Hosting of business solutions requires maximum stability and reliability. Once you signup for some company’s services, you always expect ultimate connectivity, quick and friendly support and fixed reasonable pricing. Some of those expectations, however, may be ruined overnight by actions of unprofessional administrators or a serious issue, which may cause downtime, loss of traffic, clients and therefore money.
Though no one is safe from human factor or act of elements, you should always study as much information as possible about your potential host. This is going to help you think all pros and cons over and choose the most optimal provider with minimal risks. The consumer tips below will hopefully help you make the right choice:
1. Search for the Direct Service Provider
The first thing you need to check is whether or not your potential host is some other company reseller. Whatever good, catchy and promising their service may look, you should cross out the company from your check list once you find that they are someone’s resellers.
The two main drawbacks of resold hosting are usually connected with pricing and support – trying to cover the expenses, resellers usually set their own prices for products higher, which are initially cheaper if purchased from their upstream directly. Additionally, resellers tend to oversell, offering bigger quotas, than they can actually provide. As for support, not many resellers have their own support team to carry out all administrative tasks – sometimes simply due to access limitations – therefore, whenever any complicated technical issue takes place, the reseller is going to contact the upstream for support, which implies critical time loss. Thus, being interested in prompt support, you need to look for an independent standalone hosting provider.
2. Are You Going to be Supported 24/7?
Apart from promptness and expertise of your support team, you should rely on their constant availability. The idea of 24/7 support for Internet services (especially for hosting and Internet connectivity provision) first of all emerged due to the time zone differences. Since business time interval may differ for you, your service provider and your clients depending on location, the websites have to be up round a clock.
Therefore, regardless of the time, the issue takes place at you need to be sure it is going to be addressed as soon as possible. If your potential hosting provider offers 24/7 support – put a big green tick across their name…
3. Local Provider
This option is not the key one but is still much recommended. Its idea is connected with location and time zones as well. Talking about business time in the previous paragraph we did not mention the maintenance factor. If urgent maintenance works are done with no business time in mind, the planned ones are usually scheduled for non-business time, namely night. This may be tricky, if for instance you and the majority of your clients are located in Europe, while your hosting provider is US-based – say, they put your server down at night (according to EST), while it’s morning in all GMT+ countries. The situation is rather confusing, especially considering the fact that no one is violating any service provision terms.
If you have clients world-wide, it really is going to be hard to pick the best fitting solution – you cannot simply choose such a location for everyone to feel comfortable. That is why this search option is not vital and may be omitted depending on the circumstances.
4. In-House Data Center Staff
Talking about maintenance we cannot leave this factor unmentioned. Hosting providers depend on their data centers much and there were many cases, when a good hosting company started losing clients due to inactivity of the data center staff. One of the problems related to the inactivity is the absence of in-house data center staff or its lack.
Serious hosting companies usually co-operate with data centers on some special conditions – either they belong to the VIP client group, so that their issues are addressed immediately or they have a dedicated technical assistant to take care of such manual tasks as reboots and hardware replacement. In both cases this affects the final service price, but it really is worth it, since the end users are secured from terrific delays.
This especially saves time during maintenance: imagine they need to have an HDD replaced on your hosting server. This procedure may take from 20-40 minutes to an hour at maximum – fair and bearable downtime. Now imagine that there is no in-house staff so the technician in charge needs time to get to the datacenter – this may take another hour if not more, what does not look quick, serious and reliable.
5. Uptime and SLA Guarantees
Since it’s physically impossible to grant 100% uptime, there is a fair limit accepted for hosts – 99.9%. Those figures usually mean monthly uptime rate and imply the server being down for no longer than 45 minutes per month. If this limit is not kept, you may apply for the compensation, however on those conditions only, if the uptime guarantee is backed by Service Level Agreement (SLA).
There are also cases, when SLA comes with a certain range of services only – usually more expensive and technically complicated ones, such as virtual and dedicated server hosting, cloud hosting, etc. – therefore you should always check the specifications and support options of your hosting plan before you purchase it.
6. Pricing Peculiarities
Another thing to find out before making your purchase is the pricing. And it is not actually about the exact amount of dollars and cents – you need to make sure that there are no hidden fees, that the company has a price freeze, i.e. that the renewal fee remains the same regardless of the further changes in pricing.
You should also check if the announced price is the one you are going to pay – many hosts announce monthly price on conditions of annual billing cycle at their websites, while the monthly billing cycle fee is a bit higher. Thus, the clients who signup on monthly renewal conditions think they are going to pay the cheaper price and sometimes find out the truth only after their order is submitted and the account activation is pending.
The tips above should have cleared your check list of potential hosts. Let’s proceed with less crucial but also helpful tips to let you pick the best of the best:
7. Company Age
This is not the factor to seriously refer to, however, it is obvious that the longer the company is on the market, the more experienced and stable it is. While checking how old the company is, you may also check how frequently they update their pricing and range of services – those details expose the flexibility of the company and the way they react at the changes on the market. If you are looking for the experts, who provide professional services, it really is advisable to look into companies that have been in business for five years at least.
8. Check the Reviews
The closer you are to making your choice, the more precise you should be. Thus, in order to be 100% sure about your hosting provider you need to study the correspondent reviews. Those should be as non-partisan and independent as possible, so you may look not only for reviews of this company specifically but for comparative ones as well. You can also check out let’s say Top 10 or Top 20 hosting companies and see, if the one you are ready to co-operate with is on the list.
9. Social Media Activity
The last but not least is the social media activity of the company. This factor does tell about many things. A socially active company usually has a well-built team, a friendly client community and is not actually hung up on its services. Thus, you may check their forums and blogs to see if those are content rich and if their visitors are active and cheerful. Another check box are external social media, such as Twitter and (or) Facebook. If a company has its corporate account there, it means that they are open for discussions and are not afraid to reveal some less official information about them.
If you are searching for a hosting company and are not sure about your choice, follow the steps above to pick the one that meets as many requirements as possible. Careful and deliberate actions are going to make you a happy user and grant you many years of stable hosting for your business website.
Guest author Arkadij “Archie” Shkolnik is PR Manager of SiteValley.com web hosting company, the provider of affordable and reliable Linux hosting for personal and small business web sites. He is also current administrator and author of the corporate blog svhostingblog.com. You can also send in guest articles here.