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Awardspace web hosting.

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      30.08.2008 13:30
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      Advantages

      Disadvantages

      You can try them out for free and that is how most people then will go onto paying for the hosting.

      And the Award for the best space goes to......

      Well, it might not go to Awardspace, but in all honesty I think they are in with a very good chance.

      ~ So, just who are Awardspace? ~

      Awardspace specialize in web hosting. This is the thing that allows you to have a web site. Basically Awardspace is an amalgamation of two different companies - Attractsoft, and Zetta Hosting solutions.
      They are based in Germany, and have been operating since about 2002 in the present format.
      I apologize because this is a longer than usual review for me, but I honestly don't think I can cover everything with less.

      ~ So what do they offer? ~

      Well Awardspace currently have 4 main options available to you and so are subject to change and are only relevant at the time of posting this review. Please check their website (given at the end) for all the latest information. I will give just a brief run down of each as well, but you can get all the full details from the website.

      1) Easy Starter Hosting Plan. Cost Nothing! Zero. Free! Nadda. Zip. There is no charge!
      This comes with:
      200MB Disk Space
      5GB Monthly Traffic
      2 Domains Hosting
      5 Subdomains
      PHP, Perl/CGI-BIN
      1 MySQL Database

      2) Basic Hosting Plan. Cost $41.88 annually.
      This comes with:
      Disk Space 60GB
      Monthly Traffic 1000GB
      MySQL database storage 50MB
      MySQL databases 20
      1 free domain name *Note, this is currently restricted and doesn't include co.uk names for example. However, .net and .org are available as is .com. Also subject to availability.

      3) Web Pro Plus Cost $65.88
      Disk Space 120 GB
      Monthly Traffic 2000GB
      MySQL database storage 70 MB
      MySQL databases 30
      1 free domain name for life.* See above.

      4) Max Pack Plus Cost $95.88
      Disk Space 200GB
      Monthly Traffic 3000GB
      MySQL database storage Unlimited
      MySQL databases Unlimited
      2 free domain names for life* see above.

      Please remember that the prices quoted are in dollars, so at current conversion rate, this is good value for us in the UK and even if the exchange rate worsens it is still excellent pricing, but is subject to change.

      ~ So that is the basics, what does this actually mean in real terms. ~

      Well, if you know about web hosting you can skip this next piece. However if you're not entirely sure what it is all about, I hope this will help.

      When you take on a web site, whether it's for your own family to use for fun, perhaps you have a hobby you want to share, or a small business, or even a larger business that requires online presence - then you will need somewhere to host it. Now most hosting is done on a shared server. Imagine an old fashioned pigeon hole letter rack - and each compartment is a section of webspace. Say, 1 MB (Megabyte) for each pigeon hole.
      Now, you will need to get a certain amount of that space, and so you rent out your required space from places like Awardspace. Each package is tailored to a certain amount of space.
      Of course, you could go for a server (in other words take up the whole lot) but this isn't going to happen unless you are very computer savvy or you're business is large enough to warrant it - so we won't be looking at anything other than the web hosting supplied on the shared servers.

      As well as space, you are also going to need to have bandwidth. This is the amount of traffic that flows from and to your website. It is often done in monthly allowances (as is the case with Awardspace), and is the other most important consideration as to what hosting package you decide on. You can have plenty of space, but if you don't have enough bandwidth each month, there are going to be times during the month when your website won't be showing.

      Paying for your hosting is easy enough, and can be done with either a credit card or through PayPal. But you will need to be around a phone when you apply because they usually phone (we had ours within 30 minutes) just to confirm you are at a location and the phone number is valid. An extra security measure they have in place for a number of reasons and it's a small price to pay in my opinion to have their hosting.

      ~ Okay I get that * I think * So..... what do I need to know now? ~

      Well, there are plenty of web hosting sites out there. I know because my partner and I have tried a number of them over the last 12 years, since we began running some sites for fun. Since then, a couple have become reasonably popular - not large in overall terms for websites, but certainly large for the type they are and one is now official for a well known actress and her husband who live in the USA.
      This has meant our requirements have changed dramatically over the years as we've increased the number of sites we've got, plus the size of some of them.

