When you are setting up a personal website, even a free hosting service will do – they are not so bad, actually – you can even buy your own domain name with the free hosting and get a full fledged website. There are loads of deals and offers related to hosting and domain names and cheap or free is not necessarily sub par. Unfortunately, they are not good enough for business purposes. Not to our knowledge, anyway, unless you are talking about the Google initiative for small businesses where you get everything free for an entire year.
We are going to assume that you want hosting for your business site and that you are expecting steady growth. Take a look at some of the essential things you must look for when choosing a normal, paid web host.
Snoop around the Internet. Find a list of hosts that come up when you search for the “best web hosting services” (or some similar key-phrase) and then find reviews related to them. The usual problems are: not living up to the promise of 99.99% (or simply 99% – no one seems to offer any less) uptime, not responding to customer queries in spite of the advertised 24 hour dedicated support team, not being able to solve problems faced by customers, not being able to provide enough security and generally, being unprofessional on various fronts. Among the less common problems would be a refusal to let customers transfer their domain to some other hosting service provider.
Also find out about the strong points. What is each provider’s specialization? Do they excel in certain areas? Also, are these areas relevant to your requirements? Do this diligently, and you might come up with some information that will prompt you to prune your “best list”.
2. Hosting Type
There are three types of hosting to be found with most service providers: Shared, Dedicated and Virtual. Sharing is good if the provider is otherwise good. Dedicated is for handling huge traffic and even an hour’s downtime means a huge loss for you.
A Virtual Private Server or VPS is where the server software runs on a single machine (hardware) but multiple users can share the server in a virtual form. For each user, the virtual part of the server that is theirs acts like a Dedicated Server. This is better than Shared hosting because you share your files with no one else and you can customize your server as you wish. However, since the hardware is being shared for real (and not virtually), there are some limitations with regards to server capacity.
Therefore, with VPS (for a higher price) you get a better deal than Shared hosting although a VPS hosting is not as good (or as costly) as a Dedicated hosting. You decide, according to your needs. Shared hosting is usually okay to begin with.
Also consider if you need Linux or Windows servers (which are a bit pricey). Ask for expert advice – your web designer should be able to help. Unless you want to run special apps, Linux should be just fine.
What can I take away from this? Choose a host that offers everything so that you may be at liberty to change your preferences later.
3. Is the Host Social Enough?
Most businesses use social media to expand their business. One problem with this is that irate customer responses are clearly visible to all – and lack of response, if any, on the part of the business, is also equally visible. It may be reasonable to assume that only businesses that have nothing to hide try to cultivate a prominent social presence. After all, would you be interested in a hosting service that takes more than 48 hours to respond to a query on their Facebook Page?
Conclusion: checking the social media profile of a hosting provider is a good way to supplement your snooping activities mentioned earlier. Also, see if they have a LinkedIn Business Page. This is where professionals meet; a strong and transparent LinkedIn presence is certainly a good indication.
4. Final Words
There is a lot to check up on – the server hardware, the bandwidth, the control panel (is it a user friendly C-panel or Plesk, or something that looks alien?), and the number of MySQL databases offered. While some of them are too technical, the last one simply refers to the number of WordPress blogs (among other things) that you can set up with your main website. If, for example, you have a main store and a number of branches, you could benefit from having blogs for the branches at no extra cost (like MainStore.Com/Store-1 and so on). However, we have covered the truly essential parts in points (1) and (3).
One last tip before we conclude: when looking for deals, even with providers on your final list, be wary of incredibly discounted offers and read the small print carefully. Those are usually for the first month or year. After that the price could even get higher than that of the standard plans.
Choosing a web host right is often best served by an otherwise frequently erroneous assumption – ‘so many people can’t be wrong’ ; indeed, if others are doing well with their business with Host X, you probably will, as well. But don’t forget to do your own research first, all the same.