Disclaimer: When I refer to a web host, in this post I will be talking about shared web hosting package. This is the most popular hosting package for new users, and often the recommended solution for smaller to medium sites, and costs on average between $3 and $20 per month.
Introduction to Web Hosting
Being a decision that can heavily contribute to your success (or lack there of), your choice of hosting provider should not be taken lightly. Not even for a new website owner or casual blogger.
Due to the web hosting industry being extremely competitive, the price/quality ratio is quite disproportionate. What I mean by that is that relatively speaking, there is only a small price difference between the various website hosting companies, but there is a huge gap in the quality and service amongst them. For this very reason, make sure you identify who the industry leaders are before choosing a web hosting company.
Head to just about any web hosting company’s website and you will be greeted with a familiar looking landing page that will take you to a packages web page that displays an impressive list of features, with terms half of which you have probably never heard of before.
At this stage, you will start to get a little anxious, wondering if there is anything that you are going to need that isn’t on their list of features, or on your list of requirements…because you don’t really know what your requirements are.
This is a common pattern for a new website owner (myself included, although the list of features was not quite as impressive) and can make the process a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Therefore, you need to determine…
What Is Really Important
Let me tell you one simple fact that will help you get a clear notion of what you DON’T need: if you don’t have any specific technical requirements, don’t spend hours researching all of the technical jargon from each of the different web-hosting companies. If you are going to have a different set of requirements than the millions of customers that already use these services every day, you will already know about it.
Because website hosting is such a competitive industry, the standard list of features that services 99.9% of new website developers is included from any reputable web hosting service. That is why in order to distinguish the winning company, you’ll need to “read between the lines”. Here are the considerations I would recommend:
Is their customer service and support team available 24/7 over chat and phone?
If you are a beginner (or even if you are not) you want to rely on people who will tend to your needs at all times, simply because you can never predict when an issue might occur or when you simply might have a question you cannot answer yourself. It is important to have contact with the support team in real-time.
Are they reliable and secure?
Most reputable hosts have invested time and effort to let you know what they do for security right on their website. Read carefully and do your research, but avoid the technical mumbo-jumbo – focus on actual facts.
What are the resources they give you?
Keep in mind that server resources is something which might sound very abstract to the ordinary person. This makes it very easy to fall in the “unlimited” trap, which is a marketing ploy many hosts use. But if you actually think about it, the term unlimited doesn’t seem very realistic, especially if you think in terms of storage. Just as there aren’t unlimited computers, the same way a server cannot be unlimited. Usually, 10 GB of space is plenty for a small website and will still give you the opportunity to grow your website.
Do they offer you options to grow?
Hopefully, on a good hosting environment and if you follow the advice I gave you in my previous post, your site will grow in both content and visitors. When this happens, you will need more resources and a good host should give you the option to go gradually (not jump) to a higher solution.
Is there a money back guarantee?
On the other hand, if you decide that this particular host is not exactly what you need or if you decide to abandon the project, you should be able to get a refund. One month is the average time, in which you should be able to test and see if you wish to continue or switch the route.
How many users does the provider have?
Many people believe that the bigger the user base, the better it speaks to the quality of the hosting. This, although a logical conclusion, does not always prove to be true in practice. Consider this: if a provider has 500000 clients at a time, all these people are serviced by just a number of representatives, which are often disproportionate to the demand. This means that you will have to wait longer to connect (HostGator, for instance, make me wait for at least 7-8 minutes before they even connect me to a representative). When you eventually get in touch with them, they will try and get you off the chat as soon as possible. One reason for this is that due to the huge volume of clients, reps are required to close a chat as quickly as possible. I am sure that you will agree this doesn’t really qualify as “attentive support”. This brings me to my last point.
Does the hosting provider go above and beyond to help you?
Most hosts will not. If you happen to have a question about anything other than the strictly hosting-related issue, they will simply tell you that is not their job. However, you can always understand from your initial sales chat if the reps are more attentive. Talk to them before you purchase, ask them various questions and see how they treat you. See if they are willing to do more for you than simply answer questions or give you the hosting service.
I think you get my point: rather than considering the technical aspect, think about what is going to make it easy for you to setup and run a reliable website, and more importantly, provide an outstanding product to your customers. I urge you to do your homework, however, make sure you are basing your decisions on what is really important and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by irrelevant details. See my list of Top Hosting Providers to find the host most suitable for you!