Although web hosting may not cost as much as other business essentials (such as employee salaries, advertising campaigns, etc.) choosing a web host is still a critical decision. Choosing the wrong web host could literally spell doom for your website or online business through down-time, broken features, lack of support, etc. Use this list of questions to help you evaluate web hosting companies and choose the best one for your website.
A technical support team that is easily and quickly available 24/7 is a must-have. You will need to be able to contact technical support quickly if your website goes down or encounters other technical issues.
1. How is technical support available? E-mail, chat, phone? For urgent or complex issues, phone or chat support is a huge help.
2. When is technical support available? Look for a web host that offers tech support 24/7.
3. Does tech support cost extra? While most web hosts offer free unlimited technical support, a few do charge extra.
4. How do they handle advanced issues? If an issue cannot be resolved through standard technical support, do they offer advanced technical support from senior technical staff?
Websites have different individual requirements—they use a variety of technologies and languages to provide functionality to users. You should be aware of the technical requirements of your website, and ensure that your selected web host offers everything you need.
5. What scripting languages does the host support? Most web hosts support PHP and/or ASP, which are two of the most common scripting languages.
6. What types of databases are supported? Most dynamic websites require one or more databases, usually of a specific type. There are several types of databases that your website might require, including MySQL and MS SQL.
7. How many databases are included? Some web hosts allow unlimited databases, while others limit the number of databases you may create.
8. What control panel is included? The control panel is where you will manage aspects of your website such as e-mails, databases, settings, etc. The most popular control panel is cPanel, although Plesk is also a popular option. If a web hosting company offers a different control panel check to see what features and usability it offers.
9. Will you have root access? While not needed for most small websites, root access is necessary to install or modify certain software on your hosting account.
10. Can you change PHP settings? In some cases, you will need to modify default PHP settings on your hosting account for your website scripts to run properly. This is typically done by editing the php.ini file, although some changes can be made through the .htaccess file. Each web host is different regarding what settings, if any, you are allowed to change.
Storage and bandwidth
Storage, also called disk space, is a measurement of how much data (files and databases) you are allowed to store on your hosting account. Bandwidth is used each time a visitor accesses a file on your website—the more visitors your website has per month, the more bandwidth you will need.
11. How much disk space are you allowed? Most modern web hosting packages offer more than enough disk space for the average small website. However, if your website includes media or other large files, you may find you need additional disk space.
12. How much bandwidth are you allowed? Again, most web hosting packages offer plenty of bandwidth for a small website. Once your traffic levels start to grow, you may need to buy more bandwidth.
Your domain name and your web hosting work closely together, but will not necessarily be provided by the same company.
13. Does the web host offer domain registration? Most web hosts offer domain registration, either as part of your web hosting package or for an additional fee.
14. Does domain registration cost extra? Some web hosting companies charge extra for domain registration, while others include it in the hosting package cost.
15. How many domains are allowed per account? Many web hosting packages allow you to have multiple domain names on the same hosting account. If you run multiple websites, this allows you to save money by only purchasing one hosting package.
Many webmasters use their own tools, but some users prefer to choose a hosting package that includes a tool for designing and managing the website.
16. Does the hosting package include an easy-to-use website builder? A typical website builder will allow you to add, edit, and delete pages and files. Most include a simple visual editor that allows non-technical users to easily edit the content of webpages.
17. Can the website builder be turned off? If you hire a professional designer to create your website, they will most likely design the website on their own computer and upload it to your web host via FTP. Will your web host allow this? (Most do.)
There are two different ways you can set up e-mails on your domain (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org). You can either create a separate email account on your domain, or you can set up a forwarder to forward emails to another email account you own.
18. How many e-mail addresses does your web hosting package include?
19. Does your web hosting package include e-mail accounts, forwarders, or both?
20. Can additional e-mail addresses be purchased, and if so, how much do they cost?
Contract and cost
Most web hosting providers offer simple, easy-to-understand pricing terms, but it’s always worth checking to be sure you fully understand how much you will have to pay and when.
21. Would you be locked into a contract? If so, how long is the contract?
22. Is there a set up or cancellation fee?
23. Are there fees other than the monthly service fee?
Here are a few additional questions you should ask that did not fit into the above categories. These questions are just as important, so don’t skip them.
24. Does the web host offer an uptime guarantee? Practically no web host can truly offer 100% uptime. A good modern web host should provide uptime of 99.9% or greater, though.
25. What do past and current clients think of the web host? Read some online reviews to get a feel for a web host’s customer satisfaction. Keep in mind that no web host can make everybody happy all the time.
26. What is the web host’s reputation and history?