Understanding Website Hosting Agreements

Since I began writing articles for this site, I’ve received several e-mails from readers who want to know more about website hosting agreements. It helps to know what something means before you sign it (electronically or otherwise) because you don’t want to unknowingly violate the agreement. Admittedly, website hosting agreements are a little complicated, so here is a non-legal-jargon explanation.

Scope of Services

Most website hosting agreements have a section called “Scope of Services”, or something similar. This is an explanation of the services the hosting company will provide to you, the subscriber. Sometimes this will be as simple as the exact amount of disk space and data transfer provided by each client, while it can also explain the tools necessary to operate the services, such as a high-speed Internet connection or modem. If you have been promised services that aren’t included in this section of the website hosting agreement, you should contact the company before proceeding.

Domain Registration

Most website hosting packages come with a free domain name, but sometimes they don’t. This section of the website hosting agreement will explain what is necessary to obtain and maintain a personal domain name for the hosting package. For example, if you already have a domain name registered, this section will tell you how to transfer it to the website hosting company. It should also explain what happens to your website hosting package should your domain ownership expire.

Registration Obligations

When you sign up for a website hosting package, you will have to provide the company with a certain amount of information, including your name, e-mail address, physical address, phone number and credit card or other billing information. You must also certify that the information with which you provide the website hosting service is “true and accurate”, which will be explained in the registration obligations section. The website hosting company will usually also reserve the right to send you e-mails or even postal mailings about service updates, new products and billing information.

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Payment Terms

The next section of your website hosting agreement will disclose all of the fees for which you’ll be responsible as well as the method for collection. Fees might include domain registration, monthly hosting fee, set-up fee, data transfer fees, and charges for extra services you request. It will also state whether or not each fee is refundable and how you should go about requesting a refund should you be dissatisfied with your service.

Upgrades  amp; Downgrades

Most website hosting services have different level packages you can order depending on your website hosting needs. For example, you might have a limit as to how many pages you can create or how many visitors you can have before you need to upgrade. Likewise, most website hosting services allow you to upgrade at any time; others will even allow you to downgrade at your discretion. This will be explained in the Upgrades  amp; Downgrades section, along with any other pertinent details.

Content Rules  amp; Obligations

As the website owner, you (and not the website hosting service) will be responsible for making sure that your content complies with the hosting company’s terms of service. Most hosting services have rules regarding libelous or defamatory content and content that is unsuitable for certain viewers. This section will inform you that you are responsible for any legal repercussions resulting from the content on your website.