How Do I Choose a Web Hosting Company?
If you have a small personal website devoted to family news or a favorite hobby, you'll probably be happy with a free web hosting provider such as Freeservers.com. Free web hosting companies are usually supported by ads, however, so they aren't the best choice for business websites.
So you've got a business website, and you're committed to having it professionally hosted. But with literally thousands of paid web hosting providers out there, how do you choose? Read through our "Questions to Ask" and "Things to Do," and you'll be on the right track to choosing the right web hosting company for you.
Questions to Ask Your Prospective Web Host
Can the web hosting provider meet your technical requirements?
This is the most important question of all. You need a web hosting company that can handle the complexity of your site. How much storage space does the web host provide? How much does additional storage space cost? How much bandwidth is allowed each month? If you go over your monthly bandwidth allotment, how much will that cost? Don't get caught short - get the answers ahead of time.
Will the web hosting provider be able to grow with you?
This is another critical question. Your website needs may be simple now, but as your web presence expands, you don't want to have to change web hosts to keep up. Choose a web hosting company that leaves you with room to grow.
Does the web host provide templates or other assistance to help you design your website, or will you have to create your website from scratch?
If you're not particularly web-savvy, templates can be a lifesaver in designing your website - take advantage of them.
Will the web hosting company allow you to upload changes yourself?
You should be able to make content changes to your website at any time. If your site contains time-sensitive information, you won't want to wait for the web host to make the changes for you.
Will you be able to track site statistics?
The web host should provide you with reports, or the ability to run reports yourself, so you can see how many visitors your website's getting, where they're coming from, and if those visitors are converting into customers.
Does the web hosting company offer e-commerce capabilities?
Even if you don't currently use e-commerce, if there's the possibility that you might want to in the future, make sure your web host can handle it.
What kind of spam-filtering services does the web host provide?
Are they included in your hosting fees, or do they cost extra?
What is the web hosting provider's uptime guarantee?
When your website is down, it might as well not exist. Your web host needs to be in the reliability business.
What kind of customer support does the web host offer?
Is it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or just business hours? Whose business hours? (If they're in New York and you're in San Diego, and your site goes down at 3 pm, what will you do if their tech support team has gone home for the day?) What kind of customer service interface do they use - e-mail, live chat, telephone? For a business site, telephone support is a must. Otherwise, if your web access is down, how will you contact them to fix it?
What payment options does the web hosting company have?
Do they accept PayPal, credit cards, personal checks? Will you pay monthly or quarterly? Do they offer discounts if you pre-pay in advance?
Things to Do Before You Choose a Web Host
Research, research, research.
Find out about as many web hosting companies as you can, so you can really compare apples to apples. Once you've found some final contenders, do research on the companies themselves. How long has the web host been in business? Start-ups are great, but when you trust a web host with something as important as your web presence, you need someone you know you can count on.
Read the fine print.
How Much Is All This Going to Cost?
Web hosting costs vary widely from company to company, from region to region, and obviously, depending on what services you require. Price is, of course, a concern for every business, but it's not the whole story. The most important thing is that you get the level of web hosting service your company needs. So, after you've narrowed the field down to a handful of web hosting companies that offer the services you're looking for, you can start comparing prices. Remember, a great deal on web hosting that doesn't meet your needs is no deal at all.