Whether you’re preparing to launch your first website or you’re interested in changing hosts (due to problems or growth greater than your existing plan can handle), it’s important to compare Web hosting companies. Never simply sign up because an offer looks too good to be true. You should always know your options.
While Web hosting companies and hosting plans can look similar on the surface, many factors are varied from technical support to resource allocation. And not all hosting plans can accommodate the same kinds of sites.
To help you pick the right Web hosting company for your website’s needs, here are five things you should do.
1. Look at both positive and negative reviews.
You can find negative reviews of almost any Web host. So don’t let some negative feedback worry you too much. It’s more important to see what people are complaining about and then decide how important that factor is to you. Also look for positive reviews (and not solely from review sites profiting by referring you to hosting companies). Decide what things are most important to you — maybe knowledgeable and speedy tech support — and look for companies that do those things well.
2. Browse the support forums for a better picture.
When looking at a host’s website, go beyond the package details and sales information. Look at how information is provided for existing customers too. The knowledgebase, support forums, and online documentation can tell you a lot about how much a company cares about its customers.
3. Contact each company you’re considering.
Come up with a list of questions for each hosting package you’re considering (things that aren’t well-documented on their site for example). Call them. See how long you have to wait before a support representative answers the phone. See how well they can answer your questions. Also make sure you talk to the support department — not just the sales department. Some companies are known for being responsive to get your business, but they’re harder to get a hold of once they have your money.
4. Know your requirements.
It’s vital that you know what you need before looking at hosts. Don’t see “unlimited” offers and assume that company can handle your high traffic website for example. While some features are “unlimited” there are limits on other things (like CPU usage). You’ll reach those limits long before you use large amounts of the supposedly unlimited resources. For a single new blog, those oversold unlimited plans can be fine. But if you have an established site, know exactly what resource requirements you have before switching to a new hosting company. Only then can you compare apples to apples when looking at things like features and rates.
5. See how many sites are on their servers.
If you’re considering shared hosting, do some further research. Find sites that are already hosted with each company (maybe from someone who referred them to you). Do an IP lookup for that site to get the IP address of the server the site is hosted on. Then do a reverse IP lookup online to see all of the sites hosted on that server. Compare the number to other hosts you’re considering. Some oversellers put obscene numbers of sites on shared servers and are known for more frequent downtime as a result.
Choosing a Web hosting company doesn’t have to be difficult. But moving your sites isn’t something you likely want to do on a frequent basis, so you should make those decisions carefully. Never fall for the sales hype without digging deeper into each offer. Find out what each host’s strengths and weaknesses are by seeing what others have to say about them. No Web hosting company is perfect. But with a bit of planning and careful choosing, you may be able to find the one that’s perfect for you.