It’s the very backbone of doing business online. It’s as necessary as establishing and paying for your electricity when you have a brick and mortar store. Luckily, power companies are regulated and you can usually just pick one and be assured that as long as you pay, your lights will stay on.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for web hosting. And, there are hundreds of companies offering web hosting.
Some are reputable, many are not. Choose the wrong one and you risk putting your entire online business in jeopardy. All your hard work, all of your planning and brand-building. Gone in an instant.
So, how do you avoid those who would gladly take your money and set you up with unreliable or price-gouging web hosting? What kind of warning signs should you look out for?
Two words: Terms and Conditions
Repeat after me: terms, conditions. Terms, conditions.
You can’t inspect these closely enough. Letting your eyes glaze over as you quickly scan this list of paragraphs doesn’t really count as protecting yourself. You have to pick apart each sentence to ensure that there are no hidden catches or fees lurking in that impenetrable wall of fine print.
Take the extra time and potentially save yourself a lot of heartache later.
Beware the Free
Here comes the cliché: you get what you pay for. Here’s another: when something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Some web companies will ‘spot’ you a few MB of free web space but you’ll end up paying for them in other ways. You’ll probably have to endure pop ups and annoying banners all over your pages.
Worse, they may trade you that free space by selling or sharing your email address with every shady spammer they want to swap lists with.
Sure You Will…
Promises, promises. Some disreputable companies will do anything to lure you into signing up with them. Rather, they will promise anything. Packages that are priced suspiciously low, extra free benefits and features thrown in, massive discounts on otherwise expensive services. If they seem like they are giving away the store, beware.
This is a bit of a contradiction. While you will likely want to stick with a reliable provider once you find them, you don’t want to have to stick with them. Be very suspicious of companies that ask you to sign a contract in order to sign up with them.
These days, there are so many web hosting companies out there who don’t require a contract that you should wonder why a company would insist that you sign one. A contract might just be another way to entrap you into bad service.
Give Me My Money Back
This one’s easy. If they don’t offer a money back guarantee, there’s probably a reason.
The good guys are so sure you will love their service, they’ll have no problem offering a money back guarantee. The bad guys know they have one shot at bamboozling you. So they take the money and run.
Unlimited Everything…All The Time
The bottom line is that they can’t consistently give away things that have hard costs attached to them. If they really did that, they would go out of business.
Consider their customer service. Paying for round the clock customer service reps to monitor servers is costly but is something you, the user, needs.
Check up on them and test them out to see if they are really responsive at midnight or 6 a.m. Do you want to find out that their 24/7 service is voicemail just after your website goes down on Black Friday?
This is a sneaky one. Although this is something the good guys do for you as well, be very careful who you ‘allow’ to register your domain name for you. Reputable web hosting companies will register the domain in your name only.
But if you allow someone to register the domain for you, it will often be registered in their name. And then you’re sunk. Then they have you forever. If you try to cancel your web hosting service with them, they may ‘hold your domain name hostage’ and you will have to start all over with a brand new URL.
Once again if you are offered free domain name registering, check the fine print and ensure it will be registered to you and you only.
Consider this step something like ‘running a background check’ on someone you’re about to do business with. Don’t just be seduced by the offers of free features and big discounts. Do your homework and look into the company’s past.
Ideally, you want to choose a web hosting service that someone you know and trust (and knows what they are talking about!) can vouch for.
This is serious business, choosing a hosting company, and you should put serious time into making sure you’re choosing wisely.
The White Hats
Now that we have discussed what to avoid, let’s talk about the good guys. The white hats of web hosting. There are quite a few out there, and this list is by no means exhaustive or technical, but here are a few that I like:
Synthesis – This is the web hosting Marketing For Owners uses and we highly recommend it. They have a hosting stack that is specifically configured for WordPress. Founded by the same people who created CopyBlogger and Rainmaker.
WP Engine – Another respectable WordPress specialist hosting service we highly recommend. Known for their lightning fast customer service and lightning fast web servers, they are also praised for their offer to fix your website for free if it’s ever hacked.
Rackspace – This is an extremely popular hosting service, one of the biggest in the world. Although they recently have taken some hits for failing customer service, they have been around long enough to warrant consideration.
LiquidWeb – Once again, the thing that sets this hosting company apart is its reputation for customer service. Their account dashboard is also highly praised.
TVCnet – Great customer service, easy migrations from other services and one of the more affordable choices out there. They will pass every test you throw at them. Ask for Jim.
Clook – is a UK hosting service with the fastest technical service I’ve ever come across – ever. Their Cpanel/WHM makes this an interesting choice for hosting a large number of smaller sites.
Hostgator – Hostgator has expanded rapidly in recent years and has some very low priced offers. Part of a huge group with many well-know hosting brand names, they have built a great rep for reliability.
So tell me about your web hosting trials and tribulations. Any horror stories? Any favorites? What’s the #1 most important thing for you when it comes to hosting providers? Are there any I missed on the list above that deserve mention?
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