In today’s world of web hosting, there is literally a deluge of companies from which you can purchase hosting services. These hosts can offer a multitude of packages at a variety of prices. But how can you tell when you are purchasing services from an actual hosting provider, or from a reseller? Better yet, when and how will this knowledge make a difference?
Let’s first start with what the difference between a hosting provider and a reseller is. An actual web host provider is selling services from servers that it owns and maintains. Typically, they manage the machines, networks, DNS, and the actual uplinks to the Internet backbone. When you call a true hosting provider for support, they handle it directly.
A reseller, on the other hand, is merely a merchant who sells the services provided by the actual provider. This is not to say that the reseller does or cannot offer their own services, like web design services for example, in addition to the hosting services. Resellers do not own the servers, or manage the network, or any of the truly technical stuff that the actual provider does. When you call a reseller for support issues, most of the technical problems are relayed to the actual host. In essence, the reseller functions in a similar fashion as a retailer, reselling goods provided by someone else at a profit.
Now, the question to ask yourself, is how does this affect you? Truth is, in most cases, it doesn’t matter. So long as you are getting the services you need, at a price you are happy with, why would it matter if you were getting it directly from the provider or from a reseller? Too bad it can’t always be that simple.
If you have a high traffic website, or if you wish to purchase a dedicated or co-location account, it may be worth your while to ensure that you are working with an actual hosting provider. This ensures that your account can receive the highest level of attention possible, since all agreements and issues are addressed directly with the people who are responsible for the work, instead of thru intermediaries who may or may not communicate your needs effectively. Now, this is not always the case. Some hosting resellers are well equipped to handle even the most demanding of needs. But overall, for those with an overpowering need for the highest quality relationship, working directly with a hosting provider is your best course of action.
Now, the actual process of discovering whether or not your prospective web host is a reseller or an actual provider is not always as simple. Most resellers don’t come right out and tell you that they merely resell someone else’s offering. Here are a few ways that you might try if you need to determine for yourself.
1) Check the WHOIS directory
2) Visit a domain registrar, such as Network Solutions to see if the name servers of the hosts domains match their domain name. If they are different, chances are that they are a reseller.
3) Run a tracert – Tracert is a utility that will show a path of all computers that are hit in order to access a certain machine. The data returned by this utility can be a little confusing, so it is not suggested for beginners.
4) Visit hosting resources – There are many resources available on the Internet in regards to information about host providers. You can find reviews and information on many hosts in these places. Also help are site that have open discussion forums, such as http://forums.devshed.com/f12/s, where you can review information and even ask questions about specific hosts.
5) Call and ask – If all else fails, why not just contact the host and ask them directly. If for some reason, you cannot get a direct answer to the question, it is safe to assume that they are probably a reseller.
In summation, there are a few methods you can use to determine whether a host is a reseller or not. Most owners of small to medium sized websites can get their needs met quite adequately by hosting providers and resellers alike. If you feel that it is essential to have your site hosted by the actual provider, or even if you are just curious to know for sure, it should be easy to determine the facts about any potential hosts by using the methods described above.
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