What to Shop For
There are many reliable Web hosting companies to choose from. So what separates one from another?
If you are planning to use a hosted Wordpress solution, or another content management system (CMS) like Drupal, Joomla or Expression Engine (which is running the site you are reading right now), then make sure to look for a hosting company that offers one-click installation of these services. That means you just have to click a box and the system will automatically be added to your domain. (Yes, it's that easy.)
Here's a list of reputable companies that offer such services: http://wordpress.org/hosting/
Share your experiences
In the comments, please recommend Web hosting companies that you've used or share a warning about one that you weren't satisfied with.
If you are planning to build a traditional website, where you will be designing pages and uploading them to a server, make sure to find a hosting company that supports an FTP account. Some hosting companies force you to use their proprietary website building software, which is not recommended. Most are too limiting, especially when there are so many better options available.
Technical and customer service
Websites are hosted on computers called servers, which run software that allows them to send or "serve" your pages over the Internet to your users' Web browsers. If your website's server crashes, your entire site can drop offline, leaving your potential visitors staring at a blank page.
Because of this, the two most important questions when picking a Web host are:
- How often do its servers crash? Look for uptime - the percentage of time its servers are up and running. Freehosting.net has a list of sites that independently track uptime percentages; the closer a host gets to 99.9 percent, the better.
- When something does go wrong, how quickly can your host fix it?
When considering a host, look at its existing customers. Ask the hosting company for a list of domains it currently hosts and contact those sites. Ask them how happy they are with the host's service, how often their site goes down, and how quickly the hosting company fixes problems.
Other questions to ask or consider:
- If something goes wrong, will your hosting company let you talk to a real person on the phone?
- Can you send the company an e-mail?
- Do you have to fill out a form on its wesite or hunt for the answer yourself in its help pages?
Look for a Web host that offers you as many different support options and as much access to real people as possible, via phone, e-mail or online chat.
Ask your Web host how it responds to a sudden surge in the number of visitors to a given website, also known as the site's traffic. A server can only handle so many requests for Web pages at once. If too many people suddenly try to look at your site all at once, the server may crash, knocking your site offline. A good Web host will have plans in place to reduce the chance that this will happen.
> READ NEXT ARTICLE: Other Considerations