When you are looking at choosing a web hosting company for your website, there may be some variables that you do not understand upfront. As a parent I relate the process as being like buying your first pram before your baby arrives- very difficult to know what to buy without knowing exactly what your needs are.
Before you decide to go with a specific web hosting company, let's take a look at the most important criteria you should be considering before you sign up to a web hosting company.
Some of the larger hosting companies provide service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This can vary between phone service, online chat, or ticketed response. You may not feel that you need a high level of customer service, but if your website has technical issues, you will be wanting the technical help that your host provides.
Web hosting companies may offer a cheap package with a certain level of traffic allowed. A "deluxe" package which allows for more traffic can be a whole lot more expensive that the basic package. Depending on what you want to have on your website in terms of video content you may need higher than basic data levels, so be sure to check what services youre getting charged for upfront and what happens if you exceed your bandwidth.
Bells and Whistles
Often, hosting companies provide a 'cheap and cheerful' package to get sign ups. If you decide you want extra pages, search engine optimisation or any other 'extras', you can expect to pay a premium for them. Try to look for a company that gives you a bit of flexibility and 'space' in terms of what you can do with your website before you need to upgrade to a more expensive package.
For any serious business you want to know that you are going to have a website that is available to your customer base. Look for uptime above 99%, most hosts will offer this.
You will want to know what kind of security measures a web hosting company will have to protect your website from hackers and to protect your data and personal information.
Some web hosts can make it difficult for you to cancel your services or move your website to another company. They can keep billing you even after you cancel the service. Make sure you stay on top of your billing, even after you've moved on to another hosting provider.
Lastly do a quick Internet search for the web hosting company you are considering and check for feedback, both in terms of reliability and service. The web hosting company is definitely not going to tell you if they have had any complaints against them. This will be up to you to find out.
The cost of hosting needs to play a part, but you should make sure all of your other criteria are being met before looking at price. Cheap web hosting often does not meet even the most basic needs, which will only cost you time and money in the long run when you have the hassle of having to move hosts.