I’ve been an Internet programmer for about 10 years now and in that time I’ve tried several web hosting companies for my ecommerce sites. Unfortunately most web hosting provider were a big disappointment, some were quite good for some months but after a while the service or uptimes became horrible. So far I’ve been with about 10 different hosts. Here are a few rules you should follow before forking out your cash.
1. Check some forums like Webhostingtalk and see what people say about a particular company. There are lots of experts who know what they are talking about. There is also a forum where you can basically post your needs and many companies will compete with great deals.
2. Go for a company which is not too big but also not too small. If its a one-man show you never know what this guy is doing with your files if nobody looks over his shoulder. Also what happen to your websites if he suddenly drops dead because of a heart attack or he’s involved in a car crash? On the other hand if the company is too big then there’s a good chance that its very impersonal and nobody really cares about you. Smaller companies tend to be more flexible and are more likely to suit your needs.
3. If you are already with a web host don’t move all your sites immediately. First test the waters for a couple of weeks or at least days. Use internet tools to check the uptimes.
4. Make a list of your needs beforehand. For instance if you need shell access (SSH) there’s no point if you test the host and like it but later you need shell access and they don’t have it. For those who do not need shell access it might be better to go for one which does not offer it because that will mean more security for you.
5. If you go for a new host check if they offer a 30 day money back guarantee like most do. However often there is a catch like its a pro-rated refund, that means you can’t be refunded for the period you used their service. This is of course in the small print, so make sure its a full money back guarantee. Also if you do not live in the US and you buy webspace from a US company you might lose money when they refund due to the currency conversion. So it might be better to pay only for one month and not pay for one whole year even if thats cheaper in the long run.
6. If you what to find a long term host go for one which has been in business for a couple of years. Web host tend to disappear very quickly due to the cutthroat nature of this business. Check the PageRank of their website (it should be at least 3 or 4) and go to the Wayback Machine at Archive.org to see how long the site exists.
7. During the trial period ask some questions even if you just want to test them. That way you can find out how competent they are and how fast they answer.
8. Find a host which is based in the center of where most your customers are based. Also be aware that US host are often the cheapest, so based on that the best location is often the East Coast in America since its close to US and European customers. The NAC center in Parsippany (New Jersey) in the North East of the USA is quite good and many webhosting companies buy webspace at wholesale prices from them.
9. If you not only want cheap webspace but a webhosting provider with a “community feel” check out if they have a busy forum and other community features like a most wanted list of new features, etc.
10. If it’s a smallish company it can never harm to ask for a special deal or a discount. Some even offer a free domain with the packages. However I prefer to separate webspace and domains to be more independent. I recommend Namecheap, Dotster and Godaddy to buy Domains. Don’t pay more than 15 US Dollar per year or you are wasting money.
So all in all there isn’t really a best web hosting service. Everybody has different needs. Don’t put up too long with a bad webhost, there are many good ones with great deals. Some even help you transferring your websites for free if you want to change web hosts.