Choosing the right web hosting company for your website is not an easy task, especially if you are new to this kind of things. When signing up, you commit to a long term contract. While possible, switching between host providers when your website is already up and running can be an ordeal. So, it’s best you do a thorough check first: compare the offers, read the reviews, and ask the right questions.
Before you start shopping around it’s important that you know exactly what you need from your hosting service. What kind of website are you planning to build? The requirements of a company website, an online store, and a personal blog are very different.
Once you’re in the position to start checking out web hosting providers, here is a list of questions you should get answers for before registering and committing:
What’s your server uptime?
The server’s uptime metrics represent an important criteria when choosing a web hosting service for a simple reason: you want your website up and running all the time. You don’t want your visitors to keep getting errors when they access your pages. This would make you lose credibility, not to mention money. Look for a web hosting provider featuring an uptime average above 99.5%. Do not under any circumstances accept anything that’s below 99%. If you don’t find this information on the hosting company’s website, don’t hesitate to ask, but you can also look for an uptime monitoring tool that would allow you to check it for yourself.
Do you allow multiple add-on domains?
If you are 100% sure this is the one and only website you are going to build, this question might be irrelevant for you. However, if there is even the slightest chance you are going to add another website to your portfolio sometime in the future, go for a web hosting company allowing you to have several add-on domains. This means that each time you decide to build another website, you will have to pay only the domain registration fees, using the same hosting account for all of them.
What server upgrade options would I have?
A shared hosting plan is good enough for a brand new website with average traffic. However, the moment your website’s traffic outgrows the shared server’s capabilities, you will have to upgrade the hosting plan to a dedicated or even cloud server. This is why it is best to make sure that your provider offers all these types of web hosting. Otherwise, you might have to migrate your website to a different provider. This means extra work and the risk of losing some of the files on the way.
What are the renewal prices?
Many web hosting services providers use this marketing strategy: they offer highly competitive prices for the first year of contract, and exponentially higher rates for the following years. While there is no problem in benefiting from a discount, you should take the renewal prices into consideration when planning your long term budget.
What are the limitations on your hosting accounts?
Although bragging about unlimited space storage and bandwidth, many web hosting companies actually have their own definition of the term “unlimited”. When checking the provider’s T&C’s, don’t be surprise to find a note about the service being discontinued and the account suspended in case of what they call “excessive usage of CPU”. It’s best you get a clear definition of this notion before you sign up with that service.
Do you offer automatic website backups?
You don’t want to lose all your hard work because of a single error, do you? Taking care of your own backups can be time-consuming, and even expensive. So, do yourself a favor and check that your website hosting provider offers automatic backups at least once a week.
What is your refund policy?
You can read reviews, check statistics and compare hosting sites all you want, you won’t know for sure if you’ve chosen the right hosting service until you start using it for real. What if, eventually, it’s not the one you need? Then, make sure they have a money-back policy.