Sunday, December 6, 2009


How to Pick the Right Web Host:

It’s Not Just About the Fees

If you’re just starting out in the world of e-commerce, chances are you don’t even know what you don’t know, which makes finding the right web host a major obstacle. If you’re not sure what’s important and what’s fluff, how can you choose the right company to host your site?

Here are some tips on what to look for and what to avoid when weighing different hosting companies.

Don’t judge by price alone.

Web hosts charge anywhere from $3 to 20$ a month for their web hosting services. Yes, you can even find free web hosting, but of course nothing is free. Low-cost or free hosting services don’t deliver control over what appears on your site.

If you go with a cheapie or free host, part of the deal is that the hosting company gets to put up its ads on your site. (See, nothing is really free.) So, you’re never quite sure whose product will show up on your home page.

Also, keep in mind that all of these banner ads and click-throughs are intended to get visitors to click off of your site and to go someplace else, so in effect, the advertising placed on your site by free or low cost hosts is actually competition for the attention of your visitors.

Low cost = low quality.

Select a host that puts you in charge of what visitors see when they visit your site. You can find these sites at prices starting as low as $6.95 a month.

Check out the host company’s own website.

There’s an old adage that says you can judge the quality of a home improvement contractor by looking at his or her truck. If it’s neat and clean, chances are the contractor takes care. If it’s an accident waiting to happen, look for another contractor.

The same is true of a web hosting company. Check out the company’s own website. If it’s low rent, you can bet your site won’t fare any better.

Don’t believe everything you read.

Of course every hosting company is going to tell you it’s the best, but anyone with a server stuck in a closet can call themselves a web host. It doesn’t make it so. How long has the company been around? What do webmasters have to say about the host? Read reviews of web hosting services. There are lots of them. Go with a company recommended by a web professional and skip all of the sales hype smaller, less established hosts use to pull in newcomers.

Ask about server side security.

Hackers spend a lot of time trying to break through the fortifications put in place by a web host and all too often these bad guys are successful, putting your site at serious, even lethal risk.

Surf the web for interviews with site owners who have experienced numerous hacker attacks, not because they lacked adequate security but because their web hosts were lacking in the latest in hardware and software. You’ll find lots of information.

Some web hosts are in it strictly for the money. That’s all. If they hook up your site to the w3, they’ve fulfilled their obligation to you. Other web hosts take a more proactive approach to your site’s security, recognizing that if their client sites are safe and secure, their hosting business will be, too. A satisfied client will stick around once the service subscription is finished and smart hosts know it costs a lot less to keep a customer than it does to find a new one.

Customer service should be close to the servers.

Web host servers crash. It happens. And when it does, you want it fixed fast because if the server is down, so is your site. And if the host server is on the fritz, you may not be able to access the customer support number because the server is off line and you never wrote down the telephone number!

First, make sure that the company you choose has 24/7/365 customer support, preferably close to the hardware that’s not working. If the server is in Illinois and the customer support desk is in Bangalore, India, it may take a while to get the server operational again.

Second, write down the customer service number so you have it whether the server is up or down.

Make sure your selected host has an impeccable up time record.

Some web hosts take great pride in proclaiming that their servers have a 94% up time record. Sounds good, but that means that company’s servers and your business are off line 6% of the time. That’s costing you business and, if an SE spider should happen to index your site while it’s down, you may well lose PR points.

A good host will have an up time record above 98%. A great host will have an up time rate of 99.9%, as in nearly perfect. It may cost you a couple of dollars more each month to get this level of security but it’s more than worth the minimal expense for the peace of mind you get knowing that your site is protected as it should be.

Billing Policies

Always a good thing to check out. How often are you billed and what are the terms if you close down your site halfway through your web hosting subscription?

Check out the web host’s site to find the company’s billing policies. Also, look for that all important customer care number – the one you call when you have a problem with your bill. The number should be toll free and US based. There’s nothing worse than having a problem with your latest payment and dealing with a customer service rep half way around the world.

Standard Services

What do you get for your standard services besides a certain amount of disk space? A lot of web hosts lure you in with bargain basement rates and then nick you every time you add a new feature.

A good web host provides e-mail services and should allow you to host more than one domain name with your single account. Not all do.

A good web host will also provide a variety of software applications and tools for use free of charge. Again, not all do which means you have to go out and buy checkout software, analytics software and other “must haves.” Go with the host that offers low and no-cost access to everything you need to build, launch and run a web site. And if you can get all of these goodies free (you can), that’s even better.

Site Access

Make sure the host allows 24/7 FTP access to your site so you can upload new data when you want to. Some hosts restrict the hours that clients can upload data, making it difficult to update your site at 11:00 AM due to too much traffic.

Tiered Pricing

If you don’t need VPS (virtual private server) access, why pay for it – especially when you’re first starting out? Go with a host that offers an entry-level package and allows you to upgrade when your site grows a bit.

Tiered pricing lets you test the waters before committing a lot of cash to your venture. And note, the company should not ding you a surcharge when you upgrade – just the cost of the additional disk space and bandwidth.

A Guarantee

You won’t find many hosts that guarantee their services so this may take some research and time, but they’re out there.

Now, no host can guarantee a 100% up time or guarantee that your site will be successful. But some web hosts do offer a partial or complete money back guarantee if you opt out of their service within a specified period, say 30 days. That gives you a month to try out the host server and if you aren’t happy, your subscription is refunded.


How often does the web host back up server data? This is critical to sites that change often, adding or deleting products and services. If you’ve spent a great deal of time upgrading your site only to have the host server go down in flames before a security back up, you’ll be none too pleased. You want a web host that saves and saves often – at least once every 24 hours.

Test the web host

Before you sign on with a web host, test them. Call the customer support line with your questions and see if you get answers you can actually understand. Some companies employ client care reps who are more interested in demonstrating their own knowledge than they are in resolving your particular problem or answering a simple question.

Be sure to ask the client care rep several questions. Do they appear to be rushed? Are they willing to take the time to teach you what you need to know? Are they patient and courteous? If not, don’t expect things to change once you’ve signed up for 12 months of service.

Finding the right web host may not sound like a whole lot of fun, but it is necessary since you and the host will be partnering in the ultimate success of your site. Take your time, read the fine print, ask a ton of questions and look for some kind of back-out guarantee.

It may well mean the difference between site success and failure, and therefore, it may be the most important decision you make regarding your online enterprise.

Need some help picking the right host? Your web host is your on-line partner so choose wisely. Not sure, call me.


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