      And of course, web hosting has also improved dramatically over the years, with packages being offered that were frankly unheard of before and something only really big companies would be getting.
      Today - all that has changed and the scope of offer is almost unbelievable. And it makes it confusing for those just starting out, not knowing what is best.

      ~ So what makes Awardspace so different? ~

      Basically Awardspace are considerably different for a very good reason. The packages they offer are superbly competitive, and most of all, reliable. I say reliable because this has always been one of the biggest problems we have faced over the years when we've gone for hosting.

      Now this doesn't mean Awardspace aren't without problems, but they are certainly one of the best out there. For example, no one service can maintain 100% uptime on their servers. This is simply impossible, and anyone who claims otherwise is telling big fat fibs!
      On average a good server will maintain over 99% uptime over 12 months. Now this on average means over the whole year - for those of us who are anally retentive - you have 8765.81277 hours in the year - and you will expect to lose around 3 hours of server time.

      Actually pretty darn good when you look at it this way, and it also means most server outages won't even be noticed by people because they last seconds, on occasion minutes. Unless there is a massive hardware failure in the server or where the servers are being kept, it's actually quite rare for a company, which maintains top-notch servers to really have a problem.

      They also have pretty decent customer service. Again something we've had cause to complain about over the years at previous places! They are usually very quick to respond to emails, have a pretty good FAQ section or you can use the personal ticket system they have in place.


      ~ So now to look at each package in more detail. ~

      The Starter Plan.

      Well this is great because it's free. Not only is it free, but also in reality it gives much better hosting than many paid sites out there. But - this does come at one cost, and that is they have had to place a pretty hefty word filter in place. The reason for this is because they have had so many problems with those who want to set up the wrong kind of sites doing so. Now this means a word that might seem pretty innocent can get caught and the website is effectively redirected to an Awardspace page.
      This is also true of some links you might want to put in, so again you have to be careful.

      Unfortunately Awardspace are caught between a bit of a rock and a hard place here because if they published the words they have in place to filter sites - it would allow those who they want to avoid using workarounds. But, by not being able to publish the genuine users will have no idea what is safe and what isn't - until they find the page being redirected!
      This doesn't mean you lose your site altogether - once you work out which word or link is rogue, and you edit accordingly you will get your page/s back!

      So having said all this - its still an amazing package deal. You also have basic database use, which many people use to host message boards on for example. Only really viable if it's a very small board on this package, but great if you want to start out and see how you get on.

      The other major problem people can have is file sizes (the picture you might want to upload for example) are restricted to 500kb. This generally isn't a problem, unless you want to upload a movie clip of something or a very large picture.

      But the upside is - you can use a free host with no adverts or banners displayed and get a really good look for a site. For example a friend is involved in dog showing, so we set up a site for her using the free hosting - she only pays for her Domain name (less than £10-00 for two years). www.navarrepoodles.co.uk is the site if you want to go and see a free site in action. This has now been running on this hosting package for two years without incident and averages several hundred hits a week and that is a pretty good return for a site of this type.

      So in brief.
      Bad points:
      Word filter in place, as well as external linking policy.
      File size is restricted to a maximum level.
      Some file types are not allowed. No Zip, Rar etc but you could try other hosting and link across (this has been known to work).
      Good points.
      Great amount of space and bandwidth allocated. Few paid sites can offer this much let alone free ones.
      Nice easy to use control panel, that even most novice users should find easy to get around once you get used to it.
      You don't need a full domain name. A subdomain name (xxxxx.awardspace.com) can be used * subject to availability *
      Good uptime and security.
      Great number of additional features like database.

      ~ All the other packages. ~

      I am going to review all the other paid packages in one lot, since apart from basic differences in what they have to offer; all are pretty much akin to each other.

      All the paid programs offer an affliate program. This is great if you get referrals from your account because they extend your package, at the current rate its - you refer one paid customer, and you are given 3 months of free hosting in return. Not bad! In fact pretty good because it's not always easy to get a referral, and this means you are rewarded well and fairly in my opinion. Especially if you have one of the bigger packages.

