Looking for a new web hosting provider can be a daunting process, there are thousands of choices out there with some being better than others, how do you find the right one for you?
Even though there are many great providers, there are also many “summer hosts” out there, these are “companies” setup by people who don’t know what they’re doing, don’t plan on running the business for very long (hence the “summer” in the name) or are simply unaware of the amount of work that goes into running a successful or even profitable business. If you happen to sign up with somebody like this then there is a good chance your website wont be online for very long!
So how do you avoid a host that could be problematic and find somebody who will keep your website up and running fast?
This is probably the most obvious thing to look for. A lot of not so reputable hosts sell their services with extreme pricing, usually being as cheap as possible but they are sometimes incredibly expensive for the service provided.
Make sure their prices are similar to what other providers are offering for the same specifications and location, if something is too good to be true then it probably is.
It’s also a good idea to read the small print about the hosts refund policy to make sure you are protected financially if they cannot provide the service.
Check their WhoIS Information
Another way of checking who is behind the company you are debating whether to purchase from is to check their domains WhoIS record. A WhoIS record is a record that most domains have which displays the contact information for the domain.
There are services that hide the real owner from the WhoIS record, we use one of these services on our domain, a trading company however should have their information available publically. You can check the information for a domain by using a service such as who.is. All you need to do is enter the domain you wish to view the information of and press search.
If the company is reputable there will usually be a registered company with a contact for the domain, otherwise they will be using a privacy service like we use.
Look for public reviews
You shouldn’t trust reviews that are self published on the hosts website, this is for the reason that the reviews maybe faked to make the company look more legitimate than it really is. Before purchasing with a host you should look for reviews on websites such as this one, forums such as LowEndTalk and WebHostingTalk and also websites such as TrustPilot.
Remember to look for many reviews and not just from one source, this will give you a good overview of the company as a whole which will influence your decision to host with them or not.
Another problem when looking at reviews is that their are a lot of fake reviews which a shady host will pay to be written for them, these make it hard to find genuine reviews on hosting companies.
Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy
This may be the most tedious part when looking for a new web host. These are two documents that outline the hosts responsibilities and how they also manage potential problems and scenarios.
It is quite important that you read through these documents carefully before you order, the acceptable use policy may prohibit something you were going to run with the hosting package or the terms of service may state something important such as the companies refund policy.
Their online presence
This is something I personally look for when choosing hosts for my new projects.
Most hosts who are looking to stay for a long time have strong presences in web hosting communities around the internet. By taking part and contributing to a community the hosts build a great reputation among other members, this can do wonders for a business in the long run.
Most hosts who don’t particularly care about the longevity of their business will only post in forums to promote their own services, not to contribute as a whole to the community, this is something to avoid. A good example would be Francisco, he contributes large amounts to LowEndTalk and WebHostingTalk and has built a great reputation for BuyVM in both communities.
This is usually pretty to check. Most reputable companies register their service as a company in their country or state, this usually means that they display a company number or something similar on their website. For example, UK-based registered companies are given a company number which is unique to them. They are required to display this on all of their websites, emails and invoices. You can search the Companies House website for the company to make sure their business is legitimate.
This doesn’t always have to be done for every host, some businesses are registered as a “sole trader” meaning they don’t have a company number but are still perfectly legal.
How long have they been around?
This is especially important if you’re looking to host something very important such as a business website or a page for your client.
Most reputable companies have already been around for years, some are even nearly 20 years old! Personally, I’m very cautious when purchasing a host whom has only been around for a year or two, opting for a company who is around the 4-5 year mark. This is because most companies who have set themselves up in an unsustainable way (to attract clients) usually go bust at around this time frame.
While this isn’t foolproof, it is defiantly something you should be looking at before purchasing and may be one of the biggest points of this post.
A “looking glass” is a great piece of software adopted by many hosting companies of all sizes. A looking glass allows a potential customer to get a good feel for how well the providers network performs in tests such as ping, routing and download speeds. You can use a providers looking glass to test the providers connection to your own connection or another server, and even test how fast you can download a test file from the providers network.
You can see an example of a looking glass here (RamNode NL Looking Glass).
There are many, many factors to take into consideration when looking for a reliable hosting provider. By using our guide you have the best chance of getting a sturdy host that’ll do their best to keep your site online and running fast.
For those who want to have a quick checklist of things to lookout for, here you go.
- Price – If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
- WhoIS – Check their domain on Who.IS, if they’re using a privacy service then proceed with caution.
- Public Reviews – Don’t trust the reviews on their website, look for reviews on popular web hosting forums and sites like this one.
- Their Terms of Server and Acceptable Use Policy – Read through these documents! They may be long and boring but you’ll protect yourself from potential problems by doing so!
- Online Presence – How active are they on social media, forums and their own blog? IF they’re truly focused on maintaining their business they should be very active in these communities.
- Business Registration – Are they a registered business? Use a service such as the Companies House database search to make sure they are.
- Looking Glass – Test their connection before you purchase by using a looking glass, this will save time for everyone if it doesn’t fit your needs.
Is there something we’ve missed? Do you have something specific you look for when researching a new web host? Leave a comment below!