or free hosts are lowly ranked due to the obvious frustrations (forced adverts, lack of space/bandwidth and limited filetypes and features), but since they're free, they're worth considering (especially if you're a beginner to site creation and want to test the waters). If you're going that route, Bravenet, Doteasy, Micfo and Directnic (relatively unheard of names) seem to be the best here. Angelfire is the worst, with Tripod following closely behind :-)

The score
At its most basic level, the score is the number of positive comments divided by the number of negative comments. But greater weighting is given to hosts with many members, thus increasing the 'reliability' of the given score. In other words, hosts with a normally good mark, but who don't have a large internet presence will be marked down (due to the margin of error risk factor). And for the same reason, a minor host's score will increase if their score was normally low.

For the curious, the following formulae were used:

reliability = (popularityOfHost/60) / (1 + popularityOfHost/60)
ratio = (p1+p2+p3+p4+p5/2+1) / (n1+n2+n3+n4+n5/2+1)
weightedRatio = ratio ^ reliability
SCORE = weightedRatio / (weightedRatio+1) * 100
With that out the way, we can continue with a description of the table elements. The basic specs only give a rough indication of the type of web hosting plan you'll get. If you wish, you can investigate the site in question to find out if extras include PHP, CGI/perl, MySQL,
Key Google searches: The phrases and colours below correspond with the numbers in the main table. Basically, the numbers represent the number of times a phrase appeared in Google. The number in brackets is the total number of results before filtering.
Negative
N1 = "i hate hostx"
N2 = "hostx sucks"
N3 = "hostx sux"
N4 = "avoid hostx"
N5 = "problems with hostx"
Positive
P1 = "i love hostx"
P2 = "hostx rocks"
P3 = "hostx is great"
P4 = "hostx is * great"
P5 = "recommend hostx" (+ others - see page end)
number of email accounts, email POP / SMTP Access, Windows and Linux/Unix hosting, FTP access, number of domains hosted, access to raw logs, free domain registration/transfer, and other special discounts. I'll leave that up to you as there's no way I'm including all that data in the table :) If you see '^^ GB' or '^^ MB', that means there's supposedly no limit to the disk space and bandwidth (unmetered), but in reality, there will always be. Always read the terms & conditions and smallprint from each website for the full story (look at the harsh TOS limitations on Hostultra's free web hosting for example!). Finally, most web site hosting services are based on low cost 'shared hosting', but if you see MBhd or MBvd instead of MB in the table below, that means it's a dedicated or virtual server (and is therefore going to be much more expensive!).






Conclusions

Most popular hosts (not best!)
1: Geocities2069
2: Tripod1122
3: Angelfire966
4: Freewebs705
5: Bravenet489
6: Brinkster354
7: Dreamhost348
8: 1and1186
9: Powweb174
10: Netfirms169
11: Interland152
12: ipowerweb129
13: Hostrocket121
14: Fortunecity120
15: Lunarpages98
Any of the top 10 hosts are a good pick and affordable, but it would appear that the top 4 are the real cream. If you intend to have a relatively big site with lots of visitors, I would go for Dreamhost.com (use special promo code: T4Z365 to save $50!). You get 4,800 megabyte of disk space, 120 gigabyte of bandwidth (that would easily cover thousands of visitors per day to your site!), as well as all the usual goodies such as PHP, MySQL, CGI, PERL and streaming media. Otherwise 34sp.com and Directnic.com both do good cheap offers for prices under 5 dollars a month if you're willing to forego the extra bandwidth and disk space.
As might be expected, the opinions and comments all over the internet towards Dreamhost reflect the data in the table. Type in "i love dreamhost" into Google, and you'll see results from blogs, personal sites, reviews, and forums. You'll find the vast majority are genuine and display a link without any 'affiliate' motive (not that it's bad to want a reward for referring someone to their site, but you get what I mean).

Sites further down the table are plagued by the usual problems - either lack of disk space, bandwidth, or customer service issues such as site downtime, missing email, download/upload speed, and cost.


