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How to Read Web Hosting Terms of Service

Published on 9/2/2010 by

And what you should watch for

Before paying for a web hosting package you'll be asked to check an online form box that looks like this.

terms of service

By checking the box and continuing to pay for your account, you’re indicating that you’ve read the terms of service and acceptable use policy associated with the web hosting company you’re signing up with, and agree to abide by their conditions.   If you’re like most though, you won’t have actually taken the time to familiarize yourself with the terms at all, which could lead to big problems later.  Let’s look at the most common elements found in terms of service contracts and why you should make the time to read them.

Service rates

Terms of service contracts will stipulate not only when your web hosting fees are due, but also whether or not those rates can be changed without your knowledge or consent.  Will you be notified of price increases?  Will your credit card be charged automatically? Read the terms of service to find out.

Money back guarantee

Many hosts today offer 30 day money back guarantees that allow new clients to test services and features of a hosting plan and back out of their contract legally if they’re not satisfied with the service provided.  Even though many companies have splashy 30 day money back guarantees on the front page of their websites, there are often catches and conditions that will prevent most clients from taking advantage of that guarantee.  Read the specific conditions associated with the money back guarantee to be sure you understand what qualifies for a refund and what does not.

Uptime guarantee

The greater majority of web hosting companies have an uptime guarantee in place.  An uptime guarantee promises that your website will be online at least a certain percentage of the time each month, a number that usually hovers around 99.9%.  What happens if your website goes offline for an extended period?  You’ll have to read the terms of service to find out.  Some web hosts will actually refund your monthly fees and others do nothing, making their guarantee pretty worthless.

Acceptable use

An acceptable use policy is part of web hosting company’s terms of service contract.  The acceptable use policy will tell you what is OK to do on your web hosting server and what is not.  Some hosts will allow for Botnets and file sharing and others strictly forbid it and will quickly cancel your account for engaging in such activities.  Find out what you can and cannot do with your new web hosting account by reading the acceptable use policy.  If your account is cancelled because you violated the acceptable use policy, you will not be refunded.

Payments and fees

Do you know when your web hosting monthly payment is due and what fees you’ll incur if you make a late payment or miss one altogether?  Some web hosts will charge as much as $100 to reinstate your account. 

Backup policies

Is your web host going to backup your website and content daily or is that responsibility entirely up to you?  The terms of service will tell you.

Overage fees

What happens if you use all of your allotted monthly bandwidth?  With some web hosting companies, your account will be cancelled, while other companies will be happy to upgrade your account free of charge.  Know what limitations and freedoms your web hosting company grants by reading about this in the terms of service.

The terms of service are a legally binding contract.  By checking the box to claim that you’ve read the terms, you’re legally agreeing to everything the web hosting company has laid out.  Know what you’re getting into by thoroughly reading the terms of service contract before signing up with any web hosting company.