Hosting a website – find the right host and avoid the pitfalls

Hosting. It’s not that important, is it? Well, yes it’s very important. Not only is your critical website data being stored on there, your livelihood and business these days is based on the success of your website. Now you wouldn’t rent offices that were cheap and did the job would you? Especially not, if you realised that you couldn’t always get into them at certain times of the day or the fa├žade looked great but the foundations were ready to collapse? Well, that’s what some people do with hosting and I’m going to tell you my best tips on what you should look out for when buying hosting.

  1. Where is it based? If you’re a business based in the UK, you should have your hosting in the UK. It’s a known fact these days that Google and other search engines notice where you are based in the world and rank you accordingly. If you want to be ranked best on UK search pages, then having a UK based server for your hosting (and a UK domain name) will help you achieve better rankings. Not only that, your website connection is quicker for those in the UK and you’re more than likely to find that a UK company is much more helpful when something goes wrong than say someone in the US.
  2. Don’t compromise on price. As much as you have a budget don’t be suckered into special offers and cheaper alternatives just to save you a bit of money. I understand that these days in a tough global market, cuts are necessary but you get what you pay for in this world and you should work by that philosophy.
  3. Don’t believe the hype. ‘99.9% guaranteed uptime’. ‘Your site online all the time or your money back!’ We’ve all heard the marketing spiel and sometimes we get bamboozled by it all. Many sites claim 99.9% uptime but you’d be surprised that if your site is down, many SLAs don’t even accommodate for compensation if something goes wrong. Check the small print and check reviews on independent hosting review websites before making the plunge.
  4. Lost in the Cloud. Don’t get me wrong, cloud server technology is great and pretty much every major hosting company has a Cloud solution. However, you still share resource pools with other websites on most cloud platforms, so if someone has been hogging bandwidth on your cluster or using up lots of server resources for their application, you’re site can slow down to a death, especially if the hosting company doesn’t actively monitor and penalise the offenders. I’ve also noticed that database connections on some of these Cloud hosts are not too hot either. In fact, one major cloud provider suggested that instead of them improve or manage their databases better, I should just upgrade to a dedicated database server! For some people, the cloud sounds promising but on a budget, you may just be better off using standard web hosting if you’re not expecting to be featured on TV or radio in the near future.
  5. Check the traffic. It’s criminal to change hosts if you haven’t done your research on the traffic and bandwidth your site currently uses. Make sure the sums add up and accommodate for future growth or spikes in traffic. You don’t want to miss out on that big opportunity!
  6. Money back guarantees. You’d be surprised to hear that you can get your money back if you’re not happy with the service of hosting in any way. These are usually limited to either 30 or 60 days but check whether the host you’re looking at provides it. More often than not, the ones that do are usually so happy with their service that they know few will want to leave. However, don’t take it as gospel and as always, check the small print.
  7. Hanging on the telephone? How often have things gone wrong with your host and you’re stuck in an email ticketing system waiting for a response. It’s frustrating and many hosts only offer that as a support option. You can however find hosts that do have a phone service which can be very useful to test the quality of their customer service. If you’re in a trial period, give them a call for a mundane query just to see how quick and easy it is to get in touch with them. Otherwise, before you buy, call the sales hotline and ask them lots of tricky questions. If they are knowledgeable themselves to answer the questions quickly and effectively then it’s a good indication that you will get a good service. If however, they keep you hanging on the phone speaking to their support team and come back with a poor answer, you know your business may be suited to someone else. You’d be surprised how many people buy hosting without checking this simple method out first.
  8. Phone a friend. No, you’re not on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire but if you know someone who has a website and you’re good friends with them, there’s no harm in asking who they’re with and what they think of them. This way you get the truth about their host and you never know, you may just find the jewel in the crown.
  9. Back me up. Things can go wrong like any piece of technology so you should be prepared for the worst. Now most good web hosts will automatically have a recent backup of your site should the server mess-up. Check that there is some contingency in place so you’re not left picking up the pieces. Don’t forget, there’s no place like home for backups, so make your own copies frequently and keep them safe on your computer as well.

This isn’t an exhaustive check-list but it’s definitely going to help you find the right host and avoid the pitfalls many fall in to. I’m not affiliated with any host and have been working as a freelance web designer for the last 8 years. If you need my advice on hosting or creating a website feel free to get in touch, I’d be happy to help.

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