What to Look For in a Web Hosting Provider

What do you look for in a web hosting provider? I asked this question some years back of a member of a web hosting forum who asked for assistance from other members for their recommendations. He had narrowed his list down to two web hosting providers over a couple months span of time. Then he eliminated them because their customer service department had not responded quickly enough to his request for information.

So, here is what was important to him. See if this parallels your criteria/requirements.

·         Connection speed

·         Competitive pricing

·         Competent and reliable technical support

·         Pays for what he uses and not for what he doesn’t use

·         Doesn’t want his websites affected by other websites on the same shared hosting

·         Honest/ethical business practices

What was NOT important to him were ….

·         Testimonials on their website

·         “Unlimited” advertising on their website when there really was a limit.

My take

I suspect that pricing gets an awful lot of prospects in the door, but great customer support keeps them there.  Prospects normally allot limited time and resources to research a prospective host and those hosts all put their best foot forward to sell you (or oversell you). Once you’re there and experience issues, how those issues are resolved weighs heavily on whether you stay with that host.

I would disagree that testimonials carry no weight for prospects. If ABC Company hosts with DEF Company on your short list, and ABC Company is globally recognized, wouldn’t that sway your research? 

Recognize advertising for what it is. Hosts have a very small window to attract your attention. I’d encourage you to pick up your phone, talk to 2 or 3 hosts and explain your requirements. You’d be surprised how many hosts will customize solutions for you.

Of course, the type of service you’re shopping for makes a huge difference

cPanel Shared Hosting Plans

Many shared web hosting providers allow add-on domains. With cPanel, this means multiple domains are allowed on one account. While this seems like a good deal, it plays right into a hacker’s dream scenario. Infections on one site can be spread to every other site on the account. If you think it’s tough cleaning up a hacked site, try cleaning up 5, 10 or 20 sites on one account. It’ll turn your hair gray overnight.

Hopefully, you won’t be one the clients of a web design/web hosting provider who has your site on an add-on domain, and then want to migrate elsewhere. The provider is not going to give you the cPanel username and password to his account, and some are reluctant to help since they feel no further allegiance to you anyway. I ran into this once with a prospect who wanted to host with us, but his current provider gave him the run-a-round for over two months.

Virtual Private Server Plans with cPanel

In stark contrast to shared hosting plans, a VPS with cPanel separates domains and sites from each other, so there is an increased level of security against malware and want-to-be hackers. Here’s the thing though, the servers for shared hosting plans are managed by the provider, but that’s not always true with VPS servers. You’re typically given the option to purchase managed or unmanaged plans. If you’re not server management literate, then I’d highly recommend procuring a managed service or hiring a third-party vendor to manage that server for you.

Managed VPS services are going to cost a bit more but will give you some peace-of-mind as issues will arise (Murphy’s Law). Not all VPS web hosting providers offer the same level of support, so it’s always best to ask questions BEFORE you purchase their plans. I’d also recommend querying members of web hosting forums to get their input of prospective providers. Trust me, they can be brutal in their assessments for providers that habitually drop the ball.

Read reviews with a grain of salt

If you search for online reviews of prospective web hosting providers, be aware that many reviews are generated nefariously by affiliate marketers. Look for current trends as a provider that had an excellent rating ten years ago could be downright awful today. That typically occurs when companies are bought out and the focus changes from customer support to increasing profits.

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