Have you ever read something so many times that it gave you head spins? That’s how we felt when we first ventured into the often unknown wilderness that is web hosting.
All we wanted was a web hosting company that did whatever it needed to do to keep our sites online and working. When we compared hosts, there was so much reading about what each one offered and why this company was better for us than the next, and so it went until, rightly or wrongly, we gave up and just picked one.
That there is an exercise in the wrong way to go about it. Since then, we’ve wised-up somewhat about hosting and now know exactly what it is that you should look for when deciding. They all have a stack of components to them, but we have found (apart from price) the top 5 features to consider when selecting a web host.
The first step before embarking on a hosting hunt is knowing yourself what your intentions are for your website or business. If you create small sites with a few pages, or even larger more authority-style sites, do you intend to scale up at any time to a point beyond what regular hosting deals can offer you? Most of the features provided by popular hosting companies such as hostgator.com, bluehost.com or webhostinghub.com are applicable to all sites, but a large business is going to require greater capabilities than your standard home office worker or website creator.
That said, scalability of a provider may be of no consequence to you, but we wanted to plant the seed in your mind because, depending on your size now or down the track, it could be a more persuasive factor then the five features that are listed below. If you are clear on your intentions for your website hobby or business, then these features will apply to you as well as the majority of the internet’s website owning population.
1. Customer and Technical Support
Many of you might be surprised that we started out of the gate with this feature, instead of talking something more technical. Well, we’ll certainly get to that, but in the first instance, if you are thinking of paying a hosting provider that does not offer around the clock customer and technical support, then you are doing yourself a very big disservice.
If your site decides to give you grief on a public holiday, you are unlikely to feel happy about waiting until the next work day to have the problem investigated. We suggest contacting any ‘potential’ hosts by every contact point that they offer. This way you can judge their response times as well as the knowledge of their operators. It’s also a good idea to check for reviews by other users. If someone has had a bad experience with their provider’s service, chances are that they are letting others know about it.
2. Uptime / Reliability
Many of the larger, well-known hosting companies offer a 99.99 per cent uptime guarantee. This simply means that it is the amount of time that you can expect your website to be visible online. Even at this uptime rate, hosting providers will allow for approximately 100 minutes of downtime each week, whether they make this obvious or not.
Closely read their terms to understand exactly to what extent they hold themselves accountable for downtime of your site. Any host that cannot have you online practically ‘all the time’, is wasting your time and costing you money. Find out about their history with power outages and equipment failures. Identify when they initiate their planned outages for maintenance and ask if this is included within their uptime agreement.
3. Disk Space
Your host-to-be needs to have enough space on their server to be able to accommodate your site, particularly if your site goes above and beyond with all the ‘bells and whistles.’ If your site is full of videos, animations, audios and graphics, or you plan for it to become this way, the hosting provider needs to be able to accommodate the extra space that your site will require to keep functioning with these features.
Beware of claims of unlimited space, as you might find yourself surprised with unexpected hidden conditions. Generally, you will get more disk space than you need, but it’s wise to ensure you have that piece of mind from the beginning.
You don’t want your site to face downtime or your account to incur additional fees as a penalty for receiving too many monthly visitors. The bandwidth offered by your hosting company needs to allow for more than sufficient transfer or download of data from your site to those who visit. Your bandwidth is also impacted by the emails you send, especially if they have attachments.
Confirm your allowed level of gigabytes before signing on. Even if you use more than your allotted bandwidth and stay online, a resulting slower bandwidth capability will see your users leave your site very quickly.
Websites can lose data from disk failure, software bugs and even hackers, to name a few. It’s always important to err on the side of caution and ensure that all data for your site has a backup. Some hosting companies will run regular backups whether once per 24 hours or even several times each day, whereas others will do so on a weekly basis.
Find out if the provider’s control panel facility allows you to download your own copies of content data and, in the event of data loss for any reason, how capable the host is of retrieving lost information. As with everything, you should clarify if any costs are incurred for employing emergency backup services.
When researching web hosting providers for your websites, a little bit of gain now can save you a lot of pain down the track. Spend some time reading reviews and contacting your short list of hosts. Each will advertise a whole range of services and benefits, however keep in mind the features listed herein as a stable guide to making your final decision.