There’s no way around it – if you want to have a website, you need to have a web host.
It seems simple enough at first – after all, aren’t all web hosts created equal? They all do roughly the same thing – right? Won’t any web hosting company do?
Turns out, it’s not quite as easy as that.
It’s true, there are so many options (and so many killer hosting deals) that you may be tempted to make your choice via an entirely unscientific method – solely based upon price, a friend’s recommendation, drawing a name from a hat, or perhaps, the old standard for difficult decisions – “Eeny Meeny Miney Moe”.
But your website is important – in fact, it likely represents a significant portion of your revenue, and attracts your best new customers. Simply put, your business depends on your website – you can’t afford to choose an unreliable host.
Luckily, we’ve summarized 10 of the most important criteria into a handy checklist that you can use to make this decision a whole lot easier.
The first rule: Know what you need.
Before you begin researching potential web hosts, be clear about what you need. You won’t have a generic site, and you don’t need a generic host.
Answer the following questions prior to starting your research:
- What kind of website are you creating?
- What is your expected traffic?
- Will you need multiple add-on domains now, or in the future?
- What sort of email needs will your company have?
- Will your site have other specific needs or requirements (such as blogging or e-commerce)?
Web Hosting Checklist
1. Server Uptime Record
As an entrepreneur, there are few things worse than knowing you are losing revenue because your website is down. When choosing a host –verify their uptime record – the percentage of time that you can expect your site to be up and running smoothly – expect 99% or higher. Some of the best hosting companies boast an uptime performance guarantee of 99.99% or greater.
2. Get Technical
Be sure to learn the technical specifications and limitations of any host you are considering. Your host needs to have the processing power to deliver your website, and all of its content, to your visitors. Crashing sites, slow page loads, and downtime can be incredibly costly to your business.
3. Specialty Needs
Will you be running an ecommerce platform or blog from your site? Be sure your host supports easy one-click installation, and use of the scripts, security features, and needed software.
4. Account Suspension
Do the hosts you are considering have specific CPU limitations or rules that may lead to the suspension of your hosting? Be clear on these before you sign on the dotted line.
5. Service Level Agreement
Be sure to thoroughly read, and understand, the Service Level Agreement (SLA). Ask questions about anything that seems unclear – this is a great opportunity to test out the speed and helpfulness of support staff.
6. Site Backups
In the online world it’s inevitable – things go wrong. Systems crash and technology fails. Your data is only as safe as your backup system. Make sure to learn what your host’s standard backup practices include.
- Are regular automatic backups a part of the package?
- Can you create manual backups easily from your control panel?
- Can you restore your site easily on your own, or will that require time consuming and costly technical support?
7. Keep an Eye on the Future.
Regardless of the size of your business, choose a host that will grow with you in terms of processing power, memory, storage, and security. Be sure that upgrades are easy – transferring hosts is no small thing.
Levels of hosting:
- Shared Hosting/Individual Plans: Most affordable and typically only provide a single domain with limited features, bandwidth, and data. Best suited for new websites without special needs. Shared hosting is like renting an apartment.
- Virtualized Private Server (VPS): Think of VPS hosting as owning a condo – though external property is shared – you own resources that are solely your own – your website lives within a partition of a dedicated server.
- Dedicated Server: A dedicated server account is analogous to home ownership. Your site is hosted on a dedicated machine, and nobody else can access or share that space.
8. Support Is Everything
Issues with your site may not pop up during normal business hours. Support should be accessible quickly, at any hour of the day, and on weekends and holidays. Test before you buy – ask each customer support team some common questions to gauge the level of knowledge and helpfulness.
9. Reputation Matters.
Learn how current or former customers feel by seeking out detailed reviews. Use Google to search blogs or check out the host’s social media hashtags. Make sure to visit dedicated review sites and read up on reviews of all the hosts you are considering.
10. The Bottom Line
For most entrepreneurs, budget is an issue. But when it comes to choosing a web host, it should not be the most important one. Only compare pricing after you have determined that a host meets all of your requirements, and has the reputation, support, and security you will need. Don’t forget to consider renewal costs, subscription periods, and refund policies.
Making a decision this important on cost alone is one that many small business owners have gone on to regret. Though your overall budget cannot be ignored, your web host should never be chosen on price alone.
Your website is the cornerstone of your online business – make sure to thoroughly research all options, and make a choice that best fits the needs of your business, and your future website.