How to Choose a Web Hosting Service

Choosing a reliable web host is one of the more important decisions you’ll make for your business. Whether you’re online to promote a product, service, or other business, your income depends on your website being available to customers. There are plenty of hosting companies available, but you’ll need to do your homework before signing up. Here are some questions to ask when choosing your hosting company.

Can you host multiple domains and subdomains?

If you’re just starting your online business, you may think this doesn’t apply to you. However, as your business grows, there is a stronger possibility of you adding complementary websites. It’s better to find out if the host will provide for your business growth. It’s important to find out if your hosting company provides multiple domains/subdomains. Also, you need to know if there is an extra fee for this service.

What is the bandwidth and web space allowance?

Bandwidth refers to the amount of bytes transferred from your site to visitors when they browse your site. Large sites with active user communities need considerably more than brochure-style, static websites. Many web hosting companies spout unlimited bandwidth and space, but in all reality, there’s no such thing as unlimited resources. The host needs to budget data transfer (traffic or bandwidth) and storage space, so you need to be clear about their policies regarding what constitutes normal usage and what is considered abusive. A typical site (one without archived software) uses approximately 3 GB of bandwidth per month. Discuss your site’s needs, and ask if the company charges for overages. Some companies charge a pre-pay fee for overages, which is very difficult to predict. As your site grows, you want to keep extra fees in check.

How much technical support is provided?

Ask what type of tech support is available. No matter how much preparation and planning is involved, servers do fail, sites go offline temporarily, and other tech problems can crop up. What is the company’s policy on getting technical assistance? Is it available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week? What’s the process for submitting a ticket for help? Does the company have more than just a flashy sales page, do they have a dedicated support team? Send a test email to see how, and how fast, they respond to your questions.

What other features are included?

Hosting companies can do more than just connect your website to the Internet. In addition to hosting your site, they can also provide a more or less user-friendly control panel so you can administer your web space without outside help. A good host will also offer a webmaster service and other administrative tools for customers who do not have the time, technical skills or desire to do it themselves. This is a very important aspect of your web hosting requirements. Don’t be overly impressed with a long list of “features” that you might never need.

What are the fees?

Most people compare hosting companies by price only. While the cost is certainly important, it should not be the sole criteria for your final decision. Cheaper web hosts may not provide the necessary services for your business to be up and running efficiently. Conversely, an expensive webhosting service is no guarantee that you will get what your business specifically needs.

Ask all these questions first, and if they all meet your business needs, then compare the monthly or quarterly rates. It is also a good idea to look at existing customer testimonials or ask friends or colleagues for referrals.