Your new website is ready to upload, and now you need a web host. Or perhaps you already have a web host, but uptime and support are lacking. Of the thousands of web hosts to choose from, how do you find one that you can depend on? Know what can go wrong and what to watch out for, and research prospective web hosts carefully.
What can go wrong with web hosting
Too much downtime
Problems happen, and even when they don't, server maintenance results in a minimal amount of downtime. A dependable web host not only maintains servers well, but also monitors the servers and fixes problems immediately. With the type of web host you want to avoid, however, your site may be down for days.
Features that don't work
When your email doesn't work, your business shuts down. Problems with databases and other features can also slow down or stop your business. Most web hosts understand this, but some don't place a high priority on keeping not only your site online but everything working as well.
Dependable web hosts answer tech support questions within hours. Other web hosts, however, have been known to take days. And when those responses come, sometimes they're canned responses that don't address the issue.
Support people with good communication skills help keep problems from becoming bigger problems. Being told, "Everything looks fine here, so the problem is solved," leads to frustration. So is having your site shut down because it used too many resources rather than the web host contacting you about the problem first.
Even after you cancel your account, problems may continue. Some less-than-dependable web hosts don't honor their refund policy. Others don't stop automatic billing after the account is cancelled.
What to watch out for
When you see the following at web host websites, consider them red flags to warn you of possible problems.
If the pricing looks too good to be true, it probably is. Is it enough to pay for server maintenance and tech support? You get what you pay for.
Nothing is really unlimited. If you sign up for an account offering unlimited bandwidth and then use a lot of bandwidth, expect to have the plug pulled on your site. The web host may find another explanation for discontinuing your account, but "unlimited" typically means "as long as you don't use a lot."
An unprofessional-looking website
Consider how much effort the web host put into providing a usable website with informative content. Does it give you confidence in the web host, or is it full of unsubstantiated statements and grammar and spelling mistakes? A web host doesn't need to be a spelling expert, of course. But if the company hasn't put much effort into telling you about their services, will they be conscientious about meeting clients' needs?
How to research web hosts
Finding web hosts is easy enough. Search engines can take you to the websites of thousands of web hosts. But after you've narrowed down your list by features and price, how do you find out which web hosts are dependable?
Read web host package details and TOS
If the hosting packages offer huge amounts of disk space and bandwidth for very low prices, consider yourself warned. Don't expect the company to have enough money for maintenance and support.
If you want to be sure that you can get a refund if you want one, check what the Terms of Service (TOS) says about refunds.
Read the web host forum
What is the ambience in the forum? Are clients' questions answered satisfactorily? Don't be concerned if you see problems; instead, be concerned if you don't see any problems. Some web hosts remove posts that don't show their company in a positive light. If posts about problems remain in the forum, you can observe how the host handles problems.
Read web host reviews
Client feedback at the web host's site may or may not be valid. It's possible for hosts to make up feedback, and some have even copied feedback from other sites. Look for feedback with links to the clients' sites, and check via http://www.Whois.sc to see if the particular web host actually hosts that site.
Numerous forums allow people to post web host reviews. When you read reviews, consider the poster's credibility. Some people bash their hosts just because they're unhappy about something. If the host posts in response to a problem, observe how the host tries to resolve it.
Check the company background
The "About Us" or "Company Background" page at the web host's site should answer these questions.
How long has the company been in business? A new company may be excellent, but it's good to keep in mind that a lot of businesses fail within the first year.
Where are the servers located? Ideally, they should be in a datacenter, and not in someone's basement.
What are the server uptime statistics? If the web host doesn't publish a link to a server uptime monitor, ask for a link to one. Uptime of about 99.7 percent or higher is generally considered good.
Does the company publish an address? You may never need it, but when you're placing your company website in another company's hands, you want to know that the company is legitimate and accessible.
Email pre-sales questions
Answers to your pre-sales questions tell you a lot about the web host. You'll see how fast the company responds and how well they communicate. Ask questions about any of the above points as well as questions specific to your needs.
Finding a dependable web host takes time, but dealing with problems and moving your site takes more time. The time spent looking for a dependable web host is a worthwhile investment.
About the author: Lois S. is a Technical Executive Writer for Website Source, Inc. http://www.websitesource.com. Her established writing skills coupled with experience in the website hosting industry have provided internet professionals with marketing, product and service ideas for many years.