Choosing the right web host can be daunting and time consuming. Fundamentally, you should look for
- Technical support
- Value for money
- Autonomy (flexibility & portability)
Being able to contact your web host by phone—not just through email—and receive expert advice by patient and friendly people is critical. Without excellent customer service you can feel lost, vulnerable and frustrated in time of technology failure or lack of personal knowledge. You need a quick response to your cry for help.
My first experience
After a lengthy research on the Web, I thought I had found the best web host deal. Not only had every feature on my long list but also they were within my price range. Their user-friendly website attracted me.
It was an American company with offices in Australia where I live. So, I rang their toll free sales information line and left a message on their answering machine.
They never returned my call.
I then sent an email, they never answered.
Their physical address and a photograph of their impressive building were displayed on their website. Like a detective, I followed their trail.
I rang another tenant in the same building. The receptionist had never heard of the web host supposedly next door to her.
My second experience
After transferring my domain name to my new web host, I had some technical problems which prevented me to use my email.
Although the web host was located in Brisbane (which is not exactly next door to Perth), I could at least contact them by phone during daylight hours (3 hours time zone difference).
Fixing the problem costs me 5 hours of my time and $2.50 (special phone rate).
I discovered the true value of good customer service—a patient and sympathetic person to help me in time of crisis. Having an alternate way to contact my web host—other than email— was not a luxury but the only way to get help.
The lesson from that? Before clicking on submit your credit details, make sure they are contactable…by phone.
Value for money
Value for money can be closely related to paying only for what you need and will use.
Web hosts sell space on their server. Space is measured in terms of megabytes not pages. Graphics take more room than text.
For a small website 5MB is usually sufficient. If ever you need more space, you can usually upgrade your hosting plan if you choose a flexible plan.
Pay for what you need NOW. Why pay for something you may only need in a year’s time?
Pay for the features that you will use. Autoresponders, subdomains, SSL etc are all great to have as long as you know what they are and how to use them.
Autonomy provides you with the ability to make decisions and also to change your mind.
Can you easily change Web host if your needs are no longer fulfilled or you simply found a better deal?
Check contractual agreements (length of contract, penalty clauses) before committing yourself.
Make sure that your website is portable and not locked with your web hosting plan.
If you create your website with the online software provided by your web host, ask …
- What happens to your website once the contract expires?
- Do you keep the website?
- Can you still use the specific software for updates and changes to your website?
You need to feel comfortable that the web host ensures security for you and your customers.
If a host asks for your credit card details over an unsecured server, how can you trust him if he cannot take those minimal security measures?
In the long run, doing your homework now will save you time, money and stress. Research your options.