Why 1&1 is my favorite web hosting provider

If you do anything on the web with your own websites (either for business or personal use) then you’ll eventually have to answer this question: where can I find a reliable web hosting provider?

Web hosting providers have become, more or less, a commodity - they’re all over the place. On one hand this is good - you have lots of options. On the other hand, it makes the decision a bit more difficult since it’s not that easy to know which web hosting provider is a good one. As the saying goes “on the net nobody knows if you’re a dog” - it’s easy to put together a nice web page, have attractive pricing and call yourself a web hosting provider. Nobody will ever know that your hosting servers are actually in your basement.

Let me give you a piece of advice - if you want to spare yourself trouble in this area in the future, then stay away from free web hosting providers or those that call themselves cheap web hosting providers. As it’s true in all areas of life, it’s the same here - you’ll get what you pay for. You might pay a very, very low monthly fee or be promised a ridiculously large space or bandwidth quota but when trouble hits you’ll find that nobody’s home - good luck then.

Something like that happened to me a few years ago when I was hosting with one of those ‘budget’ web hosting companies and I certainly ‘paid’ for it. One day, out of the blue, the company just decided to close its doors - “business wasn’t good” - and we, the customers, were all stuck trying to find a new web hosting plan virtually overnight.

I learned my lesson. With the next one I decided that price alone won’t be the deciding factor. It’s certainly important to not pay more than you have to but I was now looking for a good track record and a company that had some history.

That’s how I eventually found 1&1. At its origins 1&1 is a German company that eventually became one of the leading web hosting providers in Europe. In 2003 it started an aggressive expansion in the United States with a very interesting offer: it invited U.S. users to try its services free for 3 years - that’s how confident they were that those customers would stay as paying customers after that.

I’ve been a very happy customer with them for the last 5 years. I have a variety of sites with them, including this blog, and I can tell you that they certainly lived up to their promise of reliable hosting.

Let me give you some stats about them so you can see that they’re not kidding around:

  • 3,400 employees including 250 developers and administrators
  • 5 datacenters across the world
  • 40,000 servers
  • 7 million customers
  • 9 million domain names registered by those customers through 1&1
  • 24/7 phone and email support for all their customers
  • an excellent FAQ area for those who like finding answers on their own
  • a full list of web hosting services: domain registration, personal web hosting, business web hosting, Linux and Windows plans, Microsoft Exchange hosting, dedicated and virtual servers, ecommerce web hosting, SharePoint hosting … you name it, they have it - if you have a need in the web hosting area, they can take care of it

This year their parent company is celebrating 20 years in business - how many web hosting companies can make a claim like that? For this occasion they’re offering 50% off regular prices on pretty much their entire service offering.

Am I saying that no other company out there is a reliable web hosting company? No, not at all - I’m sure that there are others out there that offer good services in this area. But, if you’re looking for a stable and financially secure company with a reliable track record for which web hosting is THE business, not an after-thought, then look no further - 1&1 is certainly that company… and you can be sure that they’ll be around in the future.

I’ve been a happy customer for 5 years and I look forward to many more years of reliable service from them.

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Two decisions I made to help me actually get things done

There is no shortage of advice out there, both on the web and in print, when it comes to the topic of personal productivity. Probably more than any other generation before us, we today feel the increased pressure of trying to get more things done in the same 24-hour day that our parents had at their disposal … and it doesn’t seem to get any easier. It’s probably one of the negative side-effects of the information age - we have access to so much more data, so many more ideas, and that brings on the pressure of exploring many new avenues that were probably not even considered by those who came before us.

I personally believe that one should only look at ways to increase personal productivity once the list of tasks was properly inspected and that person is convinced that each task, once completed, will bring that person closer to his or her personal goals. It really makes no sense to try to be more productive in doing things that will only sidetrack you from your goals - I think we all can agree that it’s so easy for such ‘junk’ to-do items to appear on our task lists.

I personally read many books and web articles on the topic of personal productivity. Many people out there claim to have come up with the ultimate system for helping you get things done. Much of what I read on the topic I forgot already - it’s quite obvious then that such advice is only useful and has a chance of working when you’re actually ready to put it in practice.

Here are two rules I’ve been trying to follow lately to help me get more out of my time:

1. Redeem the time by dividing larger tasks into smaller parts that can be completed when time is available.

I personally would prefer to work on something from start to finish and not be interrupted. I really don’t like loose ends that result when I have to start various tasks without completing them. Well…that’s what I’d like - but life certainly doesn’t work like that. It’s very rare when I can say “here’s a two hour block - go ahead and do task A”. Life just isn’t partitioned like that - interruptions are a fact of life. Therefore, when will that two hour task actually get done?

