Choosing a web hosting provider can feel a bit like playing roulette. Sure, they sound good. They make all the right promises, tell you all the right things. But until you’ve used them, how do you really know they’ll do a good job for you? A search on the Internet will bring up both good and bad reviews for any web host. How do you choose?
You can ask your friends, but that isn’t always the most accurate advice. If your friend has a blog with only a few visitors a week, and you have an eCommerce store that does thousands in a day, you’re comparing apples to oranges.
The most reliable hosting recommendations often come from authorities in the field. For example, the best host for eCommerce might not be the best host for a blog. In our case we’re building a WordPress site and so you can look to your expert theme builders and experienced WordPress developers to point you in the right direction. For the full-range of back-end features and very good customer service, I recommend BlueHost. However, there are many more good hosting companies out there.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a hosting provider:
Reliability can be a tough one because no hosting provider is going to admit their service is less than stellar. You can ask the provider for stats on their unplanned downtime for the past month. You can also get them to explain their maintenance schedules and how they communicate planned downtime to their customers.
Customer service is an incredibly important component of choosing a web host. If you make a mistake and take your whole site is down, or if your business email is bouncing and you can’t communicate with your customers you’re going to want help fast. Find out the method for requesting customer services. Make sure you can get a real person on the phone 24/7.
Pricing for basic web hosting can vary greatly, and while levels of service can seem to be comparable, it usually isn’t. Look carefully at what services different package combinations provide. Most web hosts give discounts for longer terms of service. If you’re willing to commit to them for longer periods of time, you can save money. Committing to a long term of service with a host you’ve never used before can be risky. I recommend going with one year and then extending it to a longer period once you are confident that you are with the right company for you. Also look to see if there is a money-back guarantee. A good host won’t be afraid to offer one because they know they are doing right by their customers.
Server Space and Bandwidth
When you’re first starting out server space and bandwidth aren’t a huge issue. However, one viral video and your entire site can shut down in an instant. Find out what the policy is on surges in bandwidth. Initially, you’ll probably be on a server with many other customers, and high traffic on their sites can impact yours. Once a site becomes too large, the provider upgrades them to a dedicated server, which also costs more. Be aware that many hosts promise unlimited space. Space on a server is not the same thing as bandwidth.
Check into things like does branded email come with the package and can you FTP files. Also find out if you are allowed to have multiple websites (often referred to as databases) for one hosting fee. Bluehost allows you to run multiple websites under one account -potentially saving you hundreds per year. Understand the features that you get with each provider and you’ll often understand why there is a price difference.
In the end, you’ll need to choose a host and stick with them for a few months to determine if they are a good fit for you.