Selecting a Hosting Provider

The term “Hosting” refers to the space a website occupies online.

This space is housed on a computer and things can go wrong with computers.  Everybody knows that. Every web host in the world has problems from time to time.
Selecting a good host is really about risk management.

Here are the factors I take into consideration when I select a host for a client:
24/7 Phone support.
There are tons of really cheap hosts in the marketplace.   They are more than happy to sign you up and take your money; they just really hate to answer the phone. This is a really big deal.  A lack of readily available phone support is a strong indication that the company may be cutting corners in other areas as well. A side effect of dealing with such a company may include elevated blood pressure and an increase in cursing.

Cloud computing and other recent innovations have allowed hosts to store customer websites in multiple places at the same time.  This is a great thing in times of power outage or natural disaster.

Uptime Reputation
Every host on the Internet is subject to uptime tests by independent third-party companies. These companies do these tests without the permission or cooperation of the hosting company. You can benefit from these tests by doing a simple web search.  You can do searches like this to find such reports HOSTING COMPANY + UPTIME REPORT or HOSTING COMPANY + REVIEW, For instance, “Host Gator uptime report” or “Host Gator REVIEW”.

Disk Space
The disk space is the amount of space that you are allocated for your website. Some hosting providers offer “unlimited” space, while others allocate space at a cost. Either way, you should make sure you have a plan that offers you at least 20% more space than you’re currently using or plan to use. That gives you some room for growth.  If you are offered “unlimited” space make sure your hosting company is clear about just what “unlimited” really means. Often unlimited means “typical use”. Exceeding typical use (whatever that means) will trigger an increase in cost you might have missed in the fine print.
What to Look For:

  • Don’t assume that unlimited is better than a limited amount of space. There are always trade-offs.
  • Understand the costs for extra space in case you need to upgrade.

Bandwidth refers to the amount of data your website can pass to visitors within a period of time, usually a month. Some hosting providers offer unlimited bandwidth, while others charge different prices for the amount you use. Make sure that you know what will happen if your site goes over the allocated bandwidth, and that you’ve got enough to support the visitors you are anticipating.

Before you have chosen a hosting provider consult with your web designer.  Your web designer should have some very specific technical requirements. Have him suggest the package that will meet your needs best.

Web Site Backups

I told you you’d be shocked.

It’s really important to ask your hosting provider about how backups work or if they will cost extra.  You will want to ask them how many versions of your site they keep and how far back they go. You will want to ask them where they store the backups. If your website is hacked and it goes unnoticed for a week, (see Web

Site Monitoring) only having a week’s worth of backups will be a disaster.
The best answer might be to arrange to use a host that uses WHM or a PLESK control panel.  With your web designer’s help, you should be able to set up complete backups and are uploaded them offside to a second storage solution such as Dropbox, Google Drive or something equivalent. Then you can arrange to have a really generous number of backups in storage in case of disaster. THIS IS NOT OVERKILL.  An iron-clad backups system with lots of version control can literally save your online business
We are happy to consult on implementing such a backup system that runs automatically for you.

Web Site Monitoring
There’s nothing worse than discovering, second hand, your website has gone down.

The only reason I can sleep at night is that I use top-notch monitoring services to monitor ALL OF MY SITES.  If you only have only one website there are many free services that can be set up to notify you if your site should go down.   Web site monitoring services can monitor just about any fundamental web service and alert you within minutes of an outage, regardless of whom you host with.  The service I use “Statuscake”. Statuscake also sends alerts when a website service is back up again and keeps detailed uptime reports.