Choosing a Website Hosting Company
There are a number of important factors to consider when deciding on a web hosting company.
1 – Price – Web hosting services come in all different prices, including free. While free hosting may sound tempting, it’s not a good idea for any business that takes its website seriously. Using a free hosting service will typically result in slow loading pages, limited disk space and bandwidth, very slow support (if any) when you need help, and sometimes outside advertisements on your site.
On the contrary, many hosting services are overpriced when compared to the competition. The best approach is to compare several hosting services to find the one that provides the best service with the most features at the lowest price.
2 – Contracts/Commitments – Most hosting services will require you to commit to using their service for a specified length of time, usually one year. Agreeing to a contract can sometimes reduce the monthly fee, but it also prohibits you from leaving if you are not satisfied with the service.
If you are not committed for a certain amount of time you are likely to receive a better product with better service in order to keep you as a customer. If you are going to choose a hosting provider that requires you to agree to a contract, be sure to find out what fees are involved if you decide to end the contract early and go to another service.
3 – Support – Inevitably at some point you will need support from your hosting provider. You may need help setting it up or dealing with an issue down the road. If service hours are limited or if service is only available via email, it may be difficult to get the help you need.
If you do use email support, how long will it take to get a response? It is a good idea to call before signing up for the service. This lets you see how difficult or easy it is to talk to a real person that can help you solve your problems.
4 – Disk space and bandwidth – Each hosting company will limit you to a specified amount of disk space and bandwidth. Disk space will determine the maximum size of your website. Always allow enough space for future additions to your site. Remember that audio and video files take up much more space than plain html files.
Bandwidth will determine how much traffic your site will be able to handle. Again, remember that visitors downloading audio and video will use up a lot of bandwidth. There is a very broad range of disk space and bandwidth provided by different web hosts, and most companies will offer multiple packages to choose from.
5 – Downtime – Every web hosting service will at some time experience difficulties. Even just updating their servers can occasionally cause your website to be momentarily inaccessible. The amount of downtime should be a significant factor in your decision. Your website does no good when it is not functioning, and it can even leave a customer with a bad impression of your business.
Always look for a hosting company that provides statistics on their downtime. The most trustworthy statistics will be provided by an independent 3rd party.
6 – Email address – Your web hosting service provider will give you email addresses at your domain name. The number of email addresses will vary greatly from one host to the next. Determine how many email addresses you will need and be sure that you choose a hosting plan that will provide enough to meet your needs.
7 – Statistics – Tracking the visitors to your website is a significant contributor to having a successful website. Almost every hosting company will provide you with a statistics program. If not, there are several free programs (including AwStats) that you can use.
A statistics program should at a minimum provide you with: the number of unique visitors, the number of visitors for each page, the length of time that visitors were on your website, which site sent the most visitors to your site (search engines and inbound links), what search terms people used to find your site, and what pages visitors exited your site from. You should also be able to organize the data by day, week, month, or year. Without this information it is impossible to know much of anything about your visitors.
8 – Extras – Along with the basics of the web hosting service, you will also get other extras that will add value to the service. Because each hosting company will have its own set of features, it is a good idea to compare and make sure that you are getting the features that are most important for you.
Some common extras include: contact form creators (allows your visitors to contact you by filling out a form on your website), polls and surveys, email forwarders, auto responders, mailing list managers, forums and blogs. Some of these features will be more important to you than others. If any of them are critical to what you are trying to accomplish, you should be certain that any hosting service you are considering will provide these features.
9 – Multiple Domains – some hosting services allow you to host multiple websites (domains) on one account at one price. Without multiple domain hosting, adding new websites can be very costly. Having more than one website may help you to reach more people and to funnel traffic to your main site. Creating additional websites can help to promote specific products or services.
10 – Upgrade/Downgrade Options – If your hosting provider offers several different packages, you should ideally be able to upgrade or downgrade at any time. If you are under a contract this may not be possible.
11 – What do their clients say about their service? – Be sure to read testimonials provided by the web hosting company and consult any friends or colleagues that use the service.