- Excellent Customer Support. Your hosting provider needs to be there for you 24/7 and give you instant access to the technicians you need to solve your problem. Ask them how long it takes for them to typically respond to a customer. A good test is to call them in the middle of the night to see if you can get to a live, level 3 support tech at 2 a.m. Rackspace doesn't even use an automated attendant -- a live person answers the phone 24/7. We're known in the industry for our Fanatical Support which is our philosophy that drives responsiveness and value in everything we do for our customers.
- A Rock Solid Infrastructure. Confirm that they offer a multihomed network powered by multiple bandwidth providers to ensure redundancy. Also, investigate your host's Service Level Agreement to make sure it has "teeth" so your host will do what they promise. Rackspace offers a 100% guarantee on its network availability and has achieved 100% network uptime for the last 2 1/2 years.
- Financial Stability. If you're running mission critical operations, you can't afford to be with a hosting company that may not be in business in a few months. What if they close down? It could be detrimental to your own business. Ask the hosting provider to show you proof of their financials and longevity of service. Rackspace has been profitable for 2 1/2 years and is net income positive. We've continued to grow through turbulent times and are committed to being here for our customers.
Tamara Field, President of Apollo Hosting (www.apollohosting.com)
- REAL Live Support - Call their tech support number NOT their sales number, and see if you can talk directly to a technician. Or go on their live chat and see if you are able to talk to a technician. How long did it take for you to get someone on the phone or live chat? That's very important. Just because they say they offer live support, doesn't mean they really have people there when you need them.
- Guarantees - Money back guarantee, price freeze, uptime, and a guarantee of a refund on unused portions. There are so many hosting companies that don't offer money back on unused months if you cancel early! If you sign up for 1 year, believe it or not, many hosting companies won't give you ANY money back if you cancel 3 months later. A money back guarantee is important as is a prize freeze guarantee. But these days, look for the refund on unused hosting. Many companies don't mention it because they don't offer it.
- Upgrade Path - If you see your business growing, and you might want more products/services in the future, then you will need an upgrade path. It is a real hassle changing hosting companies. Just getting lots of bandwidth and storage is not the answer. Many customers don't use near the amount of bandwidth and storage that many hosting companies are offering. This is really just a marketing technique for a lot of hosting companies. Look for extra products that they offer. What about ecommerce? Do they offer the best ecommerce products, spam/virus filtering, marketing tools etc. Remember that these days hosting is not just about storage and bandwidth. It's about a whole lot more. Don't settle for just space on a box.
Richard Stevenson, UK Public Relations Manager at 1&1 Internet Ltd (www.1and1.com)
Finding a no-risk Internet partner
In the UK’s currently de-regulated marketplace, anyone can set themselves up as a web hosting or registration company. But how do you know they are not just operating from a shed or bedroom? More importantly, can they guarantee consistent levels of service?
This may sound obvious, but a good first step in checking out the background of a company is to look at their website. Does it look like a “bedroom project”, or does it appear to be designed by professionals? Are there support mechanisms, such as email and call-back response facilities on show? Although this is no guarantee of quality and service reliability, it can give you clues to likely quality of the service you are considering.
Next, ask your friends, colleagues and associates who have their own websites if they have used the service you are contemplating and how they found the company. It is also useful to seek feedback on the company you plan to use by putting their name into an Internet Search engine and seeing the responses that result. Focus on support services, ease of use, technology and, of course, price.
Considerations when choosing a Web Hosting service
Richard Stevenson, UK PR Manager for 1&1 says, “There is a great deal of variety in the charges that companies make for domain registration and hosting services. The quality of the service you will receive is key, and the level of technical support and after-sales service is a very important consideration. Secondly, it’s all very well for companies to offer competitive rates, but you also need a set of software tools to develop your site. You should be sure to ask whether these will be provided free by your host, or will they be expensive extras? Finally, flexibility is important. One should check that you will not be tied into a contract which prevents you changing packages or companies”.
Top 3 considerations when choosing a Web Host
Do they offer a high degree of technical support and after-sales service?
What software, if any, does the company provide?
Are you tied into a contract which prevents you changing packages or companies?
Brenda Sigurdson, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Compare Web Hosts (www.comparewebhosts.com)
“In working with the industry the past 4 years and getting feedback from our users, here are the 3 most important things I think you need to look for when selecting a host provider and they should be in this order:
- Management, Staff and Technical Support - do they offer live support?
- Host Provider's Reputation - how long have they been in business, are they reputable, how many clients and what kind of clients do they serve now?
- Pricing - what is the value of the hosting package, is competitively priced?”
John Zdanowski co-founder of Affinity Internet, Inc. now CFO of Marketing and Application Service Provider HouseValues (www.housevalues.com)
“Responsiveness, awesome software and interfaces, and a comprehensive feature set are my top three” said John Zdanowski co-founder of Affinity Internet, Inc. now CFO of Marketing and application service provider HouseValues, the fastest growing company in Washington State two years in a row.
About the Author
Derek Vaughan is the Director of CPUReview which provides helpful articles on web hosting, detailed interviews with hosting professionals, and a series of showcases featuring industry-leading hosting companies and their products. Additional content includes web hosting news, trends and webmaster resources. To learn more visit the site at www.cpureview.com.