Before you choose a web host, it’s important that you take some time to first determine what you need out of your web hosting package. Here is a brief web hosting checklist of things you should consider before you choose a hosting plan.
Secure Server Capabilities
You must have secure server capabilities if you are going to sell anything online. This lets people give you private information (like credit card numbers) without having to worry about the information being intercepted. Most people will not order anything online unless you offer a secure server.
When you start out, a shared secure server may be good enough, but it shows the host company’s URL (www.secure.webhost.com/yourcomany/order.cgi). Make sure your web hosting company can set up a dedicated secure server for you when you’re ready. This isn’t critical when you are just starting up, but once your business starts making money online you’ll want to direct customers to your own URL (www.secure.yourcompany.com/order.cgi).
You should choose a web host that has at least a T3 Internet connection. This is very important because your profits are directly proportional to the speed that your web pages load. There’s no such thing as a server that is too fast!
The web host’s level of connectivity to the Internet affects even the fastest-loading pages. The best way you can lose visitors (and thus customers) is to make them wait 30 seconds for a page to load. As a rule, Internet shoppers are very impatient.
How Much Space they Provide
Most websites don’t use more than 10–15 megabytes of space, but it’s always a good idea to have some extra space available to you in case you decide to expand in the future. Make sure you can also buy more space from your web host, in case you end up using all the space you were originally provided with.
If you will be offering downloads of e-books, software, or other large files, make sure your web host doesn’t have any unreasonable restrictions on bandwidth. Bandwidth is the amount of data your customers can download from your site.
Unrestricted CGI Access
Most professional websites use CGI programs at some point or other, so make sure you have full CGI-bin access. Don’t go with a web host that doesn’t provide this.
SSH and FTP Access
Choose a web host that will let you use an FTP to transfer files back and forth from your local computers and your web server. Also make sure that public FTP access is an option for you.
SSH (Secure Shell) access encrypts data moving between your computer and your website’s server so that it can’t be read if it’s intercepted. This can cut down significantly on your programming development time.
For example, if you do not have SSH access, then you won’t be able to compile any applications written in programming languages like C and C++. You will have to rely on the web host to do this for you, which can take a lot of time since you have to wait for them to get around to you.
A reputable web hosting company will offer a web-based administration interface, like cPanel or Plesk, that will let you manage your server via the Internet. This a great option for people who are not very technically inclined.
Access to Raw Server Logs
This is an important feature to have because you will need access to this information to analyze your website’s traffic. Server logs will tell you how much traffic you get per week, how long these visitors stay on your site, where they come from, how they navigate through your site, and more.
Choose a web host that will allow you unrestricted access to your own private server logs (you might need to request this). Some web hosts even offer basic online log-reading software that will present all of your data in an easy-to-read format.
Full Email Services
A good web host will offer full email services, including POP mailboxes and unlimited email aliases. It’s even better if they offer IMAP, which is a newer technology that gives you more control over your messages. These features should come standard with a good web host, so don’t pay for them.
Power and Daily Server Backups
Good web hosts use a backup power system and perform daily off-site backups of your server (this means backups are done to an external device in case something happens to the hard drive of the server you’re on). This makes sure that you won’t lose anything in case the hardware crashes or there’s a natural disaster.
No Minimum Contracts
Never serve a long-term contract, it just isn’t necessary. If you do, you will be giving up a lot of flexibility. You wouldn’t be able to switch web hosts if you ever needed to for some reason.
How Long the Web Host Has Been in Business
This aspect of the web host isn’t necessarily crucial, but it does give you a better idea of how well the company is doing. If they’ve been around for a few years, you can assume that they must be doing something right.
What is the Web Host’s Downtime?
A reliable web hosting company will be up 99.9% to 100% of the time. You stand to lose a lot of money if your website goes down right in the middle of a new marketing campaign. Your website is your business, so choose a web host that you know you can depend on to keep your site up and running and visible to the world.
Test their Technical Support
Email a question to the web host’s technical support to see how long it takes to get a response. If you have a serious problem, it can be very frustrating and possibly cause you to lose a lot of money if you need to wait days and days for a reply. A good web host’s technical support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week both by phone and email. You will run into technical problems eventually—it’s inevitable. You need to know that assistance will be provided to you quickly and effectively when you need it.
Services, Scripts, and Software
A web host of good quality should have a vast library of scripts you can use to add forms, statistics, and other extras to your website. They should also offer e-commerce features like shopping cart software, real-time processing availability, merchant account support, and more. In addition, they should support Java, Real Audio, Shockwave, Real Video, MySQL, PHP, and FrontPage extensions.
Charges for Extra Services
Some web hosting companies may seem like they are offering you a good deal at first, but make sure they aren’t charging you for every single extra service. For example, you should never be charged for POP mailboxes, email aliases, auto-responders, CGI scripts and bins, or your website statistics.
Are you using any web hosting checklist while searching for your favorite web host, share your views about the same in the comments section below?