More details on the process of filtering and selecting phrases
  • Phrase selection - The phrases selected were chosen according to how many applicable results were thrown up by Google. This increases the reliability of the results. Example: "avoid host x" appears more often than "host x is a load of rubbish".
  • Intial filtering of hosts - Hundreds of hosts were initially checked to see if they appeared in Alexa's top 150,000 web sites. Around half of these made the 'short list' of the 63 as presented above. The other half were excluded because they were not popular enough according to Google.
  • Google's nested entries: - Nested entries aren't counted so as to avoid results from the same site (mostly to avoid duplicates).
  • Duplication: "fortunecity is * great" is a good example of duplicates from Google. Out of the 180 listed, only 10 aren't dupes! I specially developed software to remove all of these duplicates.
  • Name ambiguity: Special care had to be taken for hosts with names such as 'Tripod', as the same word can be used to represent something to rest a camcorder on, the name of a rock group, and is also the name of a comedy group! In such cases, results were manually checked (tedious to say the least).
  • Cash incentives: - It was much easier filtering out negative comments from the results than positive. The reason for this is because people may recommend a host for commision/affiliate purposes rather than because they genuinely think the host provider in question is particularly good. Host reviewing sites will tend to do this a lot, and it's easy to see how bias can creep in - thus losing the objectivity of the results.
    For the top hosts, we sifted through every result to see people were promoting a host for monetary purposes (affiliate link). Dreamhost and Lunarpages had quite a lot of them, and one could argue that we should have 'counted' such results. Regardless, the positions on the table wouldn't have changed (Dreamhost and Lunarpages would have come out on top even higher were we not to filter them out).
  • Google's unpredictibility: - Problems arose when the EXACT same search resulted in far fewer results sometimes than other times. For example, a search for "tripod is great" can reveal either "1 - 87 of about 188" ...or... "1 - 100 of about 577", depending on what mood Google is in (or more technically, what data center Google fetches the search results from). Because of this, I always double and triple checked the results at various times, and used the larger number of results as the final data collection for my analysis. You'll see I've marked the 'total results' next to each rating in the table so you can verify them for yourself.
  • Sarcasm: - Supposedly positive comments can actually be sarcastic towards that host provider. I tend to find this the case particularly with the free hosts ;-) Example: "gotta love Geocities".
  • Service ambiguity: - Certain sites such as godaddy.com and pair.com were excluded from the results because they offer other services (such as domain registration or email) on top of web hosting.
  • 'Recommend' search term - Rather than search for "recommend hostx" as is implied above, I used: "recommend hostx" -"not recommend hostx" -"wouldn't recommend hostx" -"don't recommend hostx" -"won't recommend hostx" -"no longer recommend hostx" -"cannot recommend hostx" -"we * recommend hostx" -"we recommend hostx". The last two phrases are filtered because although they seem positive, the use of the word "we" will tend towards affiliate purposes.


    External links:
    Top 4 free web hosts
    Host
    Name
    Basic
    specs
    Pop.Negative
    to
    positive
    SCORE
    1directnic.com20 MB ^^ GB $0 skytopia
    20 MB 2 GB $1.25
    604 / 3872.8%
    2doteasy.com100 MB 1 GB $0
    1000 MB 20 GB $7.95
    20000 MB ^^ GB $9.95
    7118 / 3558.5%
    3bravenet.com50 MB 1.5GB $0
    1000 MB 30 GB $4.95
    5000 MB 100 GB $6.95
    489176 / 25358.0%
    4micfo.com50 MB 1000 GB $0
    1000 MB 40 GB $5.95
    2000 MB 80 GB $10.95
    244 / 1457.3%
  • Choosing a web host to build your website - Following on from this article, we detail what features you'll want from a host, and discuss whether you should go for a free or paid host.
  • Finding the best web site host the Googalistic way - A condensed version of this article.
  • Web Host Magazine.com - One of the most comprehensive host information resources out there, and what appears to be one of the most reliable from what I can see. Also read their section on host finding
  • Web Hosting Unleashed - Excellent resource for host hunting, though Dreamhost should be up there! :)
  • Web Hosting Jury - User Reviews - One of the best host tables I've seen, with tons of ratings and reviews by customers. Dreamhost is in there too ;)
  • Hosting-comparison - Reviews and rankings of many hosts, but again, no sign of Dreamhost in the top 10...
  • Web Hosting Ratings.com - Another web host ranking resource. Filter your ideal host using a comprehensive form.
  • Web Host Magazine.com - How to Find Your First Web Host (For Beginners)
  • 2createawebsite.com - Lists disadvantages of free web hosts.
  • Free-webhosts.com - What it says by the looks of it. Reviews and rankings of many free hosts.



    All pictures, data and text on this page are copyright 2005 onwards Daniel White.
    If you wish to duplicate any of the information from this page, you must contact me for permission.