Choosing a web hosting company can be complicated with so many choices available. Not all sites are the same and this is why there are so many hosting providers. Some focus on specific needs of the website owners in various niches. Some offer different services, features and, support although many are very similar. When choosing a web hosting company you need to weigh the benefits of each and decide which are most important to you by comparing the best. Here is our checklist for choosing the best web hosting company.
1. Customer Service
Test the web hosting customer service. Call and see how quickly you get someone on the phone. You can also send an email to the support center and see how quickly you get a response. Some hosting companies don’t have a call center and rely on trouble tickets you submit online. You need to decide which you are more comfortable with. In our experience those with a call center and those without have been just as good about getting back to us and resolving issues quickly. Also, does the company offer 24/7 reliable tech support and do they have a good back-up system?
2. Disk Space
Do you get unlimited bandwidth for traffic to your site? Do they offer MySQL databases and is there a limit on how many? What is the limit on disk space for your site on their server? How many domains can you put on the server?
Do they require a long-term contract or can you go month to month?
4. Marketing Tools
Do they offer any marketing tools to promote your website? Will they list your site with directories, search engines etc.?
5. E-Commerce Options
Do they offer shopping cart software to process your orders if you are running an e-commerce site? What shopping cart software are they using? Is it easy to use and
6. Design Your Own Site Software
Does the web hosting company have a website builder installed that allows you to create your own site? Does it allow easy install of the most common site creation tools such as:
7. Programming Languages
What programming languages are compatible on their server? Common languages you may be using on your site and should be available are:
- PHP – Personal Home Page
- SSI – Server Side Includes
- JSP – JavaServer Pages
- FrontPage Server Extensions
- RoR – Ruby on Rails
- .htacess Support
- CGI – Common Gateway Interface
- MySQL Database compatible
8. Statistics and Reporting
Although most people are installing Google analytics on their sites, it’s also good to know there are some capabilities of reporting on your host company. Do they have site traffic stats and log files? How do their reports compare to another web hosting? Are they easy to read and access?
9. Domain and Email
- Do you get your own domain?
- How many true POP email accounts do you get – [email protected]?
- How many email aliases do you get?
- Do they allow email forwarding – is there a limit?
- Do you get unlimited auto-responders?
10. Server Type
What type of server is your site hosted on? Are you on a shared, co-located, unmanaged dedicated or managed dedicated host? Understanding which type of hosting server your site is very important as it can make a big difference for you.
Shared Hosting, also known as virtual hosting, means your website is on a server with other clients of the hosting company. Companies like Bluehost and BigRock only provide shared hosting and don’t offer VPS or dedicated plans.
Pro: This is usually the cheapest option because there are several clients on one server. The host manages the server for you but you maintain your files and account info.
Con: If another site on your server gets a spike in traffic it can lower the speed of your site and overall performance. In addition, you typically can’t install any special software needed.
Co-Located Hosting is when you buy the hardware yourself from a vendor like Dell or HP and supply that to the hosting company. The host then installs your server into their network and power systems with redundant capabilities and backups. The host will ensure the network is up and running while you are responsible for support and maintenance.
Pro: A little cheaper than the managed dedicated server. You have your own server that only your sites are located on.
Con: The cost is more than a shared host and you need to manage the server on your own.
Unmanaged Dedicated Hosting is where you lease a server from the hosting company
Pro: A good value at typically a hundred or two a month. You have your own server with your sites only on it. The hosting company is responsible for upgrading the server over time at their expense.
Con: Limited support. You pay monthly for the lease on the server. Not good for businesses that need a high level of service in case a problem occurs with the server.
Managed Dedicated Hosting is typically backed by quality guarantees for up time.
Pros: You’ll receive server uptime monitoring, hardware warranty and security patch updates frequently, all of which is managed by the hosting company. You receive a high level of service and support that typically runs 24/7 – 365 days a year.
Cons: Cost – this can be an expensive option and is typically for those with a portfolio of sites that are generating enough money to justify to the price.
Price shouldn’t be the only priority. Free services are not reliable in our experience and should never be used for a website that you want no down time or one that needs credibility. For the low cost of hosting these days it’s critical for any business to pay for a reliable hosting service.