If you are currently blogging, or are considering creating a blog you will need to have it hosted somewhere. With literally thousands of web hosting companies out there – how do you choose among them? What should you look for to ensure that you find a quality web hosting provider? Here are a few tips to get you pointed in the right direction.
Reputation – Perhaps no other single factor is as telling about a web hosting provider as their reputation. By reputation we refer to the comments generated by current customers. In other words, the publicly observable appraisal of those actually engaging with the web host day in and day out. There are a few great ways to check on a potential web hosting company’s reputation online.
Google Search – Step one is to search Google for the company name, but also search phrases like ‘company name problems’ or ‘company name service’. Google is great for seeing the total accumulation of comments over time. You’ll see the disgruntled customer from 2002 that created a whole website to voice his displeasure. Or you’ll see comments from years past about how great your potential webhost is. What to do if you want to see extremely current information? Try Twitter search – see below.
Twitter – Besides being a great place to view the outward face of your webhost through their Twitter feed, you can also see comments from current customers. These comments are often less than a few hours old as well. So the information that you are getting about a customer service issue or outage are often happening right at the moment you are learning about it. To use Twitter as a real time search engine simply go to the search box: http://search.twitter.com – and type in your query. Try both the format ”host name” and ”@hostname” (this is the usual Twitter handle for a business).
Web Hosting Resource Sites and Forums – There are also specialty websites that research and review web hosting providers and their products. These sites range from current news and information about reputable hosting companies to ongoing conversations and threads in various web hosting forums. Among the best resources are: The Hosting News, webhostingtalk.com, Ping! Zine and Tophosts.com. Be aware that there are also some ”Top 10” type websites that receive affiliate bounties for recommending certain hosting providers. While these may be great web hosts, you ought to conduct separate independent research on any web host recommended through a ”Top 10” website.
Account Types – A second important factor to consider when selecting a web hosting provider is to match your online needs with the specific account types offered by the hosting company. Often a webhost will specialize in a particular type of web hosting. As an example, let’s say that you have selected the WordPress content management system as your preferred publishing platform for your blog. You would of course want to make certain that your web host is capable at WordPress hosting. Further, if WordPress was a specialization of your potential web hosting company they may offer special features such as a ”one click” install of the WordPress software, or special proprietary plugins developed just for their customers. You may also need WordPress themes and a specialized WordPress provider may supply free themes for their customers. Here are a few different type of hosting that you may want to consider.
Linux Hosting – Plain vanilla Linux operating system behind the hosting. This is very common, flexible and often is at a lower cost.
Windows / ASP.NET – This operating system is built upon the Microsoft server technology and is sometimes a prerequisite for enterprise or business scale hosting.
Shared Hosting – You receive a small sector of space and resources on a web server shared with others. If high security and uptime are important to you – you may want to select a virtual server or dedicated server instead.
Virtual Server / VPS Hosting – Virtualization has become commonplace and can offer many of the same benefits of a dedicated server (security, space, scalability) at a lower cost. A virtual server is a ”server” that is created with software – but has all the same attributes of a dedicated server. This is true even though multiple virtual servers exist on a single dedicated server.
Dedicated Server – In the case of very large sites, or website where security is paramount, a dedicated server is a great option. This is an entire web server which houses nothing but your website and databases. The benefits are high availability, high security and plenty of room to grow. The benefits come at a price though – dedicated servers are at a higher price point than both shared and virtual servers.
There are many more types of hosting, with each serving a specific market niche. To match up your needs with those of your provider give them a call to discuss your specific website configuration.
Geography – When considering which webhost is right for you, take a moment to consider your audience. That is, who will actually be viewing your website content. More specifically, consider which search engines will be important to your business strategy. If getting traffic from search engines is important to you (and it should be) you must select a host that serves your geographic target. This is because search engines look at the geographic location of the originating server to decide which countries and local geographies will be most relevant for that website. For example, if you plan on targeting website visitors in the United Kingdom, you would want your business to be listed we among the search engines for the UK (for example google.co.uk). Therefore, you would need to select a web hosting provider who has servers based in the UK.
Note – the company itself doesn’t have to be located in your target geography. They just need to have a server presence in your target country that can house your website.
Service Factors – Webmasters range from the uber-technical to the novice. No matter your level of technical expertise, you will need to obtain the help of your web host at some point. A critical consideration in selecting a web hosting provider for your blog needs to be: Will this company make it easy for me to ask questions and get problems resolved quickly? Look for a web host that offers communication in the ways that you prefer. For example, if you like to use chat to get issues resolved – look for a hosting company that offers support via chat. Similarly, if you want to call up and get a human being on the other end of the call, look for strong phone support. It never hurts to do a ”test run” on communications prior to buying. Use the chat service or phone number to ask a few pre-sales questions. This will at least help you gauge how responsive the host is to queries.
Good luck in selecting the best web host for you. Remember to conduct your research ahead of time, to ensure that you have a great and trouble-free web hosting experience.