What to Look for in Your Web Host (and What to Ignore)

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You have a great product, an excellent web designer, and a solid marketing plan. That's fantastic, but who's your web host? People won't be able to see your product, the work of your designer, or the deliverables from your company if the server hosting your site goes down or slows to a crawl. The web host you choose can make or break the success of your company's online presence, so it's important to keep a few factors in mind before you sign a contract. It's also vital to not get distracted by things that don't matter.

Doesn't Matter: Price

This may seem counterintuitive, but price really shouldn't be a deciding factor in choosing your web host. As is often the case, you get what you pay for. A discount web host isn't likely to give you what you need in other areas, like customer service, uptime, and growth potential. By spending a few dollars more, you will save yourself a lot of time, money, and headaches down the line.

Very Important: Growth Capacity

Standard web hosting packages tend to place sites on a shared server because new sites often don't generate enough traffic to necessitate a dedicated server. Of course, your company's goal is to generate as much traffic as possible. If you succeed in hitting your traffic milestones, it won't be long before you'll have to upgrade your basic hosting account or even move to a different host altogether.

Look for web hosts who offer business packages including dedicated servers or VPS (virtual private server). You may not need so much capacity at the start, but it's a good investment for future traffic.

Doesn't Matter: Extra Services

Some web hosts like to tout new software, research updates, and other “premium” services. Some of these items are harmless, like hosting industry server speed reports, but other things should come standard, not as part of a premium package. Essentials like security features, website backup, and 24-hour tech support shouldn't require an account upgrade to access.

Very Important: Uptime

The amount of time a server remains active over the course of a month is known as “uptime,” a metric represented as a simple percentage. Uptime of 95 percent means that the host's servers are down for an average of 5 percent of every month. If a web host doesn't have over 98 percent uptime, they're bad for your business. You shouldn't solely trust the company's own uptime estimates. Look into independent uptime analysis for web hosting services, so you can confirm a host's projected uptime through an impartial third party.

Very Important: Security

Data security is one of the top concerns among businesses of every size. Just like you maintain strong security protocols in your own workplace, you should expect uncompromising dedication to security from your web host. Don't just take their security promises at face value. Ask questions and bring your own security experts into the conversation. The host should have a detailed action plan in the event of a security breach that includes regular contact with your company. Your data and your customers' data deserves top-to-bottom protection, whether it's at your office or in your web host's server room.

Very Important: Customer Service

Feeling like your host sees your company as a valued client makes all the difference in the world for a long-term working relationship like web hosting service. For web hosts, good customer service means more than just a friendly demeanor from tech support and sales reps. The host should offer round-the-clock support and demonstrate a willingness to answer any and all questions relevant to their services. If you don't understand their terms and they won't explain them, go for a different host. A good host should share your goals: consistent, long-term service with clear communication.

On your hunt for a web host, don't let the flash without substance dictate your decisions. Great service, solid security, and technical excellence will always matter more than discount prices and premium service packages. Make the most of your host today so you won't have to start over again and find a new host tomorrow, next week, or five years from now.

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