Prime Net Hosting
by Blake Linton Wilfong -- The Wondersmith!

UPDATE 10/1/2003: I am writing this as I prepare to move my website to a new server on a new hosting service, ICDSoft.com. Wondersmith.com has been down for hours today, my e-mail doesn't work, and Primenethosting.com hasn't returned my calls. This is only the most recent major failure; there have been others. My website usage statistics haven't been available to me for months, nor did Primenethosting's support staff bother to answer my complaint about their disappearance. Finally, my ISP, covad.net, has apparently started blocking outgoing e-mails with false return address headers--which means I need a hosting service that provides an SMTP e-mail server so I can send e-mails with a wondersmith.com return address. Like so many other businesses, Primenethosting started out so well, but seems to have deteriorated over time. Anyway, for posterity, here's my original review...but bear in mind that I have now left Primenethosting and would no longer recommend them--if they even still exist.


It is the year 2001. Strange things are happening. The bottom has fallen out of Internet banner advertising. Banner ad networks have dumped thousands of websites (including mine). Webmasters can no longer afford the extravagant prices they've been paying for hosting. Costs of microprocessors, RAM, hard drives, and Internet bandwidth have plummeted. The reliability of web servers has improved steadily, so they now require little tech support manpower. Web hosting companies are competing hard for the business of the remaining websites, and many are willing to pass the savings of improved technology on to their customers.

What does all this mean? It means webmasters like me can get superior hosting at prices that would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago!

Last month, I moved my website, The World of the Wondersmith, from Webhosting.com to Prime Net Hosting. Why? Banner ad network ValueClick had dropped me earlier this year, and with ValueClick went most of my website's earning capacity. The next $75 three-month charge from Webhosting.com was looming ominously, and, faced with the awful alternative of shutting down The World of the Wondersmith entirely, I sought out a less expensive--and quite possibly better--web hosting service.

At the time of this writing, Prime Net Hosting charges $5.95 per month for virtual hosting with 150 MB storage, 4 GB transfer, 15 e-mails, Microsoft Frontpage extensions, Webalizer statistics, and more. That's not a typo, and you read it right: $5.95 per month!

I was skeptical about the quality of service that Prime Net Hosting could offer at this price, so I did some serious research. Looking on their own site, I found testimonials from webmasters who were using their service, and these testimonials included the domain names of the hosted sites. I checked these sites repeatedly and found them to be speedy and reliable. Suspicious that Prime Net Hosting might be giving preferred status to these particular sites, I also started sleuthing using Google and tracked down some more sites hosted by Prime Net Hosting. These sites functioned equally well. I next searched various websites that host user ratings/reviews of web hosting services; the few reviews of Prime Net Hosting that I could find were all positive.

Perhaps most significantly, I noted that Prime Net Hosting charges no setup fees and requires no long-term contracts. This speaks volumes. It takes time and effort--in other words, money--to set up a web hosting account. Without setup fees or long-term contracts, the only way for Prime Net Hosting to recoup its initial investment is for its customers to stay around voluntarily for many months. And the only way to make that happen is to provide quality service. Plus, at just $5.95 per month, Prime Net Hosting must have confidence in its own reliability; a single tech support call could easily blow an account's profits for a month!

Here's something else I found appealing: Prime Net Hosting spells out exactly how much bandwidth is alloted for each of its web hosting packages. There is no such thing as "unlimited bandwidth", and any web hosting company that offers it is being misleading if not outright dishonest. There is always some bandwidth limit beyond which a web hosting package cannot be pushed. Web hosting services that offer "unlimited bandwidth" will unceremoniously dump hosted sites that exceed "reasonable system resource usage", throttle the sites' bandwidth, or charge them exorbitant "overuse" fees as documented deep in fine print of their "terms of use" contracts. How clearly and prominently a web hosting company specifies its bandwidth limits is a measure of its integrity. Webmasters should also get detailed statistics showing how much bandwidth their sites are using from day to day, which pages consume the most bandwidth, and so on. The Webalizer statistics provided in Prime Net Hosting's accounts serve this purpose admirably.

In short, I was impressed with Prime Net Hosting's forthright business practices. I signed up with them a month ago, and I've since become even more impressed. The signup process went smoothly: I filled out the online forms, including my phone number and credit card number, and was promptly rewarded with a confirmation e-mail telling me that my site would be set up within 12 hours. It also gave Prime Net Hosting's DNS information so I could have Network Solutions go ahead and transfer my domain. I chose to wait until the new site was fully operational to make sure there wouldn't be any downtime during the transition.

Meanwhile, I sent Prime Net Hosting an e-mail warning that I am difficult to contact by phone; I have just one phone line, and that's usually busy with Internet access. That was fortunate, because I soon received a polite reply saying Prime Net Hosting had been trying to call me, and asking me to telephone their toll-free number. I did so, and was greeted by a thoroughly friendly and jovial fellow who explained that it was Prime Net Hosting's policy to verify telephone numbers and speak to every customer to help protect against credit card fraud. Bravo! If everyone was this conscientious, I probably wouldn't have had to suffer the inconvenience of having my own credit card number stolen and misused a few months ago.

I soon received a "transaction confirmation" e-mail that was the only confusing part of the entire signup process. It specified an IP address which I assumed must be the one Prime Net Hosting had assigned to my website. I tried to ftp to it to upload my website, but with no success. I was about to send an e-mail asking Prime Net Hosting what I was doing wrong, when I realized that this must be merely the IP address of the computer that had processed my order. I wisely decided to wait.

Sure enough, about 12 hours after the "transaction confirmation" e-mail, I received notification that my account had been activated. This included everything I needed to know: my username and password, my site's (actual) IP address, POP e-mail server name, a description of my account's directory structure, how to name default pages, how stats are generated, customer support phone numbers, etc.

I uploaded my website without incident, and successfully used Prime Net Hosting's control panel to set up e-mail forwarding to the Yahoo account that I actually use for all my e-mail.

Everything works perfectly. I've configured Internet Explorer to display a custom start page which includes a small jpeg image from my website. Thus I am automatically updated on my website's status several times a day. That jpeg image has displayed quickly every time so far. Perfect, rock-solid service!

One month after my signup, I received another "transaction confirmation" e-mail informing me that my credit card had been charged the monthly $5.95 hosting fee. I have received no other communications from Prime Net Hosting, which suits me fine. Sorry, but I can't report on the quality of their technical support...because I haven't needed any!

In conclusion, I heartily recommend Prime Net Hosting to everyone except perhaps total novices. At their low prices, I imagine Prime Net Hosting can't afford to provide much personalized hand-holding, and they do not offer detailed online tutorials/manuals for beginners (yet). But anyone who undestands a few rudiments of website construction--like how to upload files via ftp, and how to code html or use a website design program such as Frontpage--should do fine.

So visit Prime Net Hosting to sign up for bargain priced, reliable web hosting. And please list wondersmith.com as your referrer so I'll receive a free month of hosting. Thanks!

 
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