There are thousands of webhost providers, but buyer beware: some hosting companies aren’t legitimate. There are people who run their own servers in their basement. If you’ve got a basement host, you’re risking your whole business.

Some people pay for a reseller account from a reputable webhost and resell hosting plans as a way to generate income. While there’s nothing wrong with this, if your website is hosted by a reseller, you won’t have direct communication for support.

If you’re not sure your webhosting account is legitimate, here are 5 ways you can find out:

1. Trace your name servers to find your true host

By tracing your name servers, you can gather clues to learn where your website is actually being hosted. You’ll have an easier time if your webhost isn’t using custom name servers. Custom name servers can’t be easily traced to a parent company.

Custom name servers alone are not a red flag. However, when someone wants to hide the fact that they’re reselling or running a basement server, custom name servers help them hide the truth.

Using a tool like Simple DNS, type in your website address. On the results page, look for the DNS servers, or the NS-records. You’ll see at least two name servers that use the format: NS.DOMAIN.COM. There might be numbers or letters after the “NS.”

If the name servers don’t directly tell you who the host is, you can retrieve more information from a free tool called Hosted Where. If you don’t recognize the hosting provider, a Google search can help you further.

If you trace your name servers to an established hosting company, you can be certain your webhost is either a reseller, or you’re an add-on domain. Add-on domains will be addressed in the next point.

2. Check for access to a control panel

Most hosting accounts use some type of control panel accessible via a web browser. Hopefully, you already have access to yours. If not, and you can’t get access, it could be a red flag.

3. Reseller hosts prolong support

The only downside to having your website hosted with a reseller is you have to depend on them for support. If your website goes down, you can’t submit a ticket directly to the parent host and that slows down your ability to resolve issues.

A genuine webhosting account will provide you with direct access to a support ticketing system of some kind. If you’re the kind of person who requires frequent support, you don’t want your website hosted with a reseller.

Ask your host to provide you with a URL, username, and password for control panel access. Don’t let them convince you that you shouldn’t be working on your own website unless they are also your website developer. Your host should never stand in the way of your access.

If they can’t give you control panel access – or they only offer FTP access – it’s time to look for a new host.

4. Your website might be an add-on domain

If you can’t access an independent control panel through your domain name, your website might be an add-on domain. Add-on domains are perfectly functional, but they don’t come with their own control panel. Without a control panel, you don’t have free access to your website files.

Add-on domains can only be accessed through the main account. If your host set up your website as an add-on for their own account, you’ll never have access.

It’s easy and cheap to get your own hosting account directly from a reputable company. Several webhosts have even remained at the top of everyone’s list for years. See this review for five top webhosts to get an idea of how affordable and easy it really is.

5. Check your email for welcome emails from a webhost

If you don’t remember how you signed up for your webhosting account, search your email account for your domain name to see if any welcome emails pop up. You may have signed up for hosting with a domain name purchase. If nothing comes up, ask your webhost to resend your welcome email. If there is no welcome email to resend, that’s a red flag.

Buy hosting from the source

There’s no reason to go through a middleman with web hosting. Fifteen years ago it was cheaper, but today you can get hosting for less than ten bucks a month from almost any company you want. You’ll probably pay less than what you pay your middleman.