Having a bad web host can be almost as bad as not having a host at all. The last thing you want to experience is massive down time, a customer service department that won’t return your e-mails or answer your phone calls, or lack of features that can make your site stand out from the crowd.
Fortunately, there are some elements that good web hosts share and there is a way to weed out those hosts who will provide the service at the level you need.
Uptime is how long a server’s systems are running. The best web hosting companies offer an uptime guarantee of around 99.9%, because they plan to keep your site online 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Why is this important? In today’s economy, business is global. If you look at your site visitor statistics, you’ll likely find that you get visitors from all over the world. A web browser in Asia is going to visit your site while you are sleeping. If your site goes down every day at four a.m., then you may miss out on this new customer base. Even a 99% uptime guarantee means that your site is potentially down 1% of the time. This can mean a loss of 3.65 days every year.
- Check the hosting company’s website to see if there is an estimate of uptime. You want 99% or more.
- Ask if there is a guarantee if the site is down more than a few minutes. Some web hosting companies will offer a partial refund on hosting fees if the site is down for an extended period. While a dollar or two might seem paltry, a company that offers this refund is more likely to work hard to keep your site up and running, so they do not have to pay out those fees to their customers.
- Inquire about the company’s backup plan in case of a power outage or if the server you are on crashes.
Jerry’s note: In fact 100% uptime is now possible with cloud technology – updates on WP Engine server uptime.
Web Hosting Features
What comes with your hosting package? Does it meet the needs of your company? What about as your website grows and you add new features? Look at everything from how easy it is to install popular items like WordPress to how website traffic is tracked. Some of the basics you might want to compare include:
- Does the host support video and audio streaming?
- Is the control panel easy to navigate and understand?
- Can you work with an SQL database easily? Are there wizards available, such as MyPHP?
- Is Fantastico installed? Which platforms are available with Fantastico?
- Can you easily backup your site, set up new e-mails, and check your files from the control panel?
- Will you have shell access?
Customer service is a tricky thing to gauge.
Most web hosting companies will respond to inquiries about new packages. On the surface, the customer service department can seem friendly and easy to deal with, but what happens after you sign up for a web hosting package with the company? If your site does go down, you want the assurance of knowing the customer service department will respond quickly and solve any issues you might have.
Here are some tips for making sure the customer service is stellar.
- Are there multiple ways to contact the company? Look for a company that offers a 1-800 number that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You should also be able to file a tech support ticket via e-mail, a support control panel or even via a live chat.
- Ask what their average response time is for troubleshooting problems.
- Contact other clients and ask them if they are happy with the company’s customer support.
- Visit any online forums you can access through the hosting company’s website. Often, customers will lodge complaints on the discussion boards about issues like customer service or response times.
There are times when a site crashes. Perhaps a hacker got into your WordPress blog and replaced your index.php file, or your entire database crashed. If your web host backs up on a daily basis, they should be able to roll your site back a few days and regain what you’ve lost. Here are some things to look for:
- Daily backups of your entire website (including databases)
- Ability to create your own backups through the control panel
- Capability to go in and replace current website with one of the company’s backups, so you don’t have to wait for customer service to get your site back up and running.
Reviews from Others
Reading through reviews from others can offer insight into whether a web host fulfills their claims. Jerry Low’s web hosting review is a good place to start. The hosts are graded and then a more in-depth review of each host is provided. If you’re seeking excellence in a specific area, you might want to try WHSR’s “Editor’s Top 5 Picks” to find out who stacks up the best in a specific category. Some web hosting companies belong to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Simply input the company’s name and you can discover if they are a member and if any complaints have been filed and/or resolved. Knowing what the complaints were can also help you decide if it is an issue you can live with or something to be avoided.
Before making a final decision, type the hosting company’s name into Google and add the word “complaints” after the name. If there are severe issues, a list of posts will pull up within the first few pages of results. You can then read these complaints to see if they are current and if the issues have been resolved.
If All Else Fails…
There are times when all your research fails and you still wind up with a web host that has glitches and bugs and drives you crazy. Most large web hosting companies have multiple servers and you may get placed on one that has issues. When this happens, contact the web hosting company and put in a request to be placed on a different server within their system to see if it will resolve some of the issues you are having. If you still experience downtime or other problems, there are plenty of other hosting companies to choose from. While moving to a new web host isn’t a day at a theme park, it can save hours of aggravation in the long run if you are swapping a difficult host for an excellent one.