Choosing a web host: what to check

Welcome matYour business web host will provide an online home for your website. It’s crucial you choose the right one – because without a reliable host that offers a range of services to support your online business, your website could let you and your customers down

Here are ten things to think about when choosing a host for your website:

  1. Service. Look for a hosting company that offers 24-hour service and allows you to speak to staff on the phone, not just via email. Being able to reach a real person means the hosting company is less likely to pass the buck and should resolve problems faster. Are they good at keeping customers informed about technical issues and new services?
  2. Technical expertise. Your host must offer good technical support so it can deal with any problems quickly. Be sure they have multiple internet connections so the server that hosts your website can keep running even if one goes down. Ideally, your prospective host should guarantee at least 99.9% uptime. (Remember, even though ‘99% uptime’ sounds good, it means your website could be down one day in every hundred.)
  3. Price. Don’t be seduced by the lowest price, as you may well end up paying more later. Check the small print; do you have to pay for any extras? If so, are they worth it? Can you upgrade your package easily if you need to?
  4. Online security. Make sure you get an SSL certificate if you are selling online, and that your shopping system is safe and easy to use. Ask about protection against spam, viruses and other malware. Is your server protected by a firewall? What other precautions are there?
  5. Flexibility. As your business grows, so will your website. Ensure your web host can support any changes to your website such as adding a blog, videos, databases, picture galleries or simply more sections. Are they geared up to integrate new technology? Choose a website host based on your future plans, not just where you are now.
  6. Compatibility. Make sure the systems and software you work with are compatible with your host. Be wary of web hosting firms that try to tie you down to their own bespoke software. What will this mean if you want to move elsewhere?
  7. Backup. How frequently does the hosting company backup your website data? This task should be carried out at least daily; if it’s not, ask why. You only need one problem to