It doesn’t matter whether you are building your first website or you are a seasoned website designer looking at hosting options for a new project, choosing the right provider is very important. Even more so because when you take a quick look online you will find thousands upon thousands of hosting companies and invariably they are all offering similar deals and all proportion to be the fastest, the best, guaranteeing uptime and basically saying anything to try and get you to sign up.
This can be daunting if it’s your first time looking for a website host and even as someone who has built and hosted many websites you can still occasionally find yourself with a website stuck on an unreliable host that promised the world when you signed up for a 12-month hosting plan only to under deliver once they took your money.
This article contains 5 actionable tips and guidelines that will help you to pick a reliable host that will give you peace of mind along with a stable and well-performing website.
Tip #1 – Price
Let’s be totally honest, price is always going to be important and whilst there are other more important factors such as performance and reliability everything still hinges on the pricing. First of all pricing is a great metric for comparing hosting providers and when coupled with the list of features you can really see how one host compares to another.
What price point should you be looking at?
There is a big range of difference in pricing between hosting providers and I would always be suggesting looking at the mid-range bracket. You will find some providers who charge far less than any of their competitors and whilst these hosting offers may be very tempting the low-price point normally means that they cannot afford to properly support their hosting platform and ultimately this means that your website ends up being down every other day and when it is, your tickets sit in the queue waiting for a handful of support agents to fit in the time to put your website back online.
There are also some providers that charge far more than anyone else and conversely you might think the higher price point means they provide a superior level of support and performance but sadly this is not always the case. Some of the larger hosting providers have spent lots of time and money developing not only a reliable hosting platform but also an impressive brand and that is exactly what you end up paying for – a brand rather than features, reliability and support.
Tip #2 – Features
Features are also a very important factor to consider and this complements pricing perfectly. With features and price point you can really begin to get a picture of how one host compares to another.
What features should I be looking for?
Don’t worry too much about whether a host is “optimized for WordPress” but look instead for specific and tangible features, for example:
- The number of domains that you can host on your account
- The number of databases you can set up
- Available storage space
- Available system memory (RAM)
- Automated backups
- Softaculous (Automatic website software installation)
There are many other features offered by the various hosting providers out there but you should be looking for features that specifically compliment your requirements. For example, don’t be swayed by the offer of unlimited storage space if you are only planning to run a static HTML website – your site may be small but stability may be very important to you, in which case you would want to look for uptime guarantees and daily off site backups.
Tip #3 – Support
Once you have compared the price and features of your potential hosting providers you should have a shortlist of potential candidates for hosting your website. Your remaining list of hosting providers will undoubtedly look similar on the surface and so you need a way of witling out the weaker candidates and finding the best provider to go with.
The level of support offered is a key factor that you need to consider, and test, before going ahead and it is one that you may not be able to assess without a little more investigation.
Of course, you can read up on the provider’s website to see what sort of support they offer – do they offer 24/7 support, do they have any statistics concerning response and resolution times, do they publish an uptime percentage for their servers? Do they offer live chat?
If you think outside of the box though, you can gain some more insight into the level of support they you are likely to receive after signing up. A good way to gain this additional insight is simply top open a line of communication with the provider – speak to them on live chat if its available, send them an email or even give them a call. Speak to them about your project, your website and your requirements and see how helpful they are. From the response, you can gauge how friendly, efficient and responsive they are likely to be once they are supporting your website.
If it takes you several days to get a reply then they are probably not the best host to go with but if they answer your questions in a friendly and knowledge manner then this is a great indicator that their post-sale customer support will be the same.
Tip #4 – Reviews
Up until now you have been doing your own investigations and you are only getting one side of the story – you are only seeing the hosting company from the outside, and they are responding to you as a potential customer so of course everything is going to seem fantastic – because they want your business.
You really cannot get the full measure of a hosting company (or any other company for that matter) without seeing how they respond to customers after the signup process. Some providers will put every effort into getting you to sign up and then once you become a customer you become just another number to them and the level of support drops. This is particularly true in the world of hosting because once you sign up to a hosting company it is often very difficult to move away – mainly because transferring a website (And avoiding downtime) is a complicated process.
Customer reviews are without a doubt the best way to determine how efficient a hosting company is from the point of view of existing customers. Think of this tip like stepping into the future and asking yourself, after you have signed up, what you think of the hosting provider. It’s an invaluable way of really measuring the performance, support and reliability of the host before invest time and money in moving your website over to them.
When looking at customer reviews you should also look for several independent sources – don’t just rely on the testimonials published by the provider themselves, look at several different review sites – for example look at Google reviews, Trust Pilot and other review services.
Top #5 – Company
The last step before signing up is to look at the company themselves – read the about us page of course but also do a little of your own research, search for the company on Google, see when they were incorporated, where they are based and just try to get a feel for the type of company that you are signing up with.
The general rule that I use is to avoid the smallest companies – if the hosting provider were only incorporated in the past 12 months then there simply won’t be enough information to gauge how reliable they are, or how much infrastructure they have.
Equally its best to avoid the larger hosting providers with millions of customers. For example, Bluehost (https://webhostinggeeks.com/providers/bluehost) look pretty good on the surface but being such a large company there is a risk that you will not get the same level of personal support that you would from a smaller provider.