It is very tempting to look for hosting companies that offer everything at ridiculously low prices. Most of these hosts offer unlimited everything for a few dollars.
They advertise global sales, well-trained staff, fully equipped data centers and much more. However, if you can’t help but wonder where they get all the money for everything they’re giving you, then maybe it’s time to shop around a little more.
Think about what is critical, what is “nice to have” and what is “gravy on the side”.
When it comes to choosing a web host, your top gigs should be
1) reliability and speed,
2) customer service and support,
3) solvency, and
4) scalability and portability.
Reliability and speed
This refers to the speed and responsiveness of the server.
Keep in mind that if a hosting provider offers unlimited features at a low price, chances are that the server will have to be filled with many customers to break even or make a profit from the server.
The more clients on a server, the slower the responsiveness and speed.
Your reliability is critical, as you need to know that your website is accessible whenever a visitor wants to visit. Competition can lead a hosting provider to make unrealistic promises about uptime: 100%.
If a hosting provider advertises 99.99% uptime, it gives you a margin of about 53 minutes of downtime per year.
This includes server downtime due to regularly scheduled maintenance and other unexpected disasters, such as denial-of-service attacks or overly popular websites that overload the server.
The higher the advertised uptime, the lower the margin of error and catastrophe the provider has allowed itself.
We know that Internet connections go down and websites become temporarily unavailable for all sorts of reasons, both intentional and unforeseeable.
If your provider announces 100% uptime, ask them what steps they have taken to guarantee it.
The answer should include the following terminology:
Technical and customer support
What is your response time?
What is the level of expertise of your staff?
Is there more than one communication channel?
Do you have a support hotline?
Do they have an online library or knowledge base where tutorials, help files and other supplementary material can be accessed?
Look for a host that offers fast and competent customer service.
Your provider should offer 24/7 technical support through the following channels: e-mail, live chat and/or phone call center.
In addition, you should maintain an up-to-date library of tutorials, help files and supplemental documents for customers who prefer self-help. A web hosting provider should offer more than just having your website on the web.
There are numerous forums and web hosting provider review sites where you can find references about a provider.
Check for recurring problems or comments. Remember that comments can be subjective, but you can look for any trends of improvement or problems.
Scalability and Portability
What if your site grows in complexity and can it scale to your needs?
Is it easy to switch providers? Don’t rely on a single hosting package that offers everything from ASP to SSI.
Often, to make all these technologies work on a single machine, the server will have many workaround configurations and security holes.
Running a script in such an environment will force you to modify your code with workarounds to match those on the server.
The real problem arises when there comes a time when you need to change hosts and you realize that none of your scripts work on the new servers, because the new server has its different solution configurations.