How to find the right web hosting service

How much bandwidth do you really need?

The answer to this question depends on what you want to get out of your
site. Will you be blogging daily? Uploading audio and video streams? Do
you need unlimited e-mail? Are you planning on using multiple domains?
If you’re looking to create more than a basic site, make sure that your
host company supports Ruby, Perl, PHP, MySQL and other programs. If you
have no idea what I just wrote, make sure your host company offers a
user-friendly program to help you build your Web site.

How good is the technical support?
This is one of the more critical questions to get answered before
choosing a Web host. Many companies advertise 24/7 support. Keyword:
advertise. If they offer telephone support, call ahead and see how long
it takes to get someone on the line or if they pick up at all. Also,
how long will it take until your issue is resolved? If Web chat and
e-mail support is important to you, make sure they offer it. Do they
have an FAQ page? A community forum? Where is the company based? And,
by extension, where is their support team based?

Read the terms of service carefully.
Can you cancel your contract or transfer your site without incurring
administrative fees? Do they offer a money-back guarantee or is your
contract nonrefundable? Can the host shut down your site without

How good is the host’s uptime?
Many hosts advertise uptimes of 99 percent or higher, which refers to
the amount of time the server is fully operational. Make sure to
independently verify their claims through a site like HostTracker.

Can the company support a surge in traffic? How fast is their connection?
Logically, a user wants to see their site traffic grow, so make sure
your host is equipped to handle heavy spikes. If you’re close to
exceeding your bandwidth, will you be notified in advance? How easy is
it to upgrade to more space? Some Web hosting companies list examples
of Web sites they host. If they don’t, ask them. Then log on and see
how well those sites load and operate. Or conversely, if you like a Web
site, find out who does their hosting via WhoIsHostingThis
or a similar site. Also, ask how many Web sites they host per server
and compare that number to see if other hosts’ numbers are
significantly lower.

How often do they back up their servers?
If the answer is not at all or infrequently, find another host. Also
ask if they own and operate their data center or if the host is a
reseller. And inquire as to whether your needs require a dedicated or
shared host. The last thing you want is to lose your information.

How good is their security?
You do not want to get spammed or attacked so ask if the Web host offers spam filtering and virus protection.

What operating system do they use? Linux? Windows? Other?
Again, depending on your needs, you may find that one system is more compatible than another.

How established is the company?
Although choosing an established company doesn’t mean you’re home free,
you should be especially wary of a company without a track record. This
makes it more difficult to research their credibility and might
increase the odds of them not being around the following year.

Any other issues we have missed? Better still, have firsthand experience
with a hosting company? Share your good, bad and never-again
experiences below.