As a freelancer or small business, your website is probably a huge part of your business. Before you work on designing it, or writing the copy for it, you need to choose where you’re going to host it. Choosing a web hosting company is a big decision. It’s hard to tell them apart as they all make similar claims. And there’s really no way to prove any of their claims are true without doing your homework.
Making the wrong decision for your web hosting company can cause you no end of frustration. To avoid that as much as possible, use this list of five things to research before choosing a company. Though they are numbered, they aren’t in any particular order.
1. Price and what’s included
Pricing is probably the first thing many freelancers or small businesses need to know. But keep in mind that price is just one of the many reasons to choose a web host. The cheapest hosting probably can’t deliver on many services to any degree of satisfaction. Still, the costs for decent hosting range from a reasonably low $3.99 per month to over a hundred per month. As you can guess, there’s a huge difference in the services you receive in that range.
2. Customer reviews / Reputation
Perform a Google search for each hosting company, or look them up in Facebook, Twitter or forums. You can always find someone talking about their hosting company. Thanks to social media it’s impossible to hide how a company treats its customers.
Use your head though, and don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Try to consider the balance of what you find reported about a company. If you visit three different sources and 90% of them complain about the company, then it’s a good deduction they may not be so good. If you notice though, that it seems to be just a few people with an axe to grind, then maybe they aren’t so bad. So take what you find with a grain of salt and look for information from sources you trust too.
3. Customer/Technical Support
Whatever your skill level, a company’s customer support should be one of your primary concerns. If your site is down, for whatever reason, can you call for help and talk to a genuine, live human on the phone? Can they find out why it happened and how to fix it, or at least tell you what to do? How about their billing practices? Are their policies clearly defined, and do they put the customer first or the bottom line?
4. Control Panel / User Interface
Whatever host you pick, you’ll need to access your account through their website or software. So find out if the web host provides cPanel or Plesk. These are fairly standard web programs that let you make modifications and updates to your account. They make working with your domain and hosting easier, require no programming knowledge and can be used for simple management by even the faint of the technology heart. If you’re not in a position to hire help to manage your website, then cPanel and Plesk are your friend.
5. Plan for the future
Think about your site’s future. If your site grows (ultimately leading to a lot of traffic on your side) can your provider’s servers handle the expansion? Do they have seamless upgrades in your hosting package (from shared to dedicated for instance) or will migrating your site me a nightmare? Ask about what procedures they have in place for upgrading (or downgrading) their hosting packages. Will they do it for you? How much would they charge to do it?
And those are my top five things to consider when choosing a web hosting company. There are other things too, that we’ll cover in future posts, but without researching the above first, the others won’t really matter. Do you have a different list you’d suggest?