Having a clear idea of what you need a website for will help you to make the best choice of web hosting company. You might need a website for a small business, large business or for personal use. Are you creating direct e-commerce opportunities with customers or developing a contact base? Answering simple questions about what form your web services will take will help you make a clear choice when you are choosing a web host.
If you are creating a new website or moving an existing website from somewhere you aren't getting good service? Choosing the right web host will be invaluable. You don't want to have to do it twice! If you are looking at your options here are ome of the questions you might ask:
How reliable is the service?
This is an important question to ask. What is the service 'uptime'? This refers to how long will your website have between service outages. All web hosting services will experience some downtime at one time or another. A web host that claims that they never have downtime is either telling fibs or doesn't monitor their services accurately. Kind of like buying a new car and being told it will never break down! It would be nice, but would you beleive it? Web services should only ever experience outages in a planned manner related to service upgrades or hardware changes. You should chose a web host with a published uptime of greater than 99%. If your webhost is not willing to tell you their outage record then you maybe better off with another host.
How good is their customer service?
There are a lot of cheap hosting providers out there one of the big differences is their level of service. Many website problems are not related to the hosting service but rather directly relate to the website itself. If you are customer with problems and you need answers, then you need suppot team who will back you up. Can you talk to support on the phone? Is there ticket system monitored regularly with fast response times? Is the support and sales expertise high enough to quickly solve your problem and get you the help you need?
Does the web hosting service provide access to legitimate testimonials from REAL customers? (Yes, beleive it or not companies do fake testimonials!) Can you legitimately verify other customer's opinions? Are there online, independent reviews of the service? What are people saying? Good service is service that people talk about it and at the end of the day this is one of the most valuable aspects of your hosting choice.
Something else to mention is your service level is affected by the type of website you have. Many "Top 10 things to look for in a web hosting company" type articles will talke about the necessity of 24/7 support service. There are two points here: if your website is a small business or personal site? Do you really want to pay for 24/7 support? Or are you are happy with same day business hours support. The other consideration is: Many companies who advertise 24/7 support won't respond to you out of hours anyway. Always a good test to put in a ticket with a prospective web hosting company and see if you get a reply outside of normal business hours. So it's not so much the availability of support (these days anyone can offer 24/7 support) but how long it takes to get a response. It's all very well if you are able to submit a support ticket at 3am in the morning but not if it takes 3 days to get a response.
Is the service cost competitive? (or How much does it cost?)
Like anything in this world, you 'get what you pay for'. However the trick with choosing the right hosting service for your project is to balance the benefits (availability, service, and features) against the dollars the service will cost you.
The secret here is not to lock yourself into a contract. Choose a webhost that allows you to pay your hosting month to month. Once you are satisfied with your host then change your plan to an annual payment, as many hosts offer a discount for yearly payment (choose one that does!).
Also be realistic about how many resources your site will use. It is common for website owners to choose a website hosting plan by estimating how big their site might become! Choose a plan that satisfies your needs right now. While you are developing your site you need only a basic plan. As your website grows you may need more resources and your choice of web host should allow you to grow your plan with the success of your site. All good hosting companies will allow you to upgrade your plan as needed.
Once again balance the dollars you spend with all the features of your web hosting including the quality of their support. A choice of a proactive web hosting company who has an eye on security, responsive support and regular upgrades and backups. You should feel that you have engaged a team behind your business not just a faceless service. Even one day of outages per year could be a greater cost for a hosting business than their entire hosting bill for the year.
What about free hosting and free domains!?Most free hosting companies make their money by inserting web advertising into your web services. This is disrupting and intrusive for your web site customers. It also cheapens your products or services. Free web sites also place a low priority on the speed of their services. Resources cost money! Web hosting companies that offer free domains or 'dollar per domain' deals often don't allow transfer of that domain to another service if you are unhappy with the hosting. Imagine not owning the rights to your business domain! In the best case, 'free domain' offer come with a lot a small print and increased expense if you ever want to move to a different hosting provider. You should own the rights to your domain!
How long has the company been around?
Hosting companies come and go. Many hosting companies and resellers are short lived enterprises that are designed to build customer bases and then sell to the highest bidder. You might have excellent hosting only to wake up and find your site hosting has been sold off to 'Budget Hosting Inc' and now you have no customer service and your site is running poorly. This is a common story but can be solved by asking the company how long have they been around? Look for over 5 years of hosting experience. It will give you the peace of mind that you are working with a company that isn't going anywhere.
Resources: What do you need? How may GB(ytes) and GB(its)?
The storage space and the bandwidth that you have a available are key considerations when choosing a hosting package. However many web site owners will choose plans far larger than what their website needs thinking this will give them a faster website. It doesn't. The key to making your website dollars work for you is to choose a plan slightly large than your website needs and have the option to easily upgrade if necessary. Many website companies advertise 'unlimited' accounts however this is rarely true or necessary (it's just marketing!). All providers will still have a fair use policy in their terms and conditions that will restrict your use if you 'unfairly' use resources. However for most web site owners they are unnecessarily paying for extra resources they will never use. Once again the best advice is to choose a plan slightly larger than your use and one that won't penalise you if you go over. Then you simply upgrade as your website success increases.
Storage refers to the amount of physical space on your hosting server to store your website files (much like the harddrive on your PC). Bandwdith refer to the amount of data that is allowed to be transferred from your website customers and your website.