Web hosting, the infrastructure of servers and connections that make your website available to the internet, is an inescapable part of having a website. Ideally web hosting isn’t something you want to worry a lot about. It’s a commodity – it’s (relatively) cheap, it should work fine all the time, and there are literally thousands of suppliers to choose from.
However, the reality of the matter is that there’s a great deal of difference in quality between web hosting providers. While many of the hosting packages most companies offer are similar in terms of specifications and pricing, the real differentiator is the service you get.
It pays to do a little investigation before you select a hosting company. Moving from one hosting company to another can be a difficult and complicated process, so you want to select the right hosting provider from the start.
The first thing you want to select on is the features and specifications you’ll require for your hosting package. Do justice to your ambition and don’t go for a cheap, simple package just because it’ll save you some money. Upgrading your package when your site becomes a success may be difficult, and often more elaborate packages aren’t outrageously expensive, so it’s a good idea to think big. Storage space, bandwidth, databases and email accounts should all be sufficiently spacious to accommodate your ambitions.
Now that you’ve found a few hosting providers that offer the packages you’re interested in, you should see if they go the extra mile. Do they offer extra tools like pre-installed web statistics software? if you want to start a blog, do they offer support for blogging software like WordPress? Is their helpdesk reachable by phone? Don’t make it easy for yourself here but invest time and effort to read through their service offerings and ensure they overdeliver.
This will leave you with a few companies that have the right goods. All of them will say they’re the best choice, but there’s only one type of opinion that really matters: that of their existing customers. There are several independent websites that gather reviews of hosting providers, and this is a valuable resource to further narrow down your decision. Do a Google-search on “hosting reviews” and you’ll find abundant resources to help you find opinions and reviews from real customers of your selection of hosting companies.
Don’t let your guard down though, some savvy hosting marketeers will game these websites by inserting fake positive reviews that raise the score for their company. What you’re looking for are negative reviews. If a company has a lot of them, regardless of the number of positive reviews they might also get, it’s probably not a good idea to do business with them. But if they have only a few negative reviews, or if the negative feedback is from a while ago and lately mostly good things are being said, they might be the right hosting provider that’s got their business in order.
Once you’ve selected the hosting company that you think best suits your needs and can deliver quality support, it should be an aspect of your website that’s invisible. If the services delivered by your hosting provider are a recurring source of trouble and worries, it’s time to consider moving to a different provider.
Update: if you’re looking for a good web hosting company, this guide from FirstSiteGuide.com is a great place to start.