What to Look for When Searching for a Web Host

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of online web hosting businesses seeking your business. Since so many exist, it is important to gain a good understanding of the features you should look for when choosing a web host. Here are the areas to consider.

Any provider you choose for your website should be reliable and fast. This web host should also guarantee you’re uptime, the amount of time that your website will remain alive, and they should be at least a minimum of 99 percent. In fact, the best web hosts actually guarantee a higher rate usually 99.9 percent. There should be some posted or contractual feature providing some sort of refund, whether it is a prorated refund or discount toward your next bill. They should be guaranteed if your uptime falls below that posted number.

There is no such thing as unlimited bandwidth. Many busy websites have learned this the hard way after being billed for exceeding “unlimited” bandwidth. The traffic to your site is what is measured in bandwidth and busy sites, well-marketed sites, can use quite a bit. This is similar to using minutes on your cell phone. When shopping for a hosting plan, make sure any reference to bandwidth is carefully spelled out and understood. Then we can also be compared to electrical use. You may be renting space where your landlord pays the electric bill, but will generally get in touch with you if the power bill for that space you rent goes over the monthly average. Be wary of any hosting plan that offers unlimited data transfer.

To give you a good idea of what traffic requirements for a new website might be consider using less than 3 GB of bandwidth per month unless your site is a well visited and well-used e-commerce destination. Consider that if you are marketing an e-commerce site your obvious goal is to produce greater traffic. This greater traffic will hopefully turn into buying customers which, in turn, will increase your monthly bandwidth usage. Make sure there is a published charge for exceeding your stated bandwidth. It is also a good idea to find a web host who allows upgrades in the middle of the billing period if you start to experience increased usage. Get away from a host that requires you do pre-pay bandwidth usage based on either last month’s usage or any method toward predicting what this might be.

The same consideration taken when examining bandwidth should also be applied when a host offers unlimited disk space. Most sites will never need more than 50MB-100MB for space requirements without email accounts. Every email account you create on the server may need 25MB-50MB of space for the inbox. So, if you are planning to have 5 email accounts, you may need to buy 350MB (100MB Website Files + 250MB Email Accounts) web hosting space. Again, consider using a web host that allows you to upgrade during any billing. If the need arises. If your website starts to accumulate an archive of files for whatever purpose, you may need to consider upgrading your disk space since you are using your web hosting plan for storage purposes also.

The standard in the industry is to make available now a technical support function that operates 24 hours a day, seven days per week. And, it should be available year-round – even on weekends and holidays. Support should be universally available because bad things always happen at inconvenient times. Also, do not take a published statement that a host offers 24/7 support without first testing them. Try sending an e-mail late at night or on the weekend. Determine how long it takes the company to respond. Also, examine how if the response is accurate and competent. Many are hosts have autoresponders set up to answer your e-mail request with the statement that it has been forwarded to the appropriate party who will get back to you as soon as possible. This may just be a clever way to convince you that they are on top of helping you immediately. If your host does not offer competent and reliable support, as well as email ticketing system support, it is time to bail and find one that does. Many hostings are just asking you to call them on international numbers that end up in 15-30 minutes long distance conversation and hold time. Avoid signing up for them. Try to find local web hostings which can give you local support as well as proper technical contact person or account manager. These might be expensive but worth paying for peace of mind.

Paying for hosting a site should provide you with a number of server-side features including FTP, PHP, Perl, SSL, SSH, MySQL, .htaccess and crontabs. Many hosts prohibit you from installing your own PHP or Perl scripts. This is not good because it means you have to wait for the host to implement the features that you want on your site. Features like the use of .htsccess are important if you plan on customizing areas like error pages or you want to relegate access to certain areas using password protection. The need to maintain databases, providing interactive features as well as audio and video should all be included in your hosting program without having to pay for these items a la carte. Also, select a host that provides e-mail options – with all its own bells and whistles – so you have an address @yourdomain.whatever.

When planning to conduct business on your website, it is important to make sure that your host offers SSL (a secured server) for the inclusion of a customer shopping cart. Although these features may produce a higher priced hosting plan, when conducting business online is an important feature to make sure is in place before you purchase any contract. You can buy cheap SSL certificates with very compatible rates here.