I’ve been designing websites for a number of years. When I was starting out, I tried a bunch of free places to host my website. Then one day I came across Brinkster.com and signed up for an “educational” account. At the time it was free and ad-free to have this type of account.
Now I have a paid account at brinkster (vivasuzi.com) and I also have convinced various companies I’ve worked for, including my current company, to move their websites over to Brinkster. I had to do a real intense research report for my current company to show them why Brinkster out does all the other hosting companies! Unfortunately, I don’t have that exact file anymore as I compiled it a year ago, but I do remember some of the Key Reasons that Brinkster came out on top! I hope this review will convince you to try Brinkster. If it does, check out vivasuzi.com to see how nice it looks. Whether you decide to go with Brinkster or not, this review should point out the many things you need to consider before signing up with any web hosting service.
Note: I own the “Professional” Package, my companies own the “Developer” Package so that you know when I refer to those two terms that I have experience with both. Also note, some of the offerings have changed since I signed up – such as amount of space – but mostly it seems to be for the better!
The first thing you should consider is how much space you need. Are you planning to have a fully developed website with loads of pictures and information? or do you just need a place to show your companies address? Regardless of which one, Brinkster has a package to fit your needs! Initially with the Professional Package you get 3000 MB of web space, and with the Developer 5000 MB. Recently however I was able to obtain more space for my personal site. Brinkster was offering new members 300 GB of webspace for the same price I paid. I emailed them to see if I could get more space and the next day my account space was up so high that I’m currently only using about 1% of my available space! This is more than you would ever need BUT I find it nice to be able to upload databases, pictures, or anything I want to my webspace either to show on my site or just for backup reasons. You will most likely never run out of space with their current offerings.
When I was researching other choices I found that some web hosting companies try to get away with offering you barely any space. Yes the prices may have been lower, but you have to consider that if you run out of space on those sites you are stuck, but you will never run out of space on a site like Brinkster.
You also have to consider Traffic. This means, how many hits do you expect your site to get a day. When I had a free Brinkster website, I would often have my website closed down for the day because I went over my limit on traffic, however now that i have the paid versions I have never come nearly close enough for my site to close down. In fact, they give me 75 GB of traffic for my Professional site, and 150 GB for the Developers site. I don’t even come close to the limit on either site.
Some hosting companies offer included email accounts, some don’t. Brinkster gave me 400 and 500 respectively which is way more than I will ever need. Some services may only offer a few email accounts. So the point here is that you have to consider whether or not you NEED these email accounts. In my experience I only use 2-3 of these accounts and the rest go unused, BUT if you wanted to create an email account for everyone in your company, you could with Brinkster!
Basically, what language would you write the site in. If you want to use just straight HTML than almost any service will do. However, Brinkster and many other hosting companies offer ASP or ASP.Net, PHP, Perl, Java, it all depends on what you need. I use brinkster b/c of the ASP hosting and ASP is what I am real good at.
Do it yourself or have help?
Now you have to decide if you want to build your site from code and from scratch OR find a place that will just create a website for you. Brinkster does offer a website template builder which I tried once, but I personally would rather code my own site to make sure it is uniquely me. However, not all web hosting companies offer this type of “automatic” web site so you’ll have to consider that also!
If you plan to store a lot of information on your site, you may need database support. Brinkster offers the ability to connect to MS Access, MySQL or SQL Server 2000 so you really have access to anything you want. I found that some hosting companies also offer access to MySQL or SQL Server, but it was rare to find a hosting company that would let you use a simple MS Access database.
Of course after you’ve done all the work to design your site, you want to know that it isn’t going to get lost. Brinkster offers Daily Data Backups which is great because now I’m not worried about losing any information, and I don’t have to back it up myself. Most hosting companies will offer this, but you have to really read the fine print to see if they do or not.
