So, you’ve got your new website all beautifully designed, coded up and ready to be unleashed on the waiting world. There is, however, one final hurdle to be overcome and it’s that perennial question, ‘with so many different web hosting companies to choose from how do you ever decide which one to trust with your precious content?’
Everyone has different needs and criteria for the actual design and layout of their site but the hosting options often come a poor second (or worse) and we thought it would be helpful to offer ten suggested questions you could ask any potential web hosting company before you sign on the dotted line for their services.
1. Support – gone are the days when having a website for your business was optional. In fact, most businesses these days can't afford even a few minutes of downtime. It doesn’t matter how much programming you know, or how many web sites you’ve set up in the past – you will need to call support for an immediate resolution. That means being clear from the outset about what type of support your web host provides. Will it be by email only during the hours of 8:00 am to 5:00 pm or via the phone 24x7, or do you need to pay extra for support?
2. Multiple domain-name ‘parking’ - if your company has it’s wits about it then you’ll have several domain names and extensions of your company/brand name. Does your host offer the convenience of enabling you to host them all under one manageable umbrella?
3. Back-up – should the worst ever happen, how prepared is your hosting company and how much of your data do they backup and store? A good hosting company will have everything covered to get you back up and running should you suffer any data loss at your end. Find out what your host's disaster recovery plan is, as well, to ensure that they are backing up their backups.
4. Uptime guarantee – the last thing you want your customers to experience is a blank screen when they type in your URL, or for your email service to be down, so look for a hosting partner with a strong reputation for uptime and redundancy. Look for an uptime guarantee of 99.995% or more, which means that your website and all hosted services like email, FTP, etc will be guaranteed 99.995% operational time during a calendar month. Also make sure the server has multiple backup locations (mirrored servers) so that if one goes down, they have another already online and ready to go.
5. Is everything included? – one common mistake people make is to sign on the dotted line only to find themselves paying additional charges for things like email accounts or blog space. Make sure ahead of committing that the price you’re quoted is the total price you’ll be paying for everything you need.
6. Small-print and get-out clauses – in an ideal world your new web hosting service should be as easy to leave as it is to sign up to. Can you trust a company that makes it a herculean task to move on to a different company if you’re not happy with the service?
7. Who do they host? – find out some other sites that your potential company hosts and do some research on their accessibility. You can easily check the load times of their pages by using a tool like Alertra (www.alertra.com). If you can’t quickly access their existing clients what makes you think your site would fare any better?
8. Scalability – hopefully, your website and your company will flourish and it’s worth checking that any potential hosts have the infrastructure to allow your site to grow as much as it needs to on its systems. Evaluate providers based on how they would deal with unexpected "spikes" in website traffic, and check that these spikes won't cost you additional money, as some providers charge extra for additional bandwidth.
9. Software/hardware – many hosts run their own bespoke hardware and software systems but it’s good to know in advance whether the technology underpinning everything is fit for purpose. Any self-respecting hosting provider should only use top quality server hardware (including servers, switches and routers), bringing the uptime guarantee to maximum possible levels.
10. Security – again, so obviously it’s sometimes just taken as a given but there’s certainly no harm in asking the companies you’re considering using how secure their servers are. A little research goes a long way.