How to Choose a Web Host: Factors to Consider
Copyright 2006 Stephen Ashton With all of the web hosting companies, including resellers, out there today, and with all of the promises they make, choosing a web host isn’t always easy. Here are five factors you should consider when comparing web hosts and their hosting plans: Support Even if you prefer email support, see if the company at least offers a toll-free support number. Check the hours that it’s available. If something happens, and your site goes down, will someone be there to help you? Also find out what kind of support documents they make available to their customers, which you can use to find answers to your own questions. At the very least, email the hosting company with some questions, and see how long it takes them to respond to you. A good hosting company will answer you within a matter of a few hours if you email them on a weekday (some even on the weekend).
Price Plans Don’t worry so much about the exact monthly price, but instead on how you’re expected to pay. You’re better off finding a host that allows you to pay on a month-to-month basis than one who requires you to pay up front, whether it’s for three months, six months, or even a year or more. Don’t just trust that a hosting company will be around for long, or that they’ll let you out of your deal without any problems if you find their service less than satisfactory. Comparing the simple price per month can be misleading, because you need to account for every small detail being offered between two competing hosting packages. Services & Features Most small business sites would be fine with 100mb space, and sometimes less, if they don’t have an image-heavy site.
Other sites require more space and bandwidth, because they host many image, audio, or video files. You should find out what you need and compare similar services from different hosting companies. For instance, do you need to host unlimited domain names? Do you need to be able to create unlimited sub-domains? Do you want access to Fantastico? Do you need a certain number of email addresses included? Do you need access to set up a MySQL database, or even unlimited databases? Do you need a hosting provider that includes a stats package? Do you need to have FrontPage extensions or e-commerce support? Do you want a hosting company that provides free web site templates? These are all different features that you should consider when evaluating a lower-cost plan that may not have them, versus a higher cost plan that does. Their History Find out how long the hosting company has been in business. A larger number of new hosting companies don’t survive past their first year, so signing up for an account with one that’s been in business for several years is usually the best idea. You can find out how long a hosting company has been in business by running a WhoIs search on their domain name to see when it was originally registered. You should also do a search on the Web for reviews about the hosting company you’re interested in. Don’t simply believe the testimonials on their own sites. Specifically look for negative reviews to see what past complaints have been. Your Freedom Before you sign up with any web hosting company, find out what kind of freedom you will, or won’t, have when managing your site(s) through them.
Something as simple as blacklisted email can be overlooked. For example, let’s say you run a small business, and you want to run a company-wide newsletter. You can sign up for email marketing services through companies such as Constant Contact. If your employees each have an email address associated with your hosting account, you may find out the hard way that your employees won’t be allowed to receive your newsletters. For instance, if you were hosted through GoDaddy.com, you’d find out that they blacklist certain email providers from sending mail to their customers. So, with Constant Contact blacklisted (which it was at last check), you would be forced to sign up for a new email management service or a new hosting provider. Some hosts, such as HostGator.com, allow you to decide who you want to blacklist and whitelist, so you’re completely free to use whatever external services you choose. If you’re running a very small personal site, you might be willing to give up on some freedom for the savings you’ll find.
But if you’re a business owner, be sure to find out all of the details about what kinds of freedoms you will and won’t have when running your business’ site through any potential hosting provider.
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