One of the most crucial decisions you will make for your website is selecting your web host. It’s essential to choose the right host or all your hard work could be wasted or even worse, lost.
How do you choose from the plethora of web hosts available today? Will they hold your files to ransom when you come to transfer away? Can you be in full control of your account at all times?
With so many hosting businesses out there how can you ensure you choose one of the more reputable ones? Here are a few pointers that should help steer you in the right direction:
1 Before you choose a web host it is best to figure out what you want first. Do you just want one to play around with and have one for your friends and family or do you want one for your local business or to create a way of making money online? Free web hosts will be fine to play around on but you will need something more if you want it for a business or making money online.
2 Do they have an easy site builder system if you don’t know any programming or anything about making websites? Most do these days. But be aware that most Site Builders provided by hosting companies are proprietary. They often work only on that hosting company’s servers. If so, your site cannot be moved to another host without rebuilding from scratch.
3 If you have no prior experience, and are just planning a small website: Do they have cPanel, ispCP or ISPConfig with a system that will let you set up your own blog or forum with a few clicks? (cPanel, ispCP or ISPConfig, like others, is just a system that lets users access the files and website without knowing how to use ftp -file transfer protocol.) Many find this availability useful, but you must be aware it will do for small sites, not medium or big corporate ones, because of the difficulty to update.
4 If you don’t know anything about creating a website will they teach you what you need to know to get the site found and achieve the goal you have for the site?
5 Get e-mail through the domain name of your website. It’s best to go with a host that provides unlimited autoresponders, pop mailboxes, email aliases etc. These services are needed to stay in touch with your visitors, potential customers and indeed your past customers in the hope of back end sales. Using your_name@your_website_name.com also looks more professional and official.
6 Investigate the uploading method. Using an online manager takes a lot longer when transferring large amounts of data. FTP provides more flexibility when managing your website. For the non-techies, always look out for a host that provides a good online manager, too.
7 Track your website’s progress with logs. If you are a serious entrepreneur, pay close attention to these. All good hosts will provide you with the ability to access your website logs via download.
8 Leave room for growth with enough space. The amount of space good web hosts provide would matter if your website grows bigger than allowed. But do not overbuy. A common marketing trick of some hosting companies is to advertise huge “packages” such as 25gb or even more. The truth is, the vast majority of web sites will never use more than 1% of that space. It is just puffery. Moving hosts can be a pain. Avoid this with a little foresight and planning. Of course, if you’re planning on a simple site, 5GB would be obviously a lot more than enough. Average websites don’t even occupy over 50 MB.
9 Test the speed of a host’s network to your location by clicking start > run > type in “command” enter, and then type “ping hostdomainname.com” wait for it to finish and look for the average ping. The lower the number the better, and chances are the faster your site will load. Any number averaging around an 80 would be good. Anything over 100 is very bad except, of course, if the host is based in another country.
0 Seek good customer service with lots of help pages and FAQ pages, 24/7 telephone support preferably toll free, 24-48 hours reply email support or chat is vital. Avoid a host that has a reputation for poor quality customer service. Check out their average response time and their true uptime guarantee. See the Tips below.
1 Enable interactive features with access to your own cgi-bin directory. This is the directory from where scripts are carried out. CGI scripts are the backbone of all the functionality of the web. Every time you fill out a form, buy a product, use a forum or engage in a chat room conversation, you’re running a script of one type or another. This feature is very important if you want your website to be interactive in any way.
2 Make transactions with a secure server with https:// capability because your potential customers will expect it. Security is of paramount importance to your customer. Visitors who are concerned about the insecurity to their plastic will never become customers. This is only important if you are considering building an e-commerce website. An alternative to the expense and technical issues involved in https (known as an SSL Certificate) is to use a payment gateway such as PayPal or Google Checkout. Both provide secure pages without technical skills. Many shopping carts have the gateways already scripted into the control panel.
3 Understand what kind of hosting you are buying. Most small to medium web sites (up to a few thousand visitors a day) do fine with inexpensive “shared hosting.” Compare the specs for various hosts, looking for the available RAM (minimum 512, and a few gigs is best) and the speed of the processor. Large and active web sites with more than 10gb of files and tens of thousands or more visitors per day deserve “dedicated hosting,” meaning they are the only web site on the server.
4 Know the difference between a Windows server and a Linux server. Linux servers are generally less expensive to buy and operate, more stable and more secure than Windows servers. There are many more free Open Source applications (shopping carts, forums, blogs, etc.)for the Linux servers.
- Most popular domain names have already been taken. Before purchasing web hosting it would be wise to use a domain availability tool to help you find a domain name.
- Test a host’s support before joining by calling in. You’ll be surprised how many hosts with a toll free number never answer their phones, or have long hold times. Make sure you call the technical or support department. It’s not unusual for a web host to have incredible response times for their sales department but lousy response times for their technical or support department.
- The cheaper the plan and the more space/bandwidth included, the more sites per server the host will have to pack in to make their money back. Don’t shop for a host based on their plans! Shop based on recommendations and experience!
- Look closely at how your guarantee is defined and if your host will honor it. Most guarantees are prorated and are often worthless.
- Check out how legit the web hosting company is by doing a WHOIS on their domain name. Also look for the creation date of the domain name. If the domain name was created less then a year ago, it’s more of a risk to join that hosting company.
- Using the company’s name, search Google for honest reviews. If they have been around a year, you should find many real reviews of people who use their hosting. The web hosting company’s forum is another good place to check but be warned as they may delete negative posts and ban the user.
- There are a wide variety of websites that present comparisons of web hosting services. These can be helpful if you don’t want to spend so much time conducting these comparisons yourself.
- Be wary of hosts that include a free domain name with their hosting package unless you are certain they will be putting your information in the WHOIS. Whoever has their information in the WHOIS is the owner, not the one who paid for it.
- Think twice about web hosts with a more competitive yearly rate, forcing you to pay for a year up front. If you have paid yearly and are dissatisfied with their service, you are less likely to swap. It’s always best to only pay monthly!
- Hosting companies that offer unlimited disk space and data transfer for shared hosting accounts will restrict the amount of memory (RAM) and processor (CPU) you can use. If you can’t get a hard number for how much memory or CPU you are entitled to, be prepared for unpleasant surprises.
- Look for a host with an uptime guarantee of a 99.9%. No hosting company can guarantee 100% uptime. Beware of anyone who does, they are lying. Read the terms of the uptime guarantee to find out what types of downtime are not included in the guarantee. Most hosting companies exclude maintenance and other items which makes the 99.9% uptime less meaningful.
- Be sure to check the domain age of the company and search for their reviews. Avoid to go with new company without reputation, even if their offer is fancy.