In Part 2 of this series, we continue to explore issues that you need to consider if you are looking for a good web site hosting company.
If you started with this page, it might be a good idea to read Part 1 of of Selecting a Good Hosting Company. In that part we cover some of the essentials to consider if you are looking for your first hosting company.
Control Panel Selection
A control panel is a special administration area that you log into to configure a web site, database, e-mail and other areas related to the web site hosting. cPanel and Plesk are the two most popular control panels. If you search for “cPanel hosting”, you will find a large number of Linux hosting options that utilize cPanel. Some hosting companies use proprietary control panels. We generally do not like proprietary control panels because there is generally little support outside of the hosting company that wrote it.
Guaranteed Uptime – SLA
An SLA is a Service Level Agreement, which is basically a guaranteed uptime for your web site. While many hosting companies guarantee 100% uptime, the reality is probably a bit lower than that depending upon how many decimal places you use. A good, reliable hosting company with redundant systems and excellent technical support can achieve a 99.999% uptime, which rounds up to 100%. Make sure that if a hosting company guarantees uptime, they back it up with a money-back guarantee or credit if they fail to achieve their promises.
This should be a primary consideration when selecting a hosting provider. Because a web site runs 24 hours a day, seven days per week, an absolute requirement should be 24/7 tech support. Many small and cheap hosting companies do not offer this, or it can take 24 hours to get a response from someone when your web site goes down. If the hosting company provides a telephone number that you can use to contact someone whenever a problem arises, that is a real plus. It is, however, more common to find hosting companies that use a special site where you log in to report a problem or start a trouble ticket. Check the technical support reputation of any hosting company before you decide to use them. We find the tech support at the majority of hosting companies to be abysmal at best. Any time you report a problem, you should expect to receive a response and appropriate action within an hour.
One thing to mention is that you should not expect your hosting company to fix programming problems with your web site. That is the job of your web developer. While some hosting companies will fix programming issues for an extra fee, most will not because that is not their area of expertise.
How Many Web Sites Do You Wish to Host?
If you have a need to host multiple web sites, look for a hosting company that offers a package that allows you to host multiple sites for a flat fee. It is not unusual to find packages that allow you to host 5 to 10 web sites for under $20 per month.
If you plan to host a lot of web sites (10 or more) or you expect a huge amount of traffic to your site, then it may be a good idea to look at dedicated hosting, which means an entire server is dedicated to your sites, or VPS hosting (Virtual Private Server), which means that a portion of a server is dedicated to your sites and you have a fixed minimum percentage of the server’s resources dedicated to your sites. If you plan to set up a lot of sites, good VPS hosting, such as that found at ServInt, can cost less than $50 per month. Both of these hosting options require some technical expertise, so it is something that a newbie web site owner should not consider.
If you are not using dedicated or VPS hosting, then you will be on a shared server. A shared server means that there are many web site hosted on the server. It is a good idea to ask the hosting company how many sites they place on a server, but most will not answer that question. The number of web sites on a server directly affects the speed performance of all of the web sites on the server. If only a few of the sites experience a massive amount of traffic, all of the sites competing for the server’s limited resources will be slow. A few hundred sites on a sever is generally not a lot, but some hosting companies literally pack thousands or tens of thousands of web sites on a single PC configured as a server.
Check Hosting Company Reviews
You should always check out the reputation of a hosting company before signing up with them. Do a search for “hosting company reviews” and you will find a lot of sites dedicated to this topic. We recommend that you focus on forums because you are most likely to see honest opinions from actual users. Many of the small hosting review sites are run by companies who own several hosting companies and the sites are intended to drive traffic to their web hosting sites. If you find lots of opinions from actual users, you will likely get better answers.
Don’t be afraid to post questions about specific hosting companies in technical forums. There are lots of online forums that have a Hosting category where you can post questions. Look for opinions about reliability and technical support.
Continue with Part 3 of Selecting a Good Hosting Company