With so many web hosting companies (including resellers) on the market today, and all the promises made by them, selecting a web host can be a daunting task. Here are 5 things you should look for when comparing a web host and its hosting plans:
Even if you don’t like to use email support, make sure the hosting company at least provides a toll free support number. Check the availability of that number. If something goes wrong with your site, will there be someone there to help? Find out what support documents the hosting company makes available to its customers. You can use those documents to find the answers to your questions. Email the hosting company at the very least to ask a few questions. See how long they take to reply to you. A good hosting company responds to you within a couple of hours
It’s not about the monthly price, it’s about how you’re expected to pay for it. You’re better off with a hosting company that lets you pay month by month rather than one that requires you to pay upfront, whether it’s for 3 months, 6 months or even a full year or more. Don’t rely on a hosting company’s promise to be around forever or that they’ll simply walk away from your deal if you find out their service isn’t up to scratch. Simply comparing the price per month is misleading because you need to factor in every little detail offered by two competing hosting packages.
Services & Features
Most small business websites would be okay with 100mb of space (and sometimes less) if they don’t have an image-intensive site. Other sites, on the other hand, need more space and bandwidth because they host a lot of image, audio or video files. You’ll want to figure out what you’re looking for and compare similar services offered by different hosting companies. For example, do you want unlimited domain names? Do you want the ability to create unlimited subdomains? Does your site use Fantastico? Do you need a specific number of email addresses? Do you want access to set up your MySQL database (or even unlimited databases)? Do you want a hosting provider that offers a stats package? Do you require FrontPage extensions, e-commerce support or free web site templates from your hosting company? These are just a few of the features you should look for when comparing a lower cost plan that may or may not offer them to a higher cost plan.
How long has the hosting company been in business? Most new hosting companies don’t make it past their first year in business, so it’s usually a good idea to sign up for a hosting account with a company that’s been around for a few years. You can do a WhoIs search for the hosting company’s domain name to find out when it was first registered. You should also do a Web search for reviews about the company you’re interested in. Don’t just trust testimonials on the company’s own site. Look specifically for negative reviews to get an idea of past complaints.
Before signing up with any hosting company, make sure you know what kind of flexibility you will or won’t have when running your site/s through them. Things like blacklisted email are easy to overlook. For example, let’s say you’re running a small business and you’d like to run an email marketing campaign for your entire company. You’d sign up with a company like Constant Contact. If your employees each had an email address attached to their hosting account, they’d learn the hard way: your employees won’t be able to get your newsletters. If you’re hosted through a company like GoDaddy, for example, you’d find out that certain email providers are blacklisted so they can’t send mail to your customers. So, if Constant Contact was blacklisted — which it was at my last check — you’d have to sign up with a different email management service, or a different hosting provider. Some hosts, like HostGator, let you decide who you’d want to blacklist and whitelist. That way, you’ll have total freedom to use whatever outside services you want.
If your personal site is very small, you may be willing to sacrifice some flexibility in exchange for the cost savings. However, if you’re running a business, you’ll want to make sure you’re fully informed about what types of flexibility you’ll and won’t have when managing your business’ site through any hosting provider.