HostMonk: hosting reviews without the monkey business

HostMonkEver since this blog started picking up momentum, I get a lot of email from companies launching new products or features. Most of them aren’t very interesting to me (like iPhone apps when I don’t have an iPhone), solve problems I don’t have or are simply hoping to be the next Twitter. I discard most of them. But sometimes one of these projects actually looks like it’s going to fix an important issue, like with HostMonk.

Monkey business

HostMonk is new website that aims to impartially compare hosting packages. This might be something you’d expect to already exist. There are tons of sites out there comparing other sorts of products. But with web hosting, there’s a catch. Many hosting companies have adopted a marketing strategy where they pay out very large referral fees. If you refer someone to Amazon and they buy the book, you get a few bucks. Tops. Web hosting providers will gladly pay upwards from $50. This has spawned a whole genre of so-called review websites, most of which simply rank the companies based on the payout.

This is where our little Zen friend comes in. HostMonk bases its advice on raw numbers, like the amount of storage you get, how much bandwidth you’re allowed to use and how much a certain package costs. They make money from referrals, but they make it very clear that this does not affect the rankings.

The path to enlightenment

My main concern is that HostMonk does not (yet) factor in the most important factor in web hosting. Quality. I’ve, on average, switched hosting provider every two years since I started running my own websites. And in many cases I left before the end of my contract. Not because I wanted to, but because I needed to get the hell out of there. My current host on the other hand has relatively modest specs and certainly isn’t very cheap, but they’ve consistently provided top notch service and support. On HostMonk however, they’d probably compare poorly to other cheaper hosts.

If HostMonk would add a good rating system, which is simple to use yet tough to abuse, it might just be the website we’ve been waiting for. The site is still in early development, and they’ve assured me that they plan to add a lot more features, including customer satisfaction and things like uptime.

28 Comments

  1. Doesnt http://www.webhostingunleashed.com already do much of this?

    Comment by Big Boy — March 26, 2009 @ 8:47 pm

  2. There are tons of sites out there comparing other sorts of products. But with web hosting, there’s a catch. Many hosting companies have adopted a marketing strategy where they pay out very large referral fees.

    Umm, there are interestitial redirects in HostMonk where affiliate codes could be placed invisible to users.

    Comment by HostWatcher — March 26, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

  3. This is NOT a review site of ANY description. I went there expecting to be able to view reviews, and clicked to view dedicated server packages. What I saw, was a list of companies and their inclusions/prices.

    http://www.hostmonk.com/dedicated_hosting/windows_servers

    Clicking “Find reviews… ” for one of them, led me to;

    http://www.hostmonk.com/main/reviews/38?cof=FORID%3A9&cx=012753324892335192959%3Aaiei-lztwcc&ie=UTF-8&q=ServerPronto&sa=Search

    Which is a GOOGLE CUSTOM SEARCH!

    This is nothing more than a poorly thought out comparison site. I cannot find a SINGLE review that was done by the individual/company running the HostMonk site.

    Comment by MysteryFCM — March 26, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  4. @Big Boy – it’s a decent site with information on companies but no comprehensive list of the plans each provider offers, to save comparing lots of providers.

    @HostWatcher – as Roy mentioned and we openly state, we do connect some links to affiliate programs, where they are available, to offset the costs of keeping HostMonk running. Not only does this not impact the ranking or display order _in any way_, the fact is that a large percentage of the links are not connected to any affiliate program, usually because there simply isn’t one. This did not cause us not to list those providers or penalize them in any way.

    Feel free to ask any questions here or on Twitter @HostMonkDotCom

    Comment by Guy Rosen - HostMonk — March 26, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

  5. Have you considered hosting things yourself? With business-class cable or a solid DSL connection, most sites operate just fine, and everything is in your hands. On top of that, there’s no limit to the number of sites you can host.

    Comment by Eric Crist — March 26, 2009 @ 9:37 pm

    • @Eric Crist: I’m pretty sure I’d be the worst system administrator ever.

      Comment by Roy — March 27, 2009 @ 9:07 am

  6. @Guy
    do you have any feedback regarding Roy’s comments on on how Host Monk might evaluate smaller more service oriented hosting companies, that dont necessarily focus on large (in my opinion vastly unecessary and misleading) amounts of storage, transfer, etc… but focus on actually helping their customers?

    In interest of full disclosure..i am working at one of those small companies, but have also worked at the big ones…i have found when it comes down to it…disc space and data transfer are rarely the problem for businesses online, i suppose it depends on the business, but perhaps a way for companies to look for “local/smaller” service oriented hosts?

