Choosing the right web hosting service is one of the most critical decisions you can ever make when you plan to go online with your business web site. The reason why this is so important is because if your host goes down, well guess what, your business is offline! Don’t forget that hosts will have fine print stating they are not responsible for any loss of business, etc, etc.
Begin With Your Website Needs and What is Important to You
I won’t go into a big long story of what your site needs because every web site is different and each will have specific functions requiring specific web hosting parameters. What I will do is give you a list of things to consider before deciding on a host.
- Is your web site new or existing?
- Do you have or believe you will have a LARGE traffic base?
- What kind of functions and features does your web site have or will have?
- Will you be running third party scripts that run independently but still part of your site?
- Is your web site an e-commerce site and does it need secure connections?
- How dynamic is your site going to be; will there be ongoing activity from a users/members?
- Do you need PHP/MySQL or Windows with SQL or other?
- Is price of hosting important? *more on this in a moment
- Is Support important?
- Are hosting features important?
- Do you have preference to the type of control panel the host uses?
- Is the location of a host provider important?
- Does the size of the host provider important or does it matter if they are small or big?
- Are refunds or upgrades of hosting packages important?
- Are there hosting features that you must have for your web site management?
- Is it important for the web host provider to provide domain registration as well?
- Does the host have the requirements to run your web site scripts and cms systems like WordPress or Joomla?
It’s a big list but it’s not a full list as there are many more things to consider – again it depends on the site and business you plan to operate online. Think about these questions carefully and don’t rush into hosting too quickly. It’s also important to look for cheap webhosting that offers quality hosting at an affordable price.
Your Business is Worth What to You?
Unfortunately, people will decide hosting strictly on price only, or at least they make it the primary choice of a few. This is a BAD way to choose a host! The reason why is because many opt in for the lowest priced offer to try and save money, but what they don’t think about is “why is the price so low?” or why is it so low with unlimited features. Granted, it’s great to save money but at the same time, your business is being used as collateral. Let’s not forget about the “reputation” you want to convey to your customers and clients, because if you lose that, your business is gone! Word on the web spreads FAST!
Long story short, if you opt in for the lowest and the most, only to find out it’s a crappy host that goes offline many times (just one issue of many potential scenarios) which then affects the reputation of your business, your business becomes the value of that low price you paid.
I’m not saying you should go for the most expensive either, but you should put some smarts into your host choices.
How do you know if the Host is a Quality Host?
Not an easy anwser, but you should spend some time researching your options. Here are a few methods to find the right one:
- Don’t depend on “Review sites” for quality choices because most are bogus and if you look carefully, you will find some of them will inflate ratings because they are an affiliate of that particular host (or hosts). This means they will make a host sound great and give higher ratings to make more affiliate money.
- Go on Google and enter the name of the host company you are considering and see what comes up within the first 3 pages of results. Also, do some strategic keyword search like: “xyz hosting complaints”, “xyz hosting issues”, “xyz hosting reviews”…..etc.
- When you go to the hosting company’s web site, look at the quality of their site. Does it look like it was made by a 5 year old? Does it look like it has never been updated? Look at the copyright date and see if it’s the current year or if it has a year from before. Overall, does the site look professional?
- Do they offer 24/7 support, but most importantly and in addition to this, do they offer a toll free number or is it specify off hours are done via email only?
- Send their support a few questions (don’t sign up though) saying you are a potential customer but have some questions, then see how long they reply back and see how they respond with an answer as to how accurate and how informative their support answer was.
- Send their Sales and/or Customer Service departments questions too and see how long it takes to get a reply and what kind of reply you get.
- READ THEIR TERMS & CONDITIONS !! and I do mean THOROUGHLY! Watch for the fine print…and yes, I know it’s long but honestly, I have seen so many people get burned in the end when they try to get their money back (even when they advertise refunds).
- Talk to others in the business community, both local and online and get their input on who they use and any comments they have.
- Check the Better Business Bureau for any official complaints that get filed against the company *very important to check always.
