to ask your potential web service provider
The key to successfully choosing a suitable web host
for your website needs is to be very clear about what you want your website to
be and how you see it developing. Considerations of bandwidth, disk space and
uptime, along with tools and features to ease your website creation and
maintenance process, are all elements of what to look for in choosing the web
host service best suited to your Internet needs. For example, online retailers
need to assure their customers that all transactions are secure, while owners
of personal websites need to be able to frequently update content with ease and
need the space to host photos and videos. Your budget and technical expertise
will also influence your decision.
There's a great deal of advice on the Internet about
how to choose a web hosting service and the relative merits of each company.
However, much of the advice is from companies that want you to purchase their
web services. We found the most useful and objective advice at sites that
professionally evaluate or write about computer products and services. See the Our
Look for a web host that has a long track record.
the Better Business Bureau for the region in which the web host service is
located to see if the company is registered there, and to identify any
complaints against them. Also search the Internet for forums that discuss
people's experiences with the business.
whether the business owns its own data center or if it relies on another
organization to provide the computing power.
for references from satisfied long-term customers.
the web host's servers are down, your website is effectively closed for
- Make sure the host is directly connected to the
backbone of the Internet. Some hosts are resellers that may have their
computers in between yours and their service provider. Experts say a web
hosting service should have at least one T3 line directly connected to the
Internet. Check the host's website or ask customer service. It's a good
opportunity to test customer support responsiveness.
- Make sure the host provides backup and redundancy. Redundancy means
that your site is located on more than one hard drive. A reliable host will
have your site on two different computers with redundant backbone connections.
the statistics that show the uptime percentage of the web service provider. Uptime is often measured in percentages of 9s: 99.999 percent uptime means that
the web servers were down for just over 5 minutes in a year, while 99.9 percent
uptime reflects a downtime of almost 9 hours a year.
the uptime guarantees of the web service provider to understand the
qualifications for receiving credit for downtime. For example, planned downtime
for maintenance may not be considered an outage of service. Some reviews say
that web hosting services' guarantees lack teeth and that the financial credit
provided for lost time is insufficient.
- The host should have a backup power generator to use
during short-term power outages. Location information can be found on the web
service and support
experienced web masters run into problems when maintaining their websites, so
knowledgeable and readily available customer support is a must.
out the different methods by which you can contact customer support. Phone
contact -- preferably through a toll-free number and email support -- is often
available, while live chat puts you in direct contact with a service rep who
can guide you to the solution to your problems.
are the hours of customer support for each method of contact? How quickly are
emails responded to? Is there a phone number for emergencies?
at the online help documentation. Check if it's easy to access, well organized
and understandable. Video tutorials are especially useful to follow along with
if you're using the service provider's web creation tools.
- Test customer service and tech support with email
messages and phone calls. Keep track of how easy (or hard) it is to get in touch and how long it takes
them to respond.
websites need a variety of tools for their creation, maintenance and
the web host's tools for web site creation. These range from an all-inclusive
service that creates and maintains the website for you, to one that provides
site builder tools and templates for you to build your own site. Also check out
ConsumerSearch's web design software report.
tools are valuable for all websites, not just for e-commerce sites. Mailing
lists, search engine optimization and search engine submission tools are all
essential to help others find your website.
you have an e-commerce site, your web service host should allow you to create
your own shopping cart and Paypal access, or make it easy for you to link to a
third-party shopping cart provider. If you're selling digital goods such as
e-books or videos, verify that the service provides secure downloads.
and experienced web masters should check that the web service supports the
programming languages they use, such as PERL.
in mind how you want your website to grow, and choose a service provider with
the necessary tools. Site tools should be easy to use, with clear
basic resources that the web host service provides may have limitations.
the file types and sizes that the web host allows. There may be a monthly limit
on the size of your files, as well as a restriction on the size of individual
files. This is especially important if you plan on using video or audio files
on your website.
allowed bandwidth will affect not only types and sizes of files you can use on
your website, but how quickly they can be accessed by website visitors. Investigate any penalties and additional costs that apply if you exceed your
bandwidth allowance. Some providers allow for variable bandwidth allowances,
which is especially useful for e-commerce sites with seasonal fluctuations in
your website grows and expands, you may need more than one domain name. Ensure
that the web service provider allows multiple domain names within one service
addresses that contain your web address make your website more professional and
credible. Check that the web host will allow you to have an adequate number of
email accounts, both for now and for your site's future growth.
any of these resources are advertised as unlimited, read the fine print. Look
for terms such as "excessive resources" and "normal usage"
to see if these introduce any limitations and additional costs.
clear about what's included for the price and for the length of your
the price of the service closely and check for any additional costs, such as
setup fees. If the service includes the registration of the domain name,
investigate whether it's less expensive to do this through a domain
registration service (see our related report).
the length of your commitment to the web service provider. Investigate how easy
it is to leave the provider and any penalties you may incur in doing so. Is
there a money-back guarantee if their services don't meet your needs?
a provider that allows you to upgrade or even downgrade your service agreement
means that you can remain with them as your website changes. If you decide to
leave the web host, how easy is it to transfer your domain name to your new
aware of all the pros and cons of free web host services. They usually make
their money by placing advertisements on your website. Investigate what kinds of
advertisements will be placed on your pages, as this will affect visitors'
perceptions of your site.