Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What to look for in a web host

by: Rob Ferrall

Finding a web host can seem like a daunting task, but it really doesn’t have to be. I’ve filtered through no less than a dozen hosts in my 4 years online, and have been with one host for about 2 years now. For me, the important features of a prospective web host:

* Reliability
* Support
* Affordability

Reliability is a very important thing if you’re running a website for profit. It would be difficult to keep a membership if your web site was consistently unavailable. I had 2 web hosts that were plagued with downtime. One of them was great for the first few months, almost no downtime - but then it’s like the bottom fell out. Support started getting backed up, 20 minutes to 2 hours of downtime every few days. . . Eventually the company was gone.

Support is crucial. If you are trying to run a business and you’ve got a problem with your website - you want someone to talk to or someone to respond in short order. There are so many web hosts around that you simply do not need to choose one that only offers email support. My current webhost offers 24×7x365 support by phone, email and live chat. They are available whenever you need them, and most of the times when I have a question or issue (and send an email versus using live chat) it’s normally handled within an hour or so. You can’t beat dependable support.

Finally - Affordability. Having a great web host won’t do you any good if you can’t afford to keep them. Web hosting companies abound. There are so many that if you just do a tiny bit of searching you can find a good hosting plan with great support for between $5-$10 per month. The web hosts that charge $20 per month for 500MB storage and 10GB bandwidth are most likely either small reseller hosts (where their support might lack) or they are catering to the people that don’t know any better. You do not have to pay an arm and a leg for good hosting.

My suggestions for finding the best web host for your money:

1. Only choose a web host with a $0 setup fee. There is no point in paying a setup fee unless this particular host has something unique to offer.

2. Only choose a host that allows month to month payments. Just because your service starts out great with your web host, doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way. Things change and it could happen to your host. Keep your options open in case things go south.

3. Only choose a host that offers true 24×7 support. If the web host states 24×7 support but doesn’t provide a phone number, send them an email in the middle of the night. See how quickly they respond. If you don’t get the response for a day or two - Stay away.

If you stick by these basic guidelines you should be able to find a web host that works without losing a bunch of money in the process.