There are many things to consider when choosing a hosting provider. We’re no longer in the days of dial-phone web-tech, where hosting companies were fast and loose with reliability, capabilities, and security. As a customer, you should insist on these things and much more. It’s your money and your reputation. Today’s hosting companies offer a veritable smorgasbord of features—everything from advanced e-commerce features to easy-to-use Hosting Control Panels. Here are a few things to help you choose the right hosting provider as well as some caveats.
Insist on Stability
These days, if you do anything on the web, you’ll need a 24/7 operating web host. Since friends, family, and potential customers will visit your site from round-the-clock time zones, choose a web host that offers stable servers and reliable network connections. Aim for 99.95% stability, even for shared hosting accounts. Anything less than 99% is unacceptable.
Other “Must Haves”
While most hosting companies will offer file management and site stats, see if they provide a one-click installer, DNS management, and a good file manager (you should be able to edit the . htaccess file from there). A one-click installer provides installation shortcuts for things like WordPress, Drupal, and other web apps. On your end, you’ll just need to fill in names and specify a directory. By the way, insist on FTP/SFTP access, which is great for moving large amounts of files safely. File managers only go so far. Look, too, for an .htaccess file that can help you make site-wide administrative changes. This file controls virtually everything from redirects to password authentication and management.
Don’t Kvetch Over Disk Space and Data Transfers
Lay your worries about disk space and data transfer capacity to rest. Most shared hosting providers already offer “unlimited” storage and data transfers. You’ll have ample capacity in terms of storage and data transfer bandwidth. Besides, disk storage and bandwidth have essentially become a non-issue since images can now be stored at Imgur or Flickr, files and documents on Google Doc, and videos on YouTube or Vimeo. The same holds true for large data files, which you can “park” on a variety of cloud sites.
Signups, Renewals, Refunds, and Free Trials
Hosting deals may appear like a real bargain during signup but renewal prices can skyrocket, so check the Terms of Service and make sure you agree with the renewal rates before signup. In terms of renewals and free trials, some hosting companies charge sky-high cancellation fees when you cancel your account during the trial period. Look for hosting companies that provide “anytime” money-back guarantees that offer a pro-rated refund after your trial period ends.
Email and e-Commerce Features
If you expect to host email accounts along with your website, review a hosting company’s email features before you sign up. Most companies will let you host your own email. If you’re running an e-commerce website, using shopping cart software, or expect to process business transactions on your website, you’ll want to check out the host’s e-commerce features. If you require special technical support, choose a host with enough e-commerce features to support, SSL certification, dedicated IP, and one-click shopping cart software.
Responsiveness or Website Loading
Responsiveness is basically the time it takes for your website to load once someone hits enter on your domain name. Known as Time To First Byte (TTFB), your server response speed can delight or annoy potential visitors. Research reveals that the longer a user waits for a website to load, the more likely they’ll leave the site before it even finishes loading. Your website speed also helps determine how Google and other search engines rank your site in search results.
Frequent Site Backups
Make sure your web host performs site backups often because hackers can hack and computers can fail. A good hosting provider should be able to restore your entire site quickly. Here, you’ll want to know if site backups can be done manually via the control panel. You’ll also want to know if you can create auto backups of your site easily and if you can restore your backup files by yourself without waiting for support staff to do so during a disaster recovery.