    Comment by Niels — March 26, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

  7. @Niels

    I believe that specs are the first step evaluating any hosting deal, and hence it those were the first criteria we added. Both you and Roy correctly point out that additional criteria need to be factored in. We’re planning to add criteria that will help buyers get an idea of who the company is. This could be based on company information, customer satistaction, uptime stats, etc.

    The vision is to reach a point where you can search for e.g., a 500GB HD and 1000GB of transfer – and then add to that the fact that you want a company with a good service record. Some people like large companies, and that’s legitimate. Others want a more personal approach and good service. And in this business, large doesn’t always mean better. Often it could mean overselling or just bad service.

    What do you think would be the best way to compare?

    Comment by Guy Rosen - HostMonk — March 26, 2009 @ 10:31 pm

  8. They need to expand their coverage of Web hosting providers. The one that I’m currently using, Sightground.com, doesn’t appear to be listed. Perhaps they will add more in the future.

    Comment by Greg G. Wau — March 26, 2009 @ 10:39 pm

  9. Link: Randomness Prevails » Blog Archive » links for 2009-03-26
  10. No Dreamhost? LOL…

    Comment by Charles — March 27, 2009 @ 7:21 am

  11. @MysteryFCM – acknowledged, the custom search is just a stopgap until we get proper reviews inside the site. The main functionality we’re placing an emphasis on is not reviews (which we do hope to add at some point) – it’s data oriented comparison. Think shopping.com. Nowhere else will you be able to search and sort through packages from as many providers as you can on HostMonk.

    Comment by Guy Rosen - HostMonk — March 27, 2009 @ 9:25 am

  12. @Guy,
    Err, hate to correct you but, there’s already somewhere I can go to compare hosting, amongst others;

    http://www.hostchart.com

    From what I can see, they provide comparisons, just as your site does – but without the rubbish pretending to be reviews.

    How you can respond with a claim of it’s being a “stop gap” is beyond me. This article touts your site as “hosting reviews without the money business”, but “monkey business” is exactly what I DID see on your site.

    If your site is meant as a comparison/review site – don’t publicize it UNTIL THERE ARE REVIEWS!. Doing otherwise is misleading at best. If your site is meant solely as a comparison site – market it as such, don’t claim it is something it isn’t.

    Comment by MysteryFCM — March 27, 2009 @ 10:38 pm

  13. Link: The Technology Blog: Hosting Reviews Without The Monkey Business
  14. @MysteryFCM There must have been a misunderstanding – HostMonk is a hosting comparison site, not a review site (I believe Roy had a small technical issue correcting the title post publication of this blog, which he definitely tried to do).

    If you look around the site you’ll see our focus is, deliberately, on data-based comparison. Our slogan is “impartial web hosting comparison”. Our differentiation from the other sites is simple: what you see is what you get – YOU control which plans you see and order in which they are listed.

    Comment by Guy Rosen - HostMonk — March 29, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

    • Yeah, I think I started this confusion. I emailed Guy a couple of questions before I put this post up. The most important one was whether HostMonk was planning to add customer satisfaction data to their comparison. I felt this was a critical success factor for the website. Guy affirmed that they did have this planned, so I wrote the post based on that. What I was trying to say was that if they add customer reviews or ratings of some sort, the site will be an valuable resource.

      I edited the title after a few hours to remove the word ‘reviews’, but by then the post had made it to Digg, so I had to edit it back (because I didn’t want the onscreen title and the permalink to be different).

      Comment by Roy — March 29, 2009 @ 8:50 pm

  15. Changing the title of the post to reflect what the site *really* is, would be a heck of alot better, irrespective of whether the permalink is different. It’s all about trust, and misleading isn’t a good way to earn that trust.

    Perhaps a good option would be to change the title, and add a note to the article to reflect the change (tis what I do when writing articles that require updates)

    Comment by MysteryFCM — March 29, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

    • @MysteryFCM. You’re right. That’s probably what a professional editor would have done.

      Comment by Roy — March 30, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  16. Wasn’t impying you weren’t professional ;o)

    Comment by MysteryFCM — March 31, 2009 @ 1:50 am

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  20. important things like uptime, yes im agree with you, besides they must have a good and ready customer service

    Comment by bayu2298 — July 4, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

  21. Hi,

    Just found your blog on Technorati & Digg upcomming news feeds and read a few of your other posts.
    ISeems good contents,Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Thanks,
    Michael

    Comment by Michael David — August 1, 2009 @ 11:01 am

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  23. Business hosting really has different strategies. The main aim is uniqueness to meet company goals.

    Comment by Dentist Edinburgh Business Hosting — October 1, 2010 @ 8:34 am

  24. Link: HostMonk now lets you review web hosts | Roy Tanck's weblog
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