Choosing a website host which is right for you can be a tricky task. Plus everyone’s expectations and requirements are different. This article will look at some of the factors you may wish to consider. A good place to go to look for hosts is (the fully independent) WebHostingTalk.com . Their Shared Hosting Offers board lists various hosts and their offers.
It is important to realise that whilst some hosts seem to have amazing offers, it’s very rare (if not impossible) for a host to offer high quality service and lots of disk-space and bandwidth, all at a low price. Whilst there is a lot of choice out there for consumers, try and remember that there is a trade-off when looking for a host.
An old hosting saying – which I quite like – goes like this:
When looking for a host, you have a choice:
High Quality Service
Lots of Disk-Space and Bandwidth
You can only choose two.
Whilst some hosts may probably say that they offer all these three, it is very rare (and, in my opinion, impossible) for a host to be able to offer all.
This is because a high quality service (involving good servers and good support staff) costs the host money (in the form of server expenses and staff wages).
Also, disk-space and bandwidth cost money; hence offering a lot of space and bandwidth will also be costly for the host (unless they oversell in a controlled manner, as discussed in the previous chapter)
Hence if you can get a high quality service and lots of disk-space and bandwidth, it’d be impossible for the host to then charge a low price for these services.
Just as if you wanted to pay a low price for your hosting (remembering that disk-space and bandwidth costs money, and a typical support staff worker may earn $25 or more per hour), you will not be able to get both high quality service and lots of disk-space and bandwidth.
This is just like any other industry. Take the car industry: there will be some high quality cars which can go fast and are very desirable (for example a Ferrari), and such a car certainly wouldn’t be cheap! Then at the other end of the market you can get some lower quality cars which are less desirable, and these are relatively cheap.
So there will always have to be a choice. Hence no matter what a host advertises, you wouldn’t be able to get all three of the factors (high quality service, lots of disk-space and bandwidth, low price).
This is the first point to remember – if you get a host ‘offering the World’ (i.e. all three of the factors mentioned earlier), chances are they aren’t being entirely honest.
We’d all like a Ferrari for a few thousand dollars, but unfortunately you can’t get quality for a relatively low price. And the same is true for hosting.
A host’s uptime is important to consider. A generally recommended rule is to try and find a host who has at least 99.5% uptime. This amounts to around 220 minutes downtime per month, or 7.3 minutes per day.
This is acceptable for most people, however some people (especially those using their websites for business purposes) may want higher uptime.
If you want to find out a host’s average uptime, you can try asking them via their support system (ask their Sales department). Any good host will have these statistics to hand and will happily provide them to you. You may want to be a bit suspicious of a host if they decline to provide you with these statistics (without a good reason).
The next factor to consider is whether your potential host is overselling or not. This topic has been discussed quite a bit online (and in other articles I have written), so by now I will assume that you are able to spot whether a host is overselling (or extremely overselling), and decide for yourself whether this is something you are happy with.
Something else to consider is that in the future, your websites might grow in popularity. It may therefore be useful if your host offers the ability to upgrade to a larger plan (offering more disk-space and bandwidth), or possibly a VPS or dedicated server. If in doubt, try contacting a host’s sales department and see if they offer a range of hosting solutions to meet your potential future needs.
Also be sure to read a potential host’s Terms Of Service and (if they have one) Acceptable Use Policy. This is because the TOS (and AUP) form an agreement between you and your host. Hence be sure to read these documents, to ensure that you are fully aware of your rights and expectations as a client of a host.
Quite a few hosts offer a Money Back Guarantee, usually saying that within 30 days you can get a full refund on your hosting costs (but not on non-refundable things like domain name registrations). If you are unsure of whether a potential host is right for you, you could try a host out (who has such a guarantee) and get a refund if you aren’t happy with the service, or simply if it isn’t right for you.
At the start of this chapter I suggested that you visit WebHostingTalk.com for researching potential hosts. This is the best (completely impartial) resource I’ve found for finding a new host.
There are other sites who can help you choose, however be aware that a number of “review” sites (and “top host” lists) are frequently websites which offer paid advertising to hosts – meaning that sometimes the “recommended” hosts are ones who have paid to get the advertising and exposure.
This is why I recommend checking in independent forums (or simply asking your friends and family who have websites) for finding a host that is right for you.
Hopefully this chapter will have helped you to think about some of the more important factors you should consider when choosing a new host. Don’t be afraid to ask friends/families with websites, or on message boards, for recommendations on who other people host their websites with.