1. Size matters
- It's important to host with a large, solid company that has a good
reputation, site backups, responsive Help people, and server technicians
working 24/7. Don't be tempted to host with a "reseller". This is usually
a smaller company, often consisting of one individual or a very small
staff, which has leased a big block of server space that it carves up
and resells to website owners. If anything goes wrong, you can't contact
the actual server owners, but are at the mercy of the reseller. He might
be available -- but he may be on vacation, or may even abruptly close
up shop and disappear. Even less reliable are companies that own and
manage their own servers, but are understaffed or undereducated; such
hosts typically experience lots of downtime.
-While even major hosts can be hacked and experience some downtime,
this should be an extremely rare occurrence. Most sites with reliable
hosts should be available upwards of 99% of the time, and there should
be virtually no missing e-mail.
-The host's site should include a perfectly-functioning "control panel"
and online Help documentation. This allows you, or your designer, to
efficiently perform routine tasks such as assigning new mail accounts,
making new virtual domains, etc. With some hosts even such minor issues
require the involvement of the support staff, which makes every procedure
agonizingly slow and awkward.
4. Feature packages
- While some hosts offer a choice of server (Unix or Windows), others
specialize in a single platform. Check with your designer to determine
if any of the code in your site is dependant on a particular type of
5. Toys -
Some hosts offer a dizzying array of plug-ins and options that can be
added to your site -- at a price. But before allowing these goodies
to affect your decision to purchase, carefully consider whether they'll
be useful to you. Not every site needs a blog, shopping cart, message
6. Cost -
Bearing in mind the preceding points, it's obvious that scrimping on
hosting costs can be an example of being penny-wise but pound-foolish.
You've invested time and money in building a site; make sure it's available
to your target audience by choosing a host that is reliable and accountable.
Now that you know
what to look for, how do you determine whether a specific host meets
all your requirements? There's no foolproof answer. Certainly company
size and the length of time they've been in business provide some indication.
On the other hand, rock-bottom prices should make you suspicious. As
with other services, the best method of choosing may be to ask for recommendations
from colleagues. If they do recommend their hosts, use a few of the
free tools I've listed below to examine their sites with objective feedback
on server performance issues. In any case, it's best not to tie yourself
to a long-term hosting package until you're certain you're satisfied.
When first signing up with a new host, take the minimal plan available
and then monitor carefully. If worse comes to worst, switch to a new