How to Choose the Best Web Host

There are a lot of web hosting providers out there. If you are starting a first website or simply haven’t faced this decision before, it’s likely that one host is going to seem very much like another. And in many ways they are. Web hosts of all kinds are more more powerful and reliable than they were even five years ago. But that doesn’t mean that some don’t have an advantage over the competition. We’re not to recommend any specific host, but we’ll give you some important factors to consider when evaluating different potential hosts for your new website.

1) Performance. You want a host that works. The less you think about your host during the life of your website, the better. This leaves you time to run your business, create content, and make sure that your site is doing what it needs to do in the real world. Any time spent worrying about hosting is time taken away from the work you want to be doing. To keep that time somewhere near zero, you’ll want to consider the following before signing up with a particular host:

  • What does your website need? How much traffic will it be getting? How fast will it grow? Will it need special apps and software? Do you need a host with strong eCommerce features? Will all of these anticipated needs be provided by the host you are considering?
  • What is a host’s Uptime Record? You’ll definitely want to use a host with an uptime record approaching 100%. No one has perfect uptime, but something well above 99.0% is what you’ll want. The best hosts have long stretches of 100% uptime, with isolated incidents that will bring their year totals to something like 99.95%.
  • Does your host backup your site automatically? If your site should crash for any reason, you want to make sure a recent backup is available fast in order to get your site back online. Make sure that access to a backup version of your site is available to you, not just to your host.
  • Is there a user-accessible control panel? Trust me, you don’t want to need to call support to change, update, and generally control your site. Good hosts put a lot of control in the hands of the user, so review controls available to you before you sign up.

2)  Features. In addition to general performance standards, you want a host equipped with enough general features to keep you happy now, and a year or two in the future. Here are some that may slip your mind.

  • Can You Add Domains? I own more than a dozen domain names myself. And while most hosts allow 20 or more add-ons for free, you can’t take it for granted. Don’t get stuck with a host who only allows 1 or 5 if you are going to buy 17.
  • Are All Basic Hosting Features Covered? These include, but are not limited to: Cron Jobs, Server Sides, .htaccess, Auto Script Installer, and the like. If you don’t know what those are, you might want to do a little research before signing up with a web host. That’s a better option that signing up for one and finding out 6 months down the line that you need these, only to realize your host doesn’t provide them.
  • Does Your Host Offer Email With Your Domain Name? Most hosts do, but if it’s important to you for your domain name to follow the @ in your email address, make sure this feature is standard before you sign up.
  • Does Your Host Have 24/7 Support? Things can go wrong at any hour, day or night. If your site is down, or you have some other hosting catastrophe, you want to make sure you can have customer support available by phone or chat at any time.

3) Money. How much does this all cost you? You may find yourself adding on features and looking for upgrades in the future. So make sure you are anticipating not just what you’ll pay now, but what you could pay a year from now. Here are some other considerations.

  • How Much Does it Cost to Renew? A lot of hosts have great introductory rates, but then they cost an arm and a leg when it comes time to renew. Unless you’re willing to change hosts every couple of years to always be paying introductory rates, you should pick a host that is reasonably priced no matter how long you stay with them.
  • Seek Out a Good Refund Policy. Some hosts won’t let you out of a new contract without charging you a big cancellation fee. Don’t sign up with someone like that. Instead, choose a host that either allows you a full refund if you cancel during the introductory period. At the very least, accept no less than an offer of a pro-rated refund, so that you’ll only end up paying for the service you actually used.
  • Will Your Account Get Suspended if You Use too Much CPU? This is an issue with some hosts. Many hosts won’t have very transparent wording about this policy. You definitely want to go with a host that isn’t going to pull the plug on you if you pull too much CPU or commit some other drain on resources.
  • How Long is Your Contract? Some web hosts force their clients to sign up with very lengthy contracts. I’ve seen some as long as 5 years! Don’t sign up for a contract that is longer than a year or two, unless you can get out without paying tons of money in fees.

So there you go. There are dozens of hosts out there with similar claims to being the best. In reality, there is no “best” host for every website. Different hosts will offer different benefit to different customers. So shop around and take the time to get the best host for your individual needs. As always, we’re interested to hear about your experiences here, and happy to review any companies you may be interested in.

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