Top 5 Tips for Selecting a Web Host
Provides top 5 tips for selecting a web host including practical advice on how to select a web hosting company to support your business website. Author has first hand experience with over a dozen hosting providers. Learn how to make sure that you select a web host to position your business for success.
Based on Unbiased Advice and Real World Experience
- Look for Unbiased Web host Reviews – This can be difficult in the world of Super Affiliates who build lucrative, legitimate businesses around ranking high for search terms live “webhosting reviews.” Since affiliate review sites generally only cover hosting companies with affiliate programs where they are members and can earn a commission when someone gets to a hosting providers web site through the affiliate site and then buys. Therefore, while this is a completely legitimate business model, the reviews from web hosting review sites run by affiliates are, by the very nature of their compensation models, not unbiased. A great source for evaluating hosting companies from a business perspective is the better business bureau, an unbiased third party resource. It is very easy and quick to check any web hosting company out on the BBB website at www.bbb.org. Rest assured, there are plenty of well-known, established hosting companies with BBB rating of A- or better, so there is absolutely no reason to select a web hosting company with a questionable BBB rating.
- Compare Web Host Uptime SLAs (Service Level Agreements) – i.e. What % of time do they guarantee that your web server will be available. 99.9% is pretty standard. This might sound like a high % of uptime, but .1% downtime translates into just over 8 hrs and 45 minutes a year which might not seem too bad unless it happens to be the time that an important customer or prospect or even you yourself are trying to access the website. Some hosts will provide rebates or discounts to offset hosting costs when an unschedule outage occurs for prolonged period, violating the uptime SLA. It is not practical to expect 100% uptime and don’t believe web hosting providers that claim this. Some down time is required to perform routine maintenance to keep the web hosting environment secure by applying software bug fixes, maintenance and security patches. Most reputable companies will perform server maintenance during periods of historically lighter traffic.
- Compare Web Host Customer Service – When comparing web hosting plans, it is good to see what kind of customer support they provide. There is no question that either you, someone in your company or maybe a consultant that handles your website and other Internet marketing initiatives, will need to rely on the web hosting customer service department to get an important task accomplished. It’s not a matter of if, but when. You will want to make sure that your hosting company has 24x7x365 phone support available, preferably staffed with consultants that have the same first language as you do which will facilitate communication. Since customer service is one of the key distinguishers when evaluating web hosting companies, it is worth investing the time to call sales or support representative to ask a business or technical question and to evaluate the hold time experienced and the quality of support received. Remember, once you are a customer and you need support for an online business continuity issue, just think about the difference that good support will make in obtaining a timely solution.
- Read the Web Host Terms of Service, paying special attention to things like how they define “reasonable use” which are used to place limitations on the “unlimited storage”, “unlimited bandwidth”, “unlimited email accounts” and other items used in the sales collateral and advertisements of the web hosting companies that compete for your businesses. Other nice things to find in a web host terms of service include a money back guarantee with a prorated refund. There are reputable web hosts that provide 30 day money back guarantee and even one that at the time of this writing provides a money back guarantee for the life of the service term.The other thing to consider is that as the number of visitors to your website increase, you want to be sure that your web host can support a graceful scaling to account for increase bandwidth and serving requirements as your business and traffic grow. This is especially important when deploying your website on a shared virtual server hosting environment. In this kind of environment, the web server that is serving your web pages is running on a server that is running lots of other web servers shared across a number of websites, all running on the same physical computer. Experienced hosting companies understand how to load balance in a way to ensure that performance is maintained. The key metric to track is page load time as users have little patience to wait for slowing loading web pages. Search results also factor in page load time when determining a page’s position in the search results.
- Web Host Redundancy is key – Make certain that any web host that you are considering has multiple data centers so that an outage in one data center does not necessarily mean that your website will go offline. Most will have back-up power, including diesel generators and in one known case, wind power to keep the servers running in the event of an outage. They should also have redundant network connections so that if one network is down for some reason that the back-up network will keep your website, and therefore, your web server, connected to the Internet and accessible by customers.Remember, finding a good web hosting company is important, especially if you have a web host that has caused you grief and lost business in the past and you are looking to switch to a new provider. If you have tips to add based on your own experience, please comment on this post to share your wisdom.