How to Choose Your Web Host Wisely
Just about everyone needs a web page these days – whether it is to showcase a job seeker’s resume and portfolio, a non-profit organization branching out to share its mission, or a business branching out for more profit. Once you decide that you also need a web page, what is the next step?
Finding a web host that is right for you and your cause or needs will take a little research. The good news is that most shared web hosting services are fairly inexpensive, so if you make a decision tomorrow and realize a month later you wish you had chosen another company, you won’t be out too much money!
In order to get your web page on the internet, you need a hosting service provider. They range from free hosting services with limited options to expensive business hosting such as collocation and even hosting you run yourself and resell to clients. Which option you choose depends upon how you plan to use your website, how much you want to spend, and how much time you want to spend maintaining the servers that make up the website.
Main points to consider when choosing a web hosting provider.
Your web site would need large (or small) quantities of space. It is the disk space that lets you save codes & upload files which with each other produce the website. If you are planning to create a static website with few pages, you won’t need a lot of space. Even 200MB will be a lot for that purpose. On the other hand, when you are planning to run dynamic website (like a blog), you would need more of that. Now you can easily find a company which offer unlimited storage, so you should not run into problems.
Bandwidth plays an important role plus it helps the web site to handle a massive quantity of site visitors. Every time user visits your site, they download its content. So, if you are expecting big number of visitors going to your website, you’d better look for the host provider, which sets the limit quite high.
3. Reliability (Uptime)
When you have a website, you can expect visitors any time of the day. And by saying any, I really imply any (just take different time zones into consideration). Consequently, you would like to have your website available 24/7/365. Here reliability comes into play. It is measured in percentage and called uptime. Uptime is a measure of the time a machine has been up without any downtime (source: Wikipedia). Ideally, uptime should be 100% but it rarely happens. Even a very good web hosting can be sometimes not available (usually at night or very early in the morning) because of a software update on the servers. Therefore, when choosing a hosting provider, in advance learns about his integrity and uptime, look for reviews about it on independent resources. So, web hosting companies promise a so called 99% or 99.9% uptime. It means that during a year, your website can be not accessible for 87 hours, 36 minutes or 8 hours, 45 minutes, 36 seconds respectively.
4. Services and technical specifications
If you are planning to run a WordPress site, WordPress itself has some requirements to be able to run properly – PHP, MySQL, and Apache. But over time, this criterion is increasingly less of an issue, because nowadays almost all hosting providers, with rare exception, provide all necessary features for normal web hosting. Personally, I have developed a list of essential features for a web hosting to posses: a convenient control panel (cPanel or Plesk), WEB-interface for mail (their own or possibility to configure yourself),checking emails for spam (advertising), unlimited bandwidth, support for PHP, MySQL, phpMyAdmin, Zend Optimizer, Python, PERL5, Parser, SSH and FTP access, possibility to manage multiple websites at once.
5. Customer support
While the criteria mentioned above mostly relate to technical aspect of web hosting, customer support is one, which cannot be easily set up. Here you have to interact with people to solve issues you can occur. Support clients should be courteous, responsive, fast, and competent. The mere presence of a good tech support says a lot. Feature I look for in web hosting companies is if they offer 24 hour live chat support, next to email and telephone support. It is so convenient to have a live support with chat and it can be crucial if you are experiencing deep troubles or your website is under DDOS attack.
So, by this time you have already decided what you need (and want) to have for your website, then the hardest part starts – you need to choose! You can use a list developed below to streamline the process.
Step 1. Analyzing the market
- Ask your friends, who already have a website
If someone you know has a good understanding of the subject matter, you’ll probably be able to get the best advice.
Pros: You can immediately get good advice and save a lot of time and effort.
Cons: You can get bad advice, if a person is just claiming to be a specialist, or if he had other than your selection criteria for hosting.
- Google it!
Pros: The query “hosting” can get a few dozen pages of issue in any search engine.
Cons: It is not clear which of the web hosting companies is good, and what is bad. There are many, many and many companies who are paying to let listed in search engine.
- Search for candidates in specialized forums and websites
On the Internet, there are several reputable websites and forums where you can find both the popularity ratings of web hosting providers, and reviews of their work. These sites are easy to find by writing a string search query of the word “hosting reviews”
Pros: You will find not only a list of providers offering quality services, but also look at the reviews of real customers.
Cons: Be careful, there are many websites, which are giving false reviews in order to get a commission from a company, in case you sign up.
As a result, you should have a list of 3-6 companies on your list. Then you can just visit their websites and check packages they are offering.
Step 2. Pre Screening candidates
- Checking the reviews on the Internet.
When you have your list of candidates ready, check specifically for the review of your web hosting provider. The best place to collect this kind of information is on specialized forums, since they tend to be less biased. In case you have got a suggestion from your friend – enter in the search phrase “your host reviews”. Next, read the customer reviews, both positive and negative. The large number of negative reviews and the absence of reviews is a bad sign. You can also go to the site and try to find the hosting reviews from customers on it. However, web hosting companies will never ever put bad reviews there (duh!).
- Get a test account
Many serious hosting providers offer the service free to try, for example, during the week, and then make a final decision to purchase. Also, many companies offer a so called money back guarantee within a specified time frame. In practice it works as you would pay the sum required but if you are not satisfied, you will get your money back. Even if the list of services offered doesn’t include a test account, you can ask for it at the help desk. In most cases, you will get it, though; you may be asked what is in it for you. When you have a test account, you can start checking featured offered by your hosting company, speed of the server, ease of managing it, etc.
- Talk to customer support
This is a very important point. Technical Staff – these are the people who will help you, if you have a question or something goes wrong. Efficiency, courtesy and willingness to get to the core of your problems are very important qualities for support team. If you didn’t have a chance to talk to them yet, this is the time. For example, will they be able to assist in the transfer of the site to another host, and how much will it cost this service. Some hosting companies offer free assistance in the transfer of the site, some will make you pay for it.
Step 3. Final decision
These simple steps enough for the acceptable hosting for a simple project (in any case, we tried to minimize the risks.) Now is the time to make the final choice. If your list still more than one candidate, try to further assess the usability of the site hosting company and the control panel, as well as experience of communication with tech support. After all, hosting is not ordered just one day, and switching your web hosting party will be harder than making a decision now.
I hope that everyone who reads this article will choose a great hosting, which you sincerely want!