There are thousands of web hosts around today with thousands of plans to choose from making what was once a simple procedure seem like a daunting task for both newbie and pro alike.
Whether you're looking for your first host or looking to move on to a better one there are 7 simple steps you must follow to succeed in choosing a great host
The first and most crucial step in choosing a web host is determining the platform the web server should run, usually a choice between Unix/Linux and Windows.
Your choice is largely determined by your website and the technologies used to create it, generally a website created with Microsoft technologies (ASP, VB) will run on Windows servers while most other sites using open source technologies (PHP, Perl, Python etc) will run on Linux based systems.
Once you've chosen your platform the next step is determining the features you'll need from your web host. Take your time with this step as the feature lists of web hosts are getting longer and longer every day and while some plans may look similar on the surface, a good look at the feature lists may tell another story.
Only you can determine the specific features you'll need, but some key things to keep an eye on are:
Disk Space Bandwidth Backups Uptime Money Back Guarantee Domains Allowed Databases (Number & type) CGI, PHP, Perl, Python, SSI Cron Email accounts
The list goes on and on, just remember to take your time and make sure your new web host is going to provide you with everything you need.
Often this is the only thing people consider when choosing their first web host, funds are usually tight and on the surface most hosts look very similar. Sometimes you get lucky and choose a good host, but more often than not it turns out to be a horror story.
I can't stress enough that choosing a web host based on price alone is asking for trouble, remember that the cost of your web hosting is more than just the monthly fee, think about the total cost of ownership. TCO includes lost sales due to downtime & slow speeds, downtime rebates, extra bandwidth charges, setup costs, extra feature costs, and your monthly fee.
Many hosts will require you to pay yearly to get the best price available though there are some that allow you to pay by the month and still get the best price, it's really a matter of personal choice as to what payment method works best for you.
4. Customer Service
Customer service is another aspect that is often forgotten about until it is too late, something breaks and you need it fixed and those wonderfully handy sales people who were more than helpful in taking your money are now nowhere to be seen, all the while you're losing out on sales every minute.
You shouldn't settle for anything less than 24/7/365 service, your website needs to be running all the time so it's no good if your hosting company doesn't work during the holidays. Don't take the web hosting companies word for it, they all claim 24/7 support but few back it up with consistent performance. Be sure to test them out at various times of the day and night via phone, email and live chat if they offer it.
An extensive knowledge base or faq can be a real time saver as well as being an indication of the level of customer service support and expertise you can expect to receive. Spend some time browsing the support sections of the website and see for yourself the level of support provided.
Are questions in the knowledge base answered thoroughly? Are real solutions provided or are they just "cut and paste" replies?
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Do a whois on the web host's domain name and find out the creation date, anything less than a year ago and the risk that they won't be around next year increases. They could be a great host, but considering more then 95% of new hosts go out of business within a year that really isn't something you should be taking a chance on.
It's a fact of life that a web host cannot be online 100% of the time, servers need to be rebooted for security and software updates and any web host that doesn't get updated faces the increased risk of being successfully hacked.
99.9% uptime guarantees are pretty standard in the industry however a guarantee is only as good as how it is defined and the company behind it. Look for no less than a full months free hosting should they not meet their guarantee, a prorated refund based on the amount of downtime is virtually worthless. Say you pay $10 for a month of hosting and your site is down for 24 hours. They will refund you for one day of downtime which ends up being about 33 cents
Again, choosing a hosting company for your website can be an overwhelming task at times. Follow the simple steps outlined above and it should eliminate many of the poor hosting companies and help you choose the best for your needs