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Choosing a web hosting provider

February 9th, 2010

choosing-a-web-hosting-providerChoosing a web hosting provider can be a daunting task, but with a little guidance from people who run and own hosting companies or have experience with multiple hosting companies, the task becomes less and less frustrating.

There are thousands of web hosting providers out there trying to get your attention. How do you know what to look for when choosing a hosting provider?

Features and pricing

Some people choose a web hosting provider based on pricing alone. That’s a mistake. The concept of more features at the lowest price possible does not, and should not ever, be applied when choosing a web hosting provider.

Sure, I know you’ll search the Web for best prices on web hosting and you’ll most likely compare multiple web hosting companies. That’s okay. We all like to shop for the best value and get the most features for our dollar. But when it comes to choosing a hosting provider, you need to look beyond pricing alone and think about the features you really need versus getting more features for the lowest price possible.

If you follow web hosting daily (like I do), you’ll see top web hosting companies adding new features and dropping prices almost weekly. They do it for competitive reasons. And some of them beat their competitors hands down.

Disk space and bandwidth

Corporate Internet SolutionsAn example of adding new features is when hosting companies market their services as “Unlimited Disk Space” and “Unlimited Bandwidth.” Michael Swan, Director at Corporate Internet Solutions, calls this “deceptive marketing,” warning potential web hosting customers to use caution when researching web hosting companies that use the “Unlimited” feature tactic.

Swan says, “The larger hosting companies do this in the belief that ‘their clients’ will not use a lot of their ‘Unlimited’ plan, although, in reality, if all those who purchased an ‘Unlimited’ hosting plan were to use a lot of disk space and bandwidth, then the hosting company would become unstable.”

Certified HostingHowever, Kacy Carlsen, President and CEO of Certified Hosting, says, “There are many different hosting plans available and it can become very confusing for new webmasters when they see terms such as GB  and MB when referring to disk space and bandwidth.”

Carlsen says some customers may not understand how to figure out what their website will require and that Certified Hosting takes out the guess work by offering “Unlimited” plans. Why? Offering “Unlimited” plans takes away the confusion and lets customers focus on their businesses, rather than the hosting.

Make sense? “Unlimited” may not be what your website needs, but on the other hand, trying to decide how much disk space and bandwidth you need in GB and MB may be confusing. So what do you do? Your best bet is to look at the hosting company’s reputation regardless if they are selling “Unlimited” plans or allowing you to choose how much disk space and bandwidth you need.

Regardless of which hosting plan you choose: Unlimited or predefined, if your goal is to have 100% uptime because you depend on your website for income or any other reason, check to make sure the hosting provider can offer a 100% uptime SLA.

If you need more help in deciding if an “Unlimited” hosting plan versus a predefined amount of disk space and bandwidth is right for your website, contact the hosting providers directly. The hosting companies featured here at Dave on Web Hosting will be more than happy to answer your questions and make sure you select the hosting plan that’s right for you.

Registering a domain name and publishing your website

Once you get past features versus pricing, you’ll need to get your website published and live to your audience.

WebECSKyle Beckham, President and CEO of WebECS, says, “The top three challenges that we see customers new to web hosting have are usually: 1) How to register a domain name, 2) How to set up their website in the control panel, and 3) How to upload their website to the server.”

Beckham’s right - all three are excellent examples of what customers new to web hosting face when choosing a web hosting provider. So how do Beckham and the team at WebECS overcome those challenges?

Beckham says that based on years of experience working with customers new to web hosting (WebECS is 12 years old at the time of this post), his team understands what works best for these customers and has implemented flash based tutorials to help new customers understand how to accomplish each of the tasks on a step-by-step basis.

Furthermore, Beckham says, ”We have even improved the process for website setup in the control panel by having this step automatically created for our customers.”

So when you’re looking for your first or next web hosting provider, you might want to consider a web hosting company that gives you step-by-step instructions on how to publish your website.

Migrating your domain

For those of you that already have a domain registered, Jarrod Robinson, Co-founder and CEO at Tourdates.co.uk, says, “The biggest challenge is when customers want to migrate their domain name. Customers will have often secured the name ahead of rolling out any particular service or usage on that domain.”

TourdatesRobinson says that once the dust settles after that initial purchase and customers start looking for the correct web hosting service, often taking advice from the local IT guy and/or web designers, along with feedback from friends and colleagues, they invariably find themselves having the domain with one provider and now wanting to use services on that domain with one or more different providers.

Robinson’s solution: register the name with a reputable registrar that

a) doesn’t prevent domain transfer (check the hosting company’s Terms and Conditions)
b) has a flexible and robust DNS complete with a self service control panel

Robinson also adds that “bigger doesn’t always mean better, but in web hosting, big means the web hosting provider is scalable and, mostly, will have provided instant acting, self service tools for managing your internet presence.”

Conclusion

Take the advice from those who work with thousands of hosting customers and know exactly how to help customers new to web hosting get their websites published with a reliable hosting provider. You should also view my top web hosting companies page for hosting providers I think are worthy of your business.

What’s your opinion?

Want to offer more suggestions? Fill out the comment form below or contact me directly.

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