- Always read the host’s “About Us” page because this can tell you a lot about how long they have been around, who they are, and more…
- Find out if the host provider is an official company…meaning, are they a parent company of their own or are they an Affiliate hosting company (more on this in a moment), or a division of another company?
- Check to see if they have a list of brand name companies who use their services. Some hosts do this because it helps with their marketing by name dropping. Even though this is a good sign to see recognized names, sometimes it still does not give an overall picture of that host because most times, you are looking at “Shared Hosting” packages, where the big names are using dedicated servicess – which means they get looked after first.
- Ask to see a demo of their hosting control panel if it’s proprietary (their own control panel) because if it’s their own, it may be one you won’t like compared to third party commercially developed options like cpanel, plesk, hsphere…etc. However, sometimes proprietary control panels can be efficient and better.
Caution about using Affiliate Hosting Companies
Affiliate hosting companies should be used with caution because even though there are probably some good options out there, you will find many are managed by someone sitting in an apartment or the basement of their home.
What happens is that many hosting companies will have an Affiliate Program where anyone can signup and within minutes, you can now start selling hosting packages under your own business name and have your own website. Basically to the average person going to their web site will see what appears to be a normal looking host provider, but what they don’t know is that the owner of the host business is actually someone sitting at home and the hosting is actually done through another hosting company somewhere else.
Again, I’m not saying all affiliate hosting companies are bad, but just use caution. In fact, it doesn’t hurt to ask the hosting company if they are an affiliate of another host.
What About Hosting Companies and Domain Name Registration?
Domain registration is another important topic that can be discussed with another article but I will mention a few things here to perk your ears up…
Many will register their domain names with a hosting company because that service is offered. This can actually be dangerous because it reminds me of a situation that happened to a client of mine a few years ago who ran into a very devastating situation. The host they were using at the time was one of these lower quality hosts and had many problems. What really added frustration was that this person (husband and wife business owner) had registered their domain name through this host and a long story short, the host company disappeared and this couple lost their domain name (in addition to the full year of hosting fees they paid).
The domain name is part of your company’s recognition and part of its identity. I recommend you use a well known “Domain Registrar” that is ICANN accredited and not through a host who’s primary service is hosting. Stick to the official domain registrar companies. I’ve been asked who I use, and can say I’ve been using Dotster.com for more than 8 years and never had problems. I know many use Godaddy as well because they offer reasonable pricing, but I still went to Dotster because of a few reasons.
Reading the Fine Print
These Terms & Conditions are written to benefit only one party — the company itself — NOT YOU! I have seen so many people sign up only to discover when they get upset and want to leave that they lose all their money or even a % of it and didn’t know this would happen because they didn’t read the fine print. When you read any terms and conditions, use your best judgement if you feel you can accept their terms or not. It’s like playing the stock market, if you can afford to lose your money, then play the stocks, but if not, then don’t do it.
What you should know about Hosting Contracts and Length of Hosting
I frown on signing up or paying for contracts, because again, its to benefit the company and not to you. As enticing as it is to save some money upfront if you go long-term or sign a contract, in the end, it won’t be worth it.
The alternative, and the best way to try a hosting provider out, is to go monthly for a period of time before you commit to a full year or more of hosting. I think a year of hosting with monthly payments is the best because it will give you enough time to test them out while having enough time to keep track of any issues you may have. If all is well by the end of the year and you are happy with everything, then sure, go for a year term if it saves you some money. But think about this too…is it worth your business to save a few dollars with an unknown, un-tested host during the first year while being trapped in a contract? It’s like mobile phone services…they have up to 3 year terms and if you break it, you pay the price!
Again, use your best judgement and try to hold off on contracts upfront until you are absolutely sure the host you are using is the one for you; no matter what they offer you. In fact, many will give you tons of features or extra of something to get you to sign up….ask yourself why are they offering so much to me at start?
Tons of information here but what it all comes down to is to do your homework and don’t rush into a hosting company and/or contract too soon. Your business or company is too important to make these kind of sacrifices. Do it with caution and smarts!