As a new business owner, especially a mobile business owner, having a web presence is essential. Let’s talk about web hosting services.
Yet, choosing the right web hosting service isn’t an easy job. There are hundreds to choose from, with a wide range of fees and services. And it’s hard to know what your needs are before having any experience with this.
So, along with a checklist and some descriptions I’l give here, also check with anyone you know who has set up a website. Their comments about their experiences and web hosting services they’ve used will be invaluable. The reason that counts so much is that web hosting services can change over time. I started out using Network Solutions. At the time (around 2008) they were one of the best services, and reasonably priced. But over time I realized that it was impossible to get tech support help that was worth anything. It seemed like they couldn’t make sense of what I was asking. Either that or they had no idea what the answer was. After five years with them I began looking at their reviews. They started out pretty good, but clearly, over time the complaints grew more frequent and more serious.
POINT 1: Look for reviews about each service that you are considering.
I followed my own advice looking for reviews, referrals, and especially warnings about my next hosting service. I was particularly interested in MacHighway, thinking that they were Mac-focused and would naturally be a better choice for Mac users, like us. I checked those reviews, asked for references on social media sites, and it all looked good. But, to be cautious, I signed up for only one year. That was a smart move, because within eight months they started having problems ~ periods of downtime, hackers were getting in and scrambling sites, and, every time something happened, they made excuses and promised it would never happen again. They actually got sarcastic and demeaning with me because I didn’t know as much as they did. Really! As part of the tech support, designed to help the less informed, why would they expect any of their subscribers to be knowledgeable of this tecchy stuff?
POINT 2: Sometimes great reviews aren’t enough. There are things you can learn only by taking a risk, that is, your own experience.
POINT 3: Services that were once good and went bad might turn around and improve their quality. Be careful, in case they haven’t, but don’t write them off completely.
My next attempt led me to several great services, thanks to referrals from dozens of people who were using these. Whittling it down to just one was my problem. The ones that looked good for my purposes included:
There were many others, but I didn’t keep notes. I ruled them out based on features, price, or some other factor. I eliminated 1and1 and Arvixe on price, and Hostgator and Weebly on features or limitations. These were reasons three years ago, so again, my needs have changed and they may have changed prices or services.
I was down to BlueHost and WebHostingHub. These are shared services, meaning that an account will share a server with other site owners. There’s no overlap with other people’s accounts, though. Your site will not be accessible by anyone else. I ended up choosing WebHostingHub over BlueHost for two reasons. WebHostingHub seemed to have more features (at the time) such as unlimited email accounts (I seem to remember BlueHost having a limit of 5, but today it is unlimited.) WebHostingHub was having a sale and it’s monthly price for a 3-year contract was less than BlueHost. I’ve been very happy with them for almost three years now. I have an associate who is trying to set up a video training site for portable careers. He’s on BlueHost and, so far, is hosting streaming videos. That says a lot about BlueHost, too.
POINT 4: Sometimes you can get more than what you pay for if you shop wisely. Price does matter.
The following checklist will help you evaluate and compare web hosting services. It’ not exhaustive, but will serve you for this purpose as well as for helping you think up other questions more specific to your purposes.
- Define your goals for having a website. It is for a blog or to sell a product or service, or all of that?
- Do you want to use analytics and track traffic?
- Will you have a shopping cart, take credit cards, a PayPal link or some other method of payment.
- If you will blog, do they offer WordPress?
- Do they offer C-Panel? If so, what is included? When we switched from MacHighway, sadly I lost a couple programs that were on their C-Panel, but not on WebHostingHub’s C-Panel. But now I don’t even remember what they were, so all’s good.
- As mentioned above, I’m satisfied with shared hosting, but consider whether you need a virtual private server (VPS) or dedicated hosting. Ask how much space you will have, and do take time to estimate how much you will need. If their tech support can help you with this, that’s great.
- Speaking of tech support, this is more important than it might seem. WebHostingHub tech support rocks, and is better than any I’ve come across. They’re knowledgeable, friendly, and patient with us, and that’s only one of their great benefits.
- Read ALL of the terms of service.
- Look up (search) any terms you don’t know. They’ll show up in the terms of service, and you do want to know what you’re agreeing to.
- Find out what they mean by “unlimited”. Unlimited service on a shared server becomes limited when we all use up the server space. Unlimited server on a VPS or dedicated server is actually limited to the size of the server. What else is claimed to be unlimited but actually is limited. Email size? Number of email accounts? Amount of email storage? Bandwidth? FTP bandwidth?
- Do you need a domain name, and will the service obtain it for you? Will they register it in your name (gives you freedom to move to another hosting service) or do they register it in theirs. If so, can you move it or is the name (your trademark) going to be under their ownership.
- NOTE: I wanted mine to be anonymous at Whois.org, and by paying an additional $10/month my web hosting services registered it to their name. I have never lost ownership and am able to move my name if I need to.
- Whois.org lets you register privately so that your contact information is private. This helps cut down on spam.
- Is the domain registration included in the annual fee? Just for new customers or every year? How much is it. This fee can vary from $10 to $30.
- Moving a domain name within ten days of renewing the name may take some planning. Find out what these restrictions are and plan ahead so that your site isn’t down for any period of time. One service recommended I simply have my old hosting service renew my domain name and point it to the new hosting service, as it would avoid the 10 day delay in having the new hosting service register the domain name for me. They gave me the information on pointing it to give to the old provider. So, you can actually have your domain name registered through one service, and “pointing to” or showing up on another service.
- If a web hosting service offers more than one level of service, does it have a comparison chart of their services’ features? Some services also offer comparison charts of competitors’ services. Double check the information, but if it’s current and accurate, this can save you a lot of time. You might want to consider making your own comparison chart.
- Especially keep notes on prices for different levels of service, and compare to other services. If they offer several levels of service, you can start small and move up to the next level on the same hosting service without disrupting your website.
- How large can an email be? It used to be that Yahoo, HotMail, AOL, etc. only allowed attachments up to 5mb. I’m sure it’s more, now, but I don’t know the limit. I often send huge files, and my service limits me to about 52 or 54 mb per email. That can be quite a few photos, PDFs, Word docs or other files.
- Personally, our business often sends files well over 100mb. So, we’ve added files to FTP on our site. If you need this feature, be sure to ask if you have room. The web hosting service might even have instructions on their site. WebHostingHub has an extensive library of instructions.
- Also mentioned above ~ Check as many reviews as you can find. The ones on the web hosting sites will always be flowery. But do a search on the web hosts’ names and add “reviews” to the search (i.e. Bluehost reviews) to find other review sites.
While that’s not an exhaustive checklist, it does contain much of what you’ll need to consider. I also invite anyone who can add to that list to do so in the comments below. Thanks for following us. Until next time …
Happy Trails and Tales,