You might not know this, but there are plenty of things to consider when hosting your website. I suspect that most people consider price as the primary factor, and although it is certainly a consideration, here are some important factors to bare in mind:
If you are a UK based company as we are, then it makes little sense ordering a hosting package from the USA. If the checkout page asks for dollars and not pounds you are probably in the wrong place. It used to be the case that the reason people hosted locally was to serve web pages to the site’s target audience quicker, loading a website hosted in Australia for example would take a fraction of a second longer than loading the same site located just a few hundreds miles away. As internet and hosting speeds have increased, this is less of a problem than it use to be, but it is still valid and speeds also affect seo ranking. The real problems come into play when you consider your support needs. Your site might be the victim of a hacker attack, and when you phone your friendly web host you find out that although it is the middle of the day for you, their offices closed several hours ago. Any emails you send them will be picked up the following day and in the meantime your site is getting filled spam. Then of course, people do things differently in different countries and their are laws and tax implications. I would suggest that the USA has generally a better record for customer services than the UK but calls to support staff are very expensive, especially if you have to wait for any length of time for your call to be answered. Also, everyone knows it can be infuriating when you get through to someone based in some foreign country that cannot understand you. Picking a company based in your country just makes more sense.
Don’t be fooled by uptime guarantees
One of the biggest cons in the hosting industry is to guarantee you an excellent server uptime, normally 100%. Well, it turns out that 100% is an unachievable ideal – every server is prone to the countless technical and power problems that affect electrical devices. Sure, there are backup procedures and redundancy systems used by most good hosting companies, we use them ourselves, however they cannot guarantee anything. HOWEVER…their guarantee is technically valid – what this means is they will pay you back for your outage time. This is the guarantee that they offer you. Your server downtime is normally no more than a couple of hours and if you are lucky you will receive a credit note on your account of a few pennies. Don’t be suckered in by this tactic, a reasonable uptime is around 99%.
Avoid the Big Boys
We only started hosting our client’s websites because it was clear that the big names in hosting were not up to scratch. It is my personal opinion that you are better off going with a small to medium sized hosting company as they will offer you better support and a more personal customer experience. We were fed up with generic automatic emails from our previous hosts simply telling us to follow the FAQs, and when you got though to someone on the phone they were reading a script in an unintelligible accent. To the big names, you, and us are just another number, another invoice payer. In contrast, a small hosting company will treasure your business and look after you. Their rates might not be $1.99 per year, but you will probably be better looked after and the server your website is on is less likely to be over-saturated with thousands and thousands of other sites. A good analogy is eating at your favourite local restaurant or pub, or going to the McDonald’s drive through in a city you are visiting, essentially you get what you pay for.
Listen to Word of Mouth
If you know someone who recommends a good web host, listen to them. The best way to find out if a host is any good is to use them. Sometimes they even offer a free or discount trial, however be wary of these…
Be Wary of trials and discounts
We like many decent companies actually offer genuine discounts now and then, right now for example we are giving hosting away for free to registered charities. However I cannot stress how important it is to be careful when considering a discount or trial. There is one large company I know of that gives away free hosting for a trial period and then charges through the roof for hosting. Be careful and read the terms and conditions.
Shop around for Domain Names
Don’t be tempted to take one of those “free hosting without your domain name” or vice-verse – the simple fact is however they word it you are paying for both services. It is much more sensible to source your domain name from a dedicated reseller and your hosting somewhere else if you don’t know the company personally. Often companies charge extortionate amounts but carefully hide this expense in the domain name renewal prices for example.
Make sure you get email included
One of the oldest tricks in the book is to sell what seems to be very affordable hosting, only for the customer to find out that they have to pay a yearly fee for email. Most good hosts provide ancillary services such as email, webstats etc., as standard.
Ok, that’s all for now. I hope you find this information useful and would love to hear your own thoughts and choosing the right web host.