7 Tips for Choosing a Web Host

Choosing the right web hosting company is a critical component for anyone with a website, however it is one of the least glamorous aspects and is often not given enough consideration. Not all web hosting companies are created equal. Here are 5 features that don’t matter when picking a web host and 2 things every host must have.

5 features that just don’t matter when picking a web host

1. Never trust the web host for backups
You would think having a web host with a bullet-proof backup plan would be critical. At Gravity Switch we don’t even bother asking about backups. Why? Every web host promises the moon. We never trust them to deliver. Odds are 50/50 they’ll have good backups and they’ll do what we want. We ALWAYS recommend clients back up their own sites.

2. Is a Dedicated Server really necessary?
Unless you have over half a million visitors to your site in a year, or have special legal requirements, you should be on a shared server, or a virtual private server.

The primary reason people give for wanting a dedicated server is to have more control, but hosting it yourself doesn’t always gives you more control. With most hosts you can get to the things you need quickly and easily just by clicking a button. Hosts often provide more flexibility and control than clients who have a dedicated IT staff, and host their own servers.

3. The “Uptime Guarantee” doesn’t matter
Some hosts advertise 100% uptime. Despite that, we always *expect* that every one of our client sites will be down a few hours every year. Overloaded servers, even regular maintenance, are inevitable and make 100% uptime an impossible promise for hosts to keep.

Some hosts give the option of paying $50 per month for 99.9% uptime OR paying $100 per month for 99.99% uptime. Is it worth $50/month to have an extra .09% uptime? Let’s do the math. There’s 720 hours in a month, with a 99.99 uptime guarantee that means there’s an acceptable downtime of 4 minutes. A 99.9% uptime guarantee means there is a downtime of 43 minutes. The cost of 99.99% uptime hosting is SIGNIFICANTLY higher than 99.9% uptime, and it doesn’t give much more value.

Our recommendation is to not worry about the .09%. We usually start shopping around if any given 6 month period has MORE than .5% downtime.

4. Why we don’t worry about security
Our goal is always to have our sites be as secure as the big boys. Still, we never lose sleep over security. Most brand name hosts handle security just fine. It’s VERY expensive for them to deal with hundreds of unhappy customers, so it’s in their best interest to make sure sites aren’t hacked because of server issues. Unless there’s some sort of regulatory needs, and then expect to pay through the nose for HORRIBLE service and non-standard hosting.

5. More money ≠ better quality
Of all the web hosting companies we’ve tried, our personal favorite starts at $9.99 per month for shared hosting and unlimited bandwidth and $14.99-$149.99 for a Virtual Private Server, Virtual Private MySQL database and more RAM. We’ve worked with hosts that charge hundreds of dollars for similar bandwidth, and every one has had worse uptime and worse support than the $9.99 a month shared server.

Price isn’t a real issue these days. Sites with less than 10,000 visitors a day shouldn’t cost more than $25-$50 a month, and most hosts have options to “scale up” from there for reasonable prices.

When it comes to choosing a good web host, the hosts we pick must:

1. Be large enough to have a room full of servers
We usually only recommend hosts who host at least 50,000 domains. Hosts with that many domains have to have good processes or they’ll crumble and fall very quickly. A quick Google-search helps weed out the sloppy ones. At that size, hosts have the redundancy they need (in terms of both staff and servers) to handle any issue.

2. Have great customer service
Regardless of their backup policies, promised uptime or pricing, the best hosts we’ve worked with all have excellent customer service. Each one of them offers:

  • Phone or chat option. Some hosts charge more for this feature, but it’s worth and should be factored into the pricing.
  • 24/7 technical response. There should be access to support 24 hours a day. Test response times by contact the support desk to ask any questions you might have anytime of the day or night and.
  • Highly knowledgeable and efficient support staff. Staff should handle requests quickly and politely, and happily accelerate a problem to a manager if necessary.

Your experiences?
What do you look for in a web host? Share your web host experiences in the comments.

This article was authored by:

Jason is an educator, business owner, and author. As one of the first dozen professors of website design in the country, his lectures and workshops dynamically cater to all user levels. His company, Gravity Switch, works with higher education and innovative businesses and is the top agile web development firm in New England. Jason keeps his carbon footprint down by bicycling to work year round. He's enjoying Twitter , so be sure to shout out if you have any impossible problems. He likes to be challenged.

Jason Mark has authored 2 posts.Visit Website

Showing 1 Comment

  • I love how you are straight to the point when it comes to hosting you provide. Your post is true in its entirety. All hosting companies can post all the features they offer but it will all boil down to the type of customer support they provide.

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