      Each package comes with a slightly different level of choice, but again they are exceptionally competitive and very few sites will offer similar deals, let alone quality of customer support we've encountered.

      The servers seem to handle the traffic extremely well and we've experienced very little downtime.

      In fact, it's hard to find anything wrong with the paid packages. Occasional downtime was occurring on our particular server for a short time last year, but they quickly upgraded it, and the problem stopped. Other than that it's been great. We have email auto responders, Email filters, massive storage and bandwidth allocation that even some businesses would be happy with. More than one domain name can be run off each package, so you don't have to buy one package for each domain name.
      No hidden catches in the pricing! Another trick all too often employed by some companies.
      Database use, again at a level for the average user to be plenty for your needs and some scripts you can use are made available for you to do so.

      ~ Overall thoughts and final advise. ~

      As I've said there are very few host sites out there that can touch Awardspace on a number of different levels. Each site though is wanted for different reasons, so if you wanted to simply run a message board for example - you are better off looking at other options.
      But if it's a web site you want, perhaps with a message board attached and you want to host it - this is the first choice for me and one I would highly recommend.

      Awardspace are a business that are still going strong. This isn't something many other companies have achieved over the years in what is a cutthroat market. They have basically done what they set out to do, and continue to do this.
      The control panel is always intimidating when you first begin to use a website, so we would advise the novice to look at getting a free site to begin with, if nothing else just to muck about with it and get used to all the controls and elements you will need to use.

      If there is one fault when you start out with them - it's that you don't get told you need to 'activate' your domain name you've chosen in the control panel (this is also true of a subdomain name). Now this means you have to go into the control panel - click on either Domain Manager or Subdomain manager, and add the domain name.
      You also need to remember it can take some time for a name to become active, so don't expect to see what pages you have loaded showing immediately.

      To load your pages, you don't need to have any special program to do this, because they offer a File Manager option which allows you to upload the files from your computer. If you've used Photobucket or other similar sites - it's basically the same premise and you should be able to work it out pretty easily.

      Domain names - Now while Awardspace offer some domain names (and they are free for some packages) I wouldn't advise going with this company for the domain name you want to keep. This is simply because if you do ever need to move your hosting package, you will then also need to move your domain name - and this can be a frustrating and even expensive thing to do.

      So we would recommend you buy from a company that allows you to have a domain name that aren't reliant on hosting, but then use what is known as DNS settings to point the domain name to the hosting package you use.
      Now, you will either need to get someone to help you who knows about how to set up a DNS change to different nameservers (as they are called), or some knowledge about it yourself.
      If your happy to go with the domain name Awardspace can offer you - then by all means, do so and this is just a personal preference we have.
      We use www.1and1.co.uk for our domain names but again there are other options out there.

      As I've said, this means we can move hosting if we want to, and all we have to do is change the settings on the domain name for the new hosting. Less hassle in the long run, but really only for the slightly more experienced web user.

      To give you some idea of how happy we are with Awardspace - we were virtually moving each year to new hosting, and never quite getting the right service. Our last hosts began well, but soon deteriorated into a farce, with security being so poor we kept losing the site to hackers, and eventually landed up with someone using one site for phishing emails! It was a nightmare and we couldn't get away from there fast enough. And that in itself was a problem because a couple of Domain names were through the company who we had the hosting with, and they refused to acknowledge our requests to change. It took months instead of a week to get them eventually changed and a lot of high blood pressure moments!

      But, we've been with Awardspace now just over 2 years and it's been great! We just hope they don't change too much and are able to keep their core promise to the customer because they really do stand up and shine amongst web hosting companies.

      ~ And so..... ~

      In case you hadn't already guessed I'm a huge fan of Awardspace. So check them out by going to:
      www.awardspace.com

      They are a winner in my opinion, and as I've said, if nothing else go and sign up for a free site using the subdomain name option and give them a try if your looking to get a website of any kind, or even if your looking to improve on the site hosting you might already have.

      After all, it doesn't have to cost you anything to try them out.

      A full five out of five stars for me.

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