How to Properly Evaluate a Web Hosting Provider
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Web hosting is the backbone of your website, so evaluating a web host is serious business. You want to make sure that the host you choose is going to give top-notch performance and value. But do you know how to properly evaluate a web hosting provider? It’s important to know how to evaluate one properly to make sure you are getting the level of service you deserve. Otherwise, you may be taken in by false claims and advertising designed to push you to buy before you have a chance to think.
The best way to figure out which web hosting provider is the best for you is to make a list of the web hosting providers you’re interested in, then use a combination of web hosting reviews websites and the web hosting provider websites to answer the following questions, restructuring your list as you go to show the best web hosting provider at the top. By the time you finish, you will have the best web hosting provider at the top, along with second and third choices just in case.
The first thing you’ll want to check out is the company’s background. You’ll want a company in business a long time and is doing well. If you choose a company about to fail, you may end up having to move your site early and losing the money you spent on hosting. Some questions to ask are:
- How long have they been in business?
- Are they profitable and financially stable now?
- Is it a privately held company?
- If they belong to another company, what is that company’s background?
- How many clients do they have?
- How have they grown in recent years?
- Are they a green company? (do they use renewable energy sources?)
Once you have a list of companies with a strong background, it’s time to start checking out their pricing. This can be a little tricky as not all companies tell you the cost upfront, nor do they mention issues like that you need to buy a year’s worth of hosting to get that ultra low monthly rate.
Start by figuring out the bottom line. What is the monthly rate? Make a list from lowest to highest. You can also check the whole thing country-wise, like Hosting Foundry’s comparison for Singapore. Now let’s try checking out with some of the lowest priced providers and see what the upfront cost is to get that low monthly rate. Don’t actually purchase anything, but do load your cart so you know the exact amount of money needed to start hosting. Many hosts don’t mention that there are often startup fees or requirements that you buy X amount of months to get their monthly prices.
Make a note of how many months you have to purchase with each provider, and what the total upfront cost is to get started.
To get the best deal, you want the monthly rate AND the billing cycle to be as small as possible. Try restructuring the list to show the providers with the lowest monthly prices and smallest billing cycles first.
Now you should be ready to evaluate the web host providers’ features. You will want to make sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck so you won’t have to upgrade for a while. Some hosts offer a low monthly rate and smaller billing cycles, but may purposely structure the plan’s features so that you have to upgrade as early as possible.
Questions to ask and make a note of are:
- How much storage space does the plan offer?
- How much bandwidth?
- How many email accounts, databases and FTP accounts do they allow you to have?
- Do they allow scripting and other technical features like PHP, ASP, Python, SSH, FrontPage Extensions, SSI, Ruby on Rails, custom htaccess files, and cron jobs?
- Do they include any e-commerce related features like online shop applications, SSL certificates for secure transmission of credit card data, etc.?
- What site building features are included? Do they make it easy to install content management platforms like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.? Do they have a WYSIWYG site builder?
- Do they include any free advertising credit like Bing and Adwords coupons?
Now make sure your list shows the lowest priced host with the most features at the top, and go down from there.
Reliability and Performance
Of course, none of this will do any good if your web host is unreliable and performs poorly. This may result in website downtime, slow loading, and errors. So you will want to figure out which web host provider is the most reliable and gives the best performance. Here are the questions to ask:
Internet: What type of internet connection does the web hosting provider have? Do they use multiple ISPs? Multiple ISPs help reduce the chance of downtime due to ISP issues. Do they use multiple fiber optic cables in case someone accidentally cuts one while digging? Do they use 24/7 network security teams and scanning software? This helps ensure the logical data remains safe on the server.
Data Center: Is the data center owned by the web hosting provider? Does the data center have 24/7 physical security, video monitoring, and biometric entrance control? Does it have power generators to make sure the servers keep running in the case of a power outage? Does it have a fire suppression system?
Architecture: Does the web host use pooled-server architecture? Do they have any special software setups for the greatest load tasks, like server-pools that only process email?
Hardware: Do they use updated servers with multiple processors? Do they use RAID arrayed hard disks for hardware redundancy? This is important to protect from data loss due to a hard drive going bad. Do they use load balancers? This helps ensure extra traffic doesn’t take an entire server down.
Remove any web hosting providers from your list that don’t make the cut here. You can’t afford to lose out on uptime or, even worse, lose data due to an unreliable web host.
Customer service will be the first point of contact you make for any questions, issues, or assistance. You will want to make sure that customer service is accessible, friendly, knowledgeable, and quick to resolve any problems that will arise. Ask the following questions about each web hosting provider:
- Does the web hosting provider offer 24/7 support?
- Is there telephone support and is it toll-free?
- How long does it take to reach a live person when you call?
- Does the provider offer any guarantees on how quickly you can reach a live person through support?
- Does the provider offer a broad and well-documented knowledge-base?
- Is support friendly and helpful when you talk to them?
Also, remove any web hosts from your list that don’t make the cut here, as well. Customer service needs to be top-notch since they are your point of contact. No one wants to get stuck with a nonfunctioning website they can’t even contact support about or rely on support to fix the issue in a friendly manner.
Guarantees are definitely something you want to see out of a web hosting provider. You want to know their level of service objective and that they are committed to reaching that level of service or they will refund part of your money back. This is what you want to see out of each web hosting provider:
- Uptime guarantees
- Money-back guarantees
- Support guarantees
Know that anything that isn’t backed by a guarantee from your web hosting provider may change in the future even if it checks out okay now. Web hosts that don’t guarantee anything at all should be removed from your list.
By now you should have a list with at least one or two reliable web hosting providers at the top that meet all your criteria and have the lowest possible rates of web hosting. Congrats on having successfully evaluated these web hosting providers! Your choice of web hosting provider should be clear now. Good luck!
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