Picking the Right Web Host

Choosing a Web Hosting Provider

Choosing a web host isn’t hard, though sifting through the good and not-so-good options can be a head-twisting experience – especially if you’re taking the plunge and building a web site or blog for the first time.

For example, FREE web hosting companies place ads on YOUR web site. That’s how they make their money, and you’ve got no idea what ads will appear on your site. So, if you’re a medical doctor looking to build trust among site visitors, an ad for a “weekend” dating service isn’t going to make you shine. Avoid free hosts.

That means it’s going to cost you something every month. You may have to pay a sign-up fee, a maintenance fee, and a bunch of other fees that nibble away at your margins. No, choosing a web host isn’t rocket science but you should at least know what questions to ask.

Here they are.

1. How do I ask questions?

Whoa, good question right off the bat. You can’t ask questions of a web host if there’s no contact information, no help desk, no tech support. Some hosts manage client care via email and when your web site has disappeared and you’re wondering about that 404 error message appearing on your computer screen, an e-mail response 28 hours after you e-mailed the host means you’re effectively invisible for 28 hours.

And if your site is spidered when it’s off line, you’ll get slammed. SEOs (search engine optimizers) point to “Lack of accessibility to the site” as the number one negative ranking factor among search engines. Google isn’t going to send visitors to an inaccessible site so you need a quick fix quick.

Make sure the web host displays a variety of means of contact – especially a toll-free telephone number. E-mails are fine for billing questions and other matters that aren’t time sensitive. A down web site needs fixing now. You want that toll-free number 24/7/365.

2. Where is customer care and tech support located.

Start here during your “interview” with prospective hosts. (See #1. If no telephone number is provided, you can’t ask questions 2-10 so move on.)

First, you want customer care and tech support based in the U.S. A lot of web hosting companies outsource this task so you’re talking to someone 12 time zones away trying to “figure out” where you web site went.

Tech support should be right down the hall from the server room so when a problem arises, someone can fix it fast.

3. What do I get with my web site?

You should get everything you need to build whatever kind of website you want and whatever kind of website is in the budget. Your web host should provide web site templates for beginners (use them if you’re just starting out) to simple integration of a blog, a checkout, and the ability to hand code the site with a blank-slate option.

No tool kit, no bag of goodies, keep looking.

4. How much experience do you have?

Look for a company that has a long lineage on the web. Experience in handling a large client base, dozens of servers and running a collaborative business with clients. A college kid can rent server space and become a hosting reseller. So you think you’re working with Bob’s Hosting Company, when in fact, you site’s on a server in the earthquake zone of the Philippines.

Oh, and when Bob graduates, he can just unplug his laptop and move on to greener pastures, leaving you trying to figure out where you web business went to.

5. What kind of server side security do you use?

Look for hard-wired fire walls, firewall software, anti-spyware and anti-virus protection on the server side. A reputable host has multiple layers of security so ask about security redundancy. Your host’s rep will be proud to explain, assuming you’re talking to a quality hosting company.

6. What happens when my web-business grows?

Well, for one thing, you start making money. But you may want to expand. Look for a flexible host with a flexible plan that allows you to expand incrementally as you add more products, more services, archives and other site features.

7. What if I hate it?

The W3 isn’t for everyone, though there are more than 122 million web sites and 6,000 new launches every day. But you may find that it’s too complicated, too unproductive or just too something.

Quality hosts don’t want to lock you in to some long-term contract. They don’t want unhappy clients, they want happy clients. So, a quality web host will offer a 30-day trial period so you can take your new web site out for a test drive. BTW, using templates, building and maintaining a web site is pretty automated and, therefore, simple and it doesn’t take a lot of time.

But if a web site isn’t your cup of tea, look for a host that offers a 30-day, money-back guarantee.

8. Can I register my domain through you?

Any hosting company is equipped to register a domain name – your URL or web address. But, if you register your domain with host B and then choose host A, you have to redirect your domain or migrate it to the new host. You get the idea.

Register your domain name with the hosting company that will rent you that disk space each month. Simplifies life on the web.

9. What can I learn from the host’s web site?

A lot, if you read between the lines.

The web site identifies the hosts “brand” – its corporate culture. Some use funny logos and radical type fonts, targeting a “younger” demographic. Other hosts have a more professional appearance and take the time to explain its corporate values, i.e. commitment to client satisfaction, tech support, fair prices and good value. If you’re serious about your web site, go with a host that is serious about hosting.

Everything from the company logo to the site text language defines the company brand. Which would you choose? The wild techno-geek or the clean design and quality information provided by a host with a different take on its own corporate culture.

10. Does the host employ green technology?

The web grows exponentially, expanding from business novelty to business necessity in just a few years. From the spare-room entrepreneur to multi-national conglomerates, a web presence is almost a requirement.

That means more energy consumption, expanded infrastructure and a lot of out-dated servers, loaded with toxins, ending up in our landfills, and it’s a problem that will only expand.

Green hosting isn’t some passing fad or some 60s hippie thing. It’s the future of hosting. It has to be. So, look for a host that employs wind power to generate the juice to run the servers to host the web site – yours.

Look for water-cooled servers that use recycled water instead of energy gobbling blowers to cool off those racks of servers, one of which is where your website resides.

Green hosting also makes a statement about your company’s corporate culture and your concern for the future of the planet. That’s a good thing. Seeing the “green” logo on your site’s home page is a trust builder and a brand builder, as well.

See, that wasn’t so hard. Pick up the phone (assuming there’s a telephone contact option) and start asking questions. The fact is, your web host is your on-line partner.

Pick a good one.