Hundreds of hosting providers are competing these days to attract customers in different ways. In most cases, their offers look very similar, especially to those who are new to web hosting, making the selection of a good hosting provider a very difficult and confusing task.
If you are new to web hosting, you first need to know the basics of web hosting. You should know the answers to the following questions:
- What is a web host?
- What are the available host server platforms? What are the differences between server types?
- What is the bandwidth?
- What is a domain name? How Can I get one?
- How can I create web pages?
- What are scripting languages? What can I do with them?
- What is FTP?
- What features do I need for my website?
If you don’t know the answers to the above questions, you can find answers and hints here.
If you are only intending to build a small and simple personal website to publish your pet’s (or family) pictures, then you don’t need to worry, almost any hosting plan will meet your needs. You can go for the cheapest provider, even free ones.
However, If you are about to build a business site to sell goods or services, then you have to be careful about all the details of your new web host. You must read, research, compare and then decide. You don’t want to spend your time, effort and money to attract customers to a website that is not up to your business requirements; this will really hit your image.
It is certainly important to study the features required in the hosting plan. You must know what does storage capacity, bandwidth, platform and scripting languages mean, and how important each one is for your new website, but this is not enough, not at all.
After you shortlist the candidate hosts to only include the ones that meet your requirements, do some research on providers’ history, read some unbiased reviews about their services and explore some customer experience. These are the factors that should make your final decision.
Be careful when researching such information about a provider. Performing a quick search on google about “best web hosting” or “top 10 hosting companies” will not directly return the right and honest information. Most of hosting reviews sites are not actually providing honest reviews. Instead of giving it based on the quality of service, the highest ranks and best reviews are actually given to the companies paying higher commissions to their affiliates. I’ve seen this on quite a lot of review sites.
So, after you have narrowed your web host choices to several providers, you’ll need to take a more in-depth look at them before deciding which one you should go with. You have to perform a thorough evaluation process which might take hours, or even days, for each choice. Sources of information that can support your evaluation process can be in:
- At least three honest and unbiased review sites.
- Several reviews in more than one web hosting forum.
- Direct feedback from real customers of the candidate providers.
Web Hosting Review Sites
Hosting directories and review sites are useful in the process of narrowing your search, especially those who provide an automatic search utility based on price, space, bandwidth, OS, etc. which can save your time and effort in this aspect.
Avoid review sites with “top 10” sort of recommendations. Go for those which provide user reviews, and read the reviews carefully. Compare reviews and user opinions from as much review sites as you can, at least three. As stated above, be careful when reading customer reviews as some hosts might encourage their new customers to write favorable reviews by offering some advantages.
Web Hosting Forums
Open forums are important source of reviews and customer experience. They are open places where customers can write their reviews and opinions about their hosts. However, they can have the same problem as review sites: a provider can write very positive reviews about his own company. The opposite might also happen: competitors can write very negative reviews about their competitors. In some forums, this activity is not permitted. Moderators are strictly monitoring the forums for such activities and deal with them in away that preserve their honesty and credibility, but this cannot guarantee that all the reviews are 100% accurate and honest. Keep in mind: what fits with other users’ needs might not fit with your needs.
Search for “web hosting forum” in any search engine and you will get hundreds of them. My favorite one is www.webhostingtalk.com. Almost all forums have a search services from which you can search for your candidate hosting provider’s name or URL. If you get results for your search, read as much related threads as possible. If you don’t get results you can post a thread asking for customer reviews about the intended provider(s). Again, don’t base your final decision on one opinion. Read reviews in different threads on more than one forum.
Feedback from Customers
Some web hosts list samples of their customers. Others have forums on their websites for support, where you will see examples of issues raised by real customers and how did the company dealt with. On those forums you might get addresses of some customers. Try to contact those customers to find out what they think about the service and support.
At this point, you can make a decision based on a combination of the gathered information. You will most probably be satisfied with the host you choose.
by Abbas Alafoo