Let me give you an example. Say you place an order for pizza delivery, and you have 20 minutes until it gets there and you can start eating. What do you do in those 20 minutes? I would often consider that as wasted time - not really long enough for doing anything important - and would probably just go to digg.com (fill in your favorite time waster website) to see what’s happening in the world. I just let go of twenty minutes in which I did nothing that brought me closer to my goals. This was mainly because I considered that time period as not long enough to fit any of the tasks on my list. If I had divided, in advance, a larger task into smaller parts with concrete goals, maybe I would have actually been able to work on something important during that time.

I’d just like to clarify here that I’m not proposing the idea of multitasking - this is not what it’s about. Multitasking is something that’s better left to the CPUs in our computers. If anybody says that they can handle 2 phone calls and 3 emails at the same time I think they’re just deceiving themselves. The act of context switching - moving from one task to another - can be time consuming and should be kept to a minimum.

What I’m proposing here is a way to make the most of those 10, 20, 30 minute intervals during the day when we might actually be able to get stuff done if our big and important tasks would be properly divided into smaller parts.

2. Try not to handle the same issue more than once.

This is actually a rewrite of a suggestion I saw somewhere on how to be more productive when dealing with email: do not handle the same email more than once. The idea is this: when an email comes into your inbox, do one of three things:

  • if it’s junk, delete it and get it out of there
  • if it’s something you can deal with relatively fast, then do it right away and get that email out of there
  • otherwise, if the email pertains to an issue that would take longer to deal with, quickly file it away into a special area and deal with it later

The idea is to keep the inbox clean at all times - treat the inbox as a routing station not as a collection area. This way you’ll quickly know what you still have to work on.

I try to take the same approach when dealing with my to-do list. Once I have a good set of priorities and tasks (I’m done cleaning the junk), then I try to first get done those things that can be taken care of quickly. This way I can quickly get the satisfaction of actually getting some stuff done. For the longer tasks, I’ll quickly divide them into smaller parts (see above) and then file them away for when time will become available. What I try to avoid here is having to constantly look at task A and ask myself how I’d go about doing it. I should only have to do that once. After that I’ll divide it into smaller parts and work on those individually. If I don’t follow this principle, then I would just get discouraged about my productivity since I’d keep looking at the same long task that won’t change and won’t go away.

There it is - I hope you’ll find this information useful.

Domain tasting - just what will they think of next …

I came across this interesting article yesterday on Yahoo News saying that Google will change its AdSense policy to not allow domain tasters to make money via the AdSense system. I was not really familiar with the concept of ‘domain tasting’, and since I got the impression that this was a pretty important change on Google’s part I decided to look further into the matter and see what this was all about.

So, what exactly is domain tasting?

It turns out that when you purchase a new domain name there is a grace period of 5 days during which you can go back to the registrar from which you purchased the domain, and get back a full refund for the price you paid for the domain, should you choose not to keep it.

Sounds innocent enough … however, there are plenty of people and companies out there who figured out that this policy is actually a big loophole that allows them to make some money. What do they do? They register all kinds of domains that they really have no intention of using for a business or for a real purpose (such as adding meaningful content), fill up the pages with ads (mainly Google AdSense), and then wait for people to stumble across those domains and hopefully click on some ads. To give you an idea of the extent of this practice, here’s a statistic from the CEO of GoDaddy, one of the biggest registrars out there: by February 2007, out of 55.1 million domain names registered, 51.5 million were canceled and refunded just before the 5 day grace period expired and only 3.6 million domain names were actually kept.

If the domain tasters see a good stream of ad revenue coming in during this 5 day grace period, they keep the domain. Otherwise, they go back to the registrar, get their refund, and go ‘taste’ another domain … thus the name ‘domain tasting’. Domains that are usually successful in this scheme are expired domains that still have links in the search indexes, domains for misspelled products and so on - you get the idea.

What I didn’t really understand is why would Google allow AdSense to be used on such domains to begin with. I know that when you initially get an AdSense account Google is pretty good about checking the domain, making sure it’s valid and so on. However, once you do have a Google AdSense account, it’s much easier to use AdSense ads for that account on new websites. According to this answer in the Google AdSense FAQ it’s quite simple to add new sites to an existing Google AdSense account, much simpler apparently than it is to actually open an AdSense account to begin with.

So, as part of this change in its policies, Google will simply not serve AdSense ads on such sites that were registered for less than 5 days.

I applaud this change on Google’s part. Since domain tasters rely heavily on AdSense ads to make their money during this grace period I think that this change could bring the practice to a halt. This would mean that the rest of us might actually be able to find a decent domain name when looking for one, not to mention that hopefully a great number of ad-filled junk domains will simply go away. By stopping this practice Google is willingly saying ‘no’ to part of its ad income (keep in mind that Google gets paid from its advertisers for all those ads displayed on such domains) so I’m glad they’re doing something positive with the great power they have over how we use the Internet.

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