Let's face it, there are literally thousands of web hosts out there these days. Some have a huge share of the market and host up to 2 million domains while others think hosting is a get rich quick scheme and offer lacklustre support to their 10 customers.
When you are looking for a hosting company, you do not just want to go with the most popular or even the cheapest. In fact, you should avoid using those criteria at all costs. Instead, I've decided to put together a list of five things that you should look for in a hosting company.
What difference does it make whether your hosting costs $ 5 per month or $ 50 per month when your website is never online? Nobody likes spending money for the fun of it so you should make sure the hosting company you are thinking of using actually have a good record of keeping their sites online.
Even a huge company like mediatemple who host tens of thousands of websites had an outage recently which left their customers without a website for almost a day. Can you live with that happening? Most people can not.
To get a companies uptime statistics you can search for it on a major search engine like Google or you can send them an email and ask for their figures. If they do not respond then they are probably not the type of hosting company you want to be with anyway.
2. Live Chat
Live Chat, to me, is without a doubt the most important support feature a host can have. If I have a database error or my site gets hacked, I do not want to wait hours for a company to reply to my email support ticket. Additionally, if you're not in America or a problem does not conveniently happen at 9am – 6pm then you can not phone for help either.
The simplest way to find out if a company has live chat is to go to their homepage and it should be prominently displayed. Although you should not overly bother them, test out the live chat to see if the reps are responsive and they give you good advice.
3. Social Proof
There's a reason that some company's host websites for over 1,000,000 people: they know what they are doing. If any company can proudly state they have been around since 1996 (like Bluehost) or say that they are 800,000 members then there is a good chance they know what they are doing.
After-all, if they had no clue, then 800,000 people would not continue to pay a monthly fee for something that is useless. Of course, just because a lot of people use something that does not always mean that is the best option. If you take shared hosting with a larger company then there's a good chance that you will be stuck on a server with not tens, but hundreds of other websites.
If you do get speed issues though, then you either need to upgrade or talk to them about that.
4. Web Mentions
Besides social proof, it's still a good idea to see what people are saying about a particular host. Whether people are happy or unhappy about a service, there will be somewhere online where they are expressing their feelings.
Most people will simply go to a search engine and type in 'company name review' and then decide from there whether a company should be trusted or not. And, despite the fact that I run one of these review sites myself, do not trust all of them. Most of them will be getting a commission if you sign-up through their link so they say good things in order to get you to spend your hard earned money.
Instead, you should go to Google Blogsearch and the Twitter Search Engine and type in the name of your company. Blogs and Twitter are two places that people give their honest, personal experiences with companies and this way you can get the most legitimate feedback.
5. Affiliate Program
Unlike most guides, I'm not recommending you check if a company has an affiliate program so that you can make money. Instead, I'm recommending you check because this links in very closely to social proof. If a company has an affiliate program that generally means:
- They had people asking for this feature
- Their customers want to promote their service
- Happy customers promote a service they like
Do not eliminate a company from your options if they do not have this, but an affiliate / partner program is usually a good indicator that a company is getting a lot of praise and support from their current clients.