Up and Running
Having backups means nothing if your site is always down. With Brinkster I’ve found our site has only gone down once or twice and only for a very short period of time (like 10 minutes). You should check with anyone you want to sign up with to see if they have any downtime.
Brinkster offers 24/7/365 support by phone, email or live chat. You would think every service would do the same, but I found in my research that a lot of places offer support only during the working hours of 8-5. What’s even worse is that some of these companies were based on the west coast so 8-5 their time would be 11-8 my time, meaning I would have to wait for them to get to work in order to call.
I have used Brinkster’s live chat support multiple times when setting up my new websites and they are always very helpful and quick to respond.
This shouldn’t make or break your decision, but it is just a nice extra. Brinkster offers an entire searchable code back and I’ve found many code tidbits in there that I’ve used on my page. These codes are posted by other Brinkster users which makes it awesome because it is more likely to work on my Brinkster site if it is already working on someone else’s Brinkster site.
It’s always nice to pick a service that gives you upgradable options. For example, even though I have the highest Developer’s package at Brinkster, I still have upgradable choices such as paying a few bucks more for more space or to allow for more traffic. This is nice because if my site is reaching it’s space/traffic limit, I can just buy more and not worry about my site shutting down.
Your Own Server
You also have the option on Brinkster to get your own dedicated server that is only for your website. I personally don’t think this is worth it, but you have to consider your companies needs. If your company wants their site to be the sole site running on a server, and your company thinks your website needs a lot of resources and space, than get your own dedicated server.
I use the Windows hosting on Brinkster, but it also offers Linux hosting. I found that only a few services out there offer Linux, so consider what you prefer and that might help your decision. Windows or Linux…either way go to Brinkster.
This may be a small point for some of you, but you should always consider whether or not you get a domain name with your service. Brinkster offers 1 free domain name, but some hosting companies try to charge you 10-20$ extra just to add your domain name to their site. That was ridiculous! Brinkster’s cool because I can manage my domain name through my Brinkster file manager and I don’t have to go to a domain registrar to do this.
This is the hardest thing to figure out. Of course I’m going to say I trust Brinkster, but you don’t know me so how can you judge? If the site has a lot of FAQs, help, live support, and all that good stuff they are most likely more trustworthy than a hosting company where no one answers the phone, or they don’t fully explain to you what you are getting. I also judge by how many people I see using that service. I found Brinkster through an educational account, so I didn’t know a lot of people who used it. However now that I’m in there I see so many members chatting in the forums and posting in the code bank that I can tell there are a lot of users.
Some of the hosting companies I checked out just looked shady. They had ugly webpages, deals that weren’t well spell out, and FAQs that were confusing. To top it off it was really hard to get a hold of them. Basically if they are hard to use BEFORE you sign up, they’ll be even harder to use AFTER you sign up, don’t you think?
Brinkster’s webstats are admittedly limited. However, I have signed up for free at statcounter.com and I added each of my companies websites to there. Now I can analyze visitors through there. However again, if stats are highly important to you, you can pay as little as a 20$ one time fee to upgrade to better stats.
Brinkster is unique in that it allows you to refer people and get a credit on your account. If you design for a lot of companies, the best idea would be to buy your own brinkster website. As you create websites for all those companies, just convince them to use Brinkster. Sign them up through your referral link and they are getting a great service, and you would get a credit back to your account. If you are a full time web designer, you could probably have your whole site paid for as you refer your companies!
Of course you have to consider how much you are willing to spend. I was surprised to find how expensive a lot of hosting companies were! At the time I signed up, Brinkster offered 7.95/month for the professional service and 17.95/month for the Developer service. My company felt it was worth the extra 10$ a month for the extra space and security. If you are only willing to spend 4$ a month, well you could sign up for a Brinkster Personal plan – or you could go find a cheap web hosting company somewhere else.
I think that was all the stuff I considered when choosing a web hosting place for my company.. I hope this helps you decide where to host your website – even if you decide not to use Brinkster, at least consider it. Have fun researching!!