How to choose a good web host
Whether you are looking for your first potential web hosting provider or a replacement one, chances are that you may be initially overwhelmed by the large number of web hosts on the market as well as the endless web hosting solutions that most seem to offer.
Choosing the appropriate web hosting solution depends on and is contingent upon the present and expected future needs of your website.
This can often be difficult because you will never really know if a web host that you have chosen is suitable for your needs until after you have committed yourself.
If a web host is not living up to your exptectations, there is the added inconvenience of finding another web host all over again and subsequently transfering your website to it.
Doing proper and diligent research is therefore of paramount importance when choosing a web host especially if you have or intend to have a high-traffic website one day. In this article, we offer some guidelines to help you in choosing the perfect web host for your projects.
As these guidelines are generic in nature, you should also check if a particular web host has been covered in ourreviewsfor other salient features that may be unique to each web host.
One of the most important requirements of a good web host is the provision of reliable uptime supported by its network infrastructure. As a general rule, any web host that promises uptime of anything less than 99% should be avoided.
Server uptime is the most important consideration in choosing a good web host.
Many web hosts also offer explicit uptime guarantees with their web hosting plans that may entitle customers to some form of compensation for downtime experienced in excess of the guaranteed amount.
For example,HostGatorandDreamHostcompensate their customers with free hosting in the event that their servers do not achieve the guaranteed uptime.
Server Load Time
This refers to how fast your website loads from the web host's servers for your visitors. Although many factors can influence a site's load times, a website should not take longer than a few seconds to load.
A website that takes too long to load will drive away all your visitors.
A recent article by theNew York Timesreported that web surfers are becoming increasingly impatient and would not even tolerate an imperceptible delay of a few seconds when loading a page :
For Impatient Web Users, an Eye Blink Is Just Too Long to Wait
In 2009, a study by Forrester Research found that online shoppers expected pages to load in two seconds or fewer — and at three seconds, a large share abandon the site. Only three years earlier a similar Forrester study found the average expectations for page load times were four seconds or fewer.
The two-second rule is still often cited as a standard for Web commerce sites. Yet experts in human-computer interaction say that rule is outdated. “The old two-second guideline has long been surpassed on the racetrack of Web expectations,” said Eric Horvitz, a scientist at Microsoft’s research labs.
If you use Firefox as your web browser, there is an extension calledFasterfoxthat you can use to determine how quickly a website loads.
Some web hosts likeInMotion Hostingtry to provide faster loading times by offering its customers a choice to host their websites on either its East or West Coast data centers depending on the location of their targeted audience.
Most web hosts also offer content delivery features like CloudFlare or Akamai with their web hosting plans, which speed up loading times significantly.
Although not entirely relevant from a technical perspective, web hosts that been around for some time are generally able to provide a more stable and reliabe service. With the robust competitiveness of the web hosting industry, it is not an understatement that only the best survive by offering superior web hosting experience coupled with reasonable pricing.
A veteran web host is more likely to offer an above average web hosting experience.
Keep in mind that pricing isn't the most important consideration but is usually one of the things that smaller and inexperienced web hosts emphasize on to get customers to choose their plans.
Green Web Hosting
If you are conscious about environmental issues, you may elecy to choose a web host that powers its web servers and data centers with alternative energy sources.
Green hosting is becoming an increasingly important consideration these days.
In another recent article by theNew York Times, a report on the power consumption of global data centers by Jonathan G. Koomey, a consulting professor in the civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University revealed the following figures :
Electricity used by data centers worldwide increased by about 56% from 2005 to 2010 instead of doubling (as it did from 2000 to 2005), while in the US it increased by about 36% instead of doubling.
Electricity used in global data centres in 2010 accounted for between 1.1% and 1.5% of total electricity use respectively. For U.S. data centres, that number was between 1.7 and 2.2%.
Data centers consume a substantial amount of energy which are typically generated by conventional coal-fired power plants. Many web hosts today recognizing the need to reduce their carbon footprints have proactively implemented various measures to lower the energy consumption of their data centers.
Some likeGreenGeeksbuy Renewable Energy Certificates, which are like coupons to effectively power their servers through wind energy. Others prefer alternative intiatives like using outside air cooling technology to cool their servers rather than conventional air-conditioning.
If a web host claims to power its servers with alternative energy, be sure to check on the accuracy of it's claim by determining if any certifications by the relevant authorities exist. Most usually enter into a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency to become anEPA Green Partner.
Management and customer service
The management of a web host is equally important as it usually indicates the quality of customer service that its customers can expect to receive. It is not uncommon to see managers of web hosts personally address complaints in public forums. An respectable example can be seen of Trey Gardner, the CEO of GreenGeekshere.
A great customer team is usually beholdened to an equally solid management team.
Another thing to look out for is whether a web host's customer service staff is outsourced or located in the U.S.
Most web hosts have a live chat function on their websites that you can make inquiries with. You can use this to make a cursory albeit incomplete assessment of a web host's customer service aptitude.
One thing to keep in mind when doing your research is that the competency and needs of each customer are different. Therefore it's not possible for a web host's customer support staff to address every single customer concern perfectly. There will always be problematic customers who have unreasonable demands that any web host find difficult to fulfill.
These customers occasionally become abusive in their communications with web hosts even when customer support staff have been courteous in manner and earnest in their efforts to assist them. It is a web host's responses and how it address a customer's complaints which really speaks volumes about its customer service more than the complaints themselves.
Some web hosts have even gone further than their peers in trying to provide superior customer service.Site5offers a 6-hour technical support response guarantee whileFatCowhas its unique Heifercratic Oath which entitles a customer to one month of free hosting if the quality of customer support experienced is below expectations.
Many web hosting review sites will use pricing as the most important determinant in choosing a good host. We feel that price is a measure of value to the customer and where the service provided is bad, having a low price is simply paying for bad service.
A great hosting solution is useless if its priced beyond the reach of most a web host's customers.
Many reputable web hosts these days offer attractive promotional rates that are only available for registrations of at least 24-months in advance.
Do note however that these rates will revert back to a web host's respective regular rates after the initial registration hosting period has expired. Ourreviewsprovide a complete pricing schedule for all available plans at all available registration lengths so be sure to take a look.
Another important point to note is that almost all web hosts will automatically renew their customers plans upon expiry of the initial hosting terms as a courtesy. This is a standard practice of the web hosting industry and is usually found in a web hosts terms of service. Customers can normally opt out of this arrangement by emailing the billing department.
Many web hosts provide additional value-added features by partnering with third-party service providers. Examples of these including integration of content distribution networks like CloudFlare and Akamai and numerous other web security suites to prevent malware and viruses.
A world-class host is able to partner with other prominent companies to offer numerous value-added services.
Most web hosts these days provide similar hosting features that are either overlooked or unnecessary. Most have an extensive features list that you are unlikely to use anyway.
A web hosting package should ideally come with an extensive list of useful features.
Be sure to look out for essential features like administration tools (cPanel etc), content management support (for WordPress, Drupal, Joomla sites) and security features.
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