Web Hosting: Checklist for Selecting a Reliable Web Hosting Company

Don’t let your website get the flu! When your website and web hosting are working you don’t even think about them. But when they aren’t–it messes everything else up. In this week’s article, Tod Abbott – co-owner of Full Orbit Web and Marketing and our principal programmer – explains how to select excellent web hosting…and the importance of getting it right the first time.

Some clients are confused by terminology. Wondering about the difference between a domain name and hosting? Keep reading.  If not, skip to the handy checklist!

A good analogy for a website is a library book. The skew number is like the domain name…it’s the address that locates the website. The shelf where the book sits is like the hosting service. The hosting service provides the server where your website sits.

If you are working with a web designer, you can expect them to set up the service for you. If you wish to set it up yourself…or have the psychic ability to second-guess your web designer…use this checklist to select a service.

1. Ask at least 3 colleagues to recommend a web hosting service.

2. Check the reliability and customer service of the 2-3 web hosting companies that come recommended.

The most important qualities in a hosting service are reliability and customer service. That means that website are almost always up (online), and that they have 24/7 customer service with a live operator.

2a. Do a search on their name, to see what kind of comments come up. If there are complaints, keep in mind that disgruntled customers are more likely to post comments. It’s probably OK if there are a few complaints. But if one company has lots of negative comments, select another.

2b. Make sure they have a direct phone number on their site that is available 24/7. An 800 number is ideal. It’s also good if they offer “live chat.” That way if you have a quick question, and the phone line is busy, you can use the live chat line.

3. Look at packages and special features

While most hosting services offer similar packages, there are a variety features to consider.

3a. If your website host is also your email host (and that’s almost always the case), be sure they offer spam reduction tools on your email accounts.

3b. If you plan to post a lot of large media (audio or video) files, you should look for a package that offers a lot of disk space, as well as one that is easily upgraded when needed.

3c. If you are going to be posting an online store, be sure your service includes support for a secure server (“SSL” or “https” might be included in the list of features) as you’ll need a secure server to accept credit card payments.

3d. Some hosting services offer an extensive set of easy-to-install features, such as online bulletin boards, search functions, “blog” tools, etc., this can save a lot of time (or money) if you want to include such features to your site.

4. Finally, pick a Unix or Linux based web hosting service over one that uses Windows servers. Our company has had many good experiences with Windows servers, but the only times I’ve experienced strange or difficult-to-solve problems with a server, it has been a Windows machine. Don’t worry – most hosting services use a Unix variant or Linux so they won’t always mention it.  They will almost always list Windows if they use Windows servers.

It’s worth your time to check up on any web hosting company before buying. If you can’t get through to your hosting company for small changes, you may waste needless hours on the phone. If your site is down frequently, you’ll lose money because your site in unavailable. Follow these steps, and you won’t regret your hosting choice.

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