Hosting Providers: What To Look For, What To Avoid

Published August 14th, 2012 in Articles

So many hosting providers advertise on tv, radio, the internet, etc. but which ones actually have a good reputation and can provide you with quality hosting? Although this article is based on experience, the information provided here is not meant to be the final word on hosting providers. The first rule of thumb is to always check with your website designer first, as they usually have a good idea based on experience, so trust them first, before you put your trust in advertisements or your neighbor’s Aunt Millie.

The Importance of Choosing a Great Hosting Provider

Your website deserves to be up at least 99% of the time, and without incident. There are several factors to consider when researching a hosting provider, such as:

1. Does your hosting provider have 24/7 Technical Support available, or do they only have set hours on weekdays? (What happens if your site goes down after hours?)

2. Is there a visible Support phone number accessible on their website, without having to dig deep to find it?

3. Is there a detailed description of the hosting packages available on their website, including technical details?

4. Is there a Knowledge Base available, or at least a FAQ section you can refer to for basic information?

5. Does your hosting provider actually have their servers onsite, or are they Resellers (where the servers are offsite, handled by another company?)

6. Do you have access to your Hosting Control Panel? (For a comparison of hosting control panels, see wikipedia.)

7. If you are on a shared server (most common) does your hosting provider boast “Unlimited Bandwidth” and “Unlimited Space”? If so, then this is one provider you’ll probably want to avoid. There is no such thing as Unlimited… This only means that they are not limiting the amount of space and bandwidth to each website on the server, which means any website can overload the server and take down every site on that server (until the hosting provider catches it and takes it down.) That puts your website at risk of being down (inaccessible) for who knows how long. What you want to look for is a reasonable amount of space and bandwidth, based on how large your website is, and how much traffic you expect.

8. Does your hosting provider allow you to control your website files, email, create databases, etc. or do they only allow you to create websites using their provided templates? If you are limited to using their templates and software (i.e.: a shopping cart or a blog) that means you will not be able to move your site to a new hosting provider later.

9. Are you being overcharged? Although that is a sensitive subject, my opinion is that a reasonable cost for web hosting on a shared server should be in the $8 to $12 range per month. Unless you are paying for additional, or special services offered by your hosting company, I see no reason why you should be charged any more than that.

10. Does your hosting provider try to sell you 10 other things you don’t need during checkout? If so, keep a wary eye!

Read About the Web Hosting Providers We Recommend

Evil Myths About Web Hosting

1. If you move your website to a new hosting provider, your search engine ranking will drop.

– FALSE — Search engine rankings have everything to do with website content, and nothing to do with which company your site is being hosted by.

2. Only your hosting provider has “WordPress friendly” hosting.

– FALSE — WordPress requirements include the need for PHP, MySQL, and Apache mod_rewrite (which is very common among many hosting providers) so you really aren’t limited to a select few.

3. WordPress will only work if it’s installed via the hosting control panel (for example, using Fantastico)

– FALSE — I find it more reliable and professional to install WordPress manually, by uploading the files and creating my own database. Using the control panel to install WordPress will most commonly install an older (outdated) version which can sometimes cause problems later when you try to upgrade or install plugins. (Again, this is not always the case, but it’s something to watch out for.)

Trust Your Web Designer

Every website designer works a little differently. They will know from experience, trial and error, and research, whether or not a hosting provider will work for you. And of course, every project is different, so it’s best to ask your website designer what they recommend for your website.

Do your own research too! You can research a hosting provider you have in mind to find out if there are complaints about service, loss of data, a great (or a bad) reputation for technical support, and many other considerations you’ll need to keep in mind. Social sharing sites, such as Twitter, for instance, may have tons of tweets about a hosting company. Or if you have a WordPress website, you can check the WordPress Support Forums for any mention of that hosting company, as well. Another valuable tool is of course, search engines. Search for complaints about a hosting company, for instance. And use your own judgement, while taking into consideration the recommendations of your web designer.

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Jane is the owner / designer at Gravity Station, and designer/ custom WordPress website developer at JV Media Design. With 16 years experience in website design, Jane's focus is in custom WordPress design and CSS, she also designs print materials such as business cards, one-sheets, brochures, and CD packaging. Besides web design, Jane also enjoys Sci-Fi (Doctor Who Rules!), keeping up with the latest findings in science, reading strange phenomenon and action/adventure books, and playing Lord of the Rings Monopoly with her 2 children.

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