December 8, 2008
There are thousands of hosting companies to choose from so choosing the one that’s right for you can be a frustrating and time consuming task. Many webmasters go through several hosting companies before they find one that’s reliable and affordable and meets their particular needs.
Moving your sites to another hosting company can be extremely complex and time-consuming, so it’s important to try to find a good hosting company right from the start.
Before you start seriously shopping for hosting, you need to make two lists; your ‘Must Have’ list and your ‘Nice to Have’ list. Your ‘Must Have’ list is all those things you’d class as ‘essential’ features, required of your hosting company. The second list comprises those things that would be good in ‘an ideal world’, but that aren’t essential.
These two lists help you to focus on what is important. By splitting it into two lists means you don’t become overly concerned about some of the features that aren’t really essential, and it allows you to quickly eliminate all those hosting companies who don’t meet the criteria set out on your ‘Must Have’ list. Some times you’ll find an offering that puts a check next to every item on your ‘Nice to Have’ list, but if it is missing items of your ‘Must Have’ list you know it is not right and can eliminate it from your decision making process.
Here are just a handful of the factors you might want to take into account and add to your requirement lists.
- How much disk space do you think you’ll need? If it is just a small site with a few pages you won’t need much at all, but if you want to include a lot of large multimedia files you may need a significant amount.
- How much bandwidth do you require? If you’re expecting a significant amount of traffic you will use more bandwidth than if your site only appeals to a small niche of which only a handful of people will visit each day. Also, if you are making large media files such as videos available you may have quite a high bandwidth usage requirement and so must factor this into your decision.
- How many domains do you need to host? If you want to host more than one you might be best looking for a hosting company that offers the ability to have more than one domain hosted from the same space and using the same bandwidth.
- What type of operating system do you require? For a basic web site this isn’t usually important, but if you are wanting to run scripts or a database driven site then the operating system used (e.g. Linux/Unix, Windows) can be an important factor.
- Do you want shared hosting or a dedicated server? The former is where your site is hosted on the same server as lots of other people’s web sites. The latter is where you have a computer that is dedicated to your web site(s) alone. A dedicated server is usually a lot more expensive than shared hosting, but can be worthwhile if you have a high-traffic site. For most people’s needs, particularly those who are new to online business, a shared hosting arrangement is fine to start with. If your business really takes off you can look at dedicated servers further down the line.
In addition to listing your feature requirements you should also think about how much you want to pay and the maximum you’re willing to pay. Although price is certainly a consideration, you should try to base your decision on your needs rather than on price alone. You are better spending a few more dollars a month and getting what you need than skimping and having to make do with something that isn’t right for the task in hand.
No matter what your specific needs are there are several factors that are important considerations for all webmasters.
One of the most important considerations is the availability of technical support. You should check to see if the hosting company has 24-hour technical support staff. If they don’t have 24 hour tech support, you could end up with your website being down for several hours. This might not be so bad for a small content site in the middle of the week, but what if you’re ready for a major launch and your site goes down an hour before everything is due to go live? What would you tell your affiliates and JV partners if your site was down for the first several hours of launch because you couldn’t get in touch with your web host’s tech support?
If you are going to go down the shared hosting route you should make sure you won’t be on a server with too many other people. Most hosts are pretty careful about how many people they put on a single server, but a few hosts occasionally put too many people on a single server and overload it. This causes all of the sites on the server to run slowly and sometimes grind to a complete halt.
You should be certain to verify that any scripts you run regularly will be able to run on your new host. If your scripts need anything like Ioncube, you should make sure it’s available. If it’s not available, you should make sure they’d be willing to install it for you.
Finally, you should ask for recommendations from trusted associates. Don’t take random recommendations from people who are probably trying to get you to join through affiliate links. Ask your business associates and friends who they use and if they’re happy.
Changing from one host to another isn’t always easy, but if you do find that you’ve picked the wrong host don’t feel that it’s impossible to change. It does take a little time, but if you end up with a better hosting experience then the move can prove to be well worthwhile.
To sum up, it is essential that you spend a little time deciding on what your specific requirements are and then using those requirements to create a short list of hosts that can meet your needs. If you do this you are far more likely to pick the right host first time round, and if not you will always have a list of alternatives to fall back on.
Paul Smithson is the founder of Intellimon and the driving force behind the best-selling XSitePro web site development tool (http://www.xsitepro.com). Paul has set up five multi-million dollar companies, one of which is now owned by the BBC. His areas of expertise include business strategy, e-commerce, on-line and off-line marketing, software development, and maximizing the potential of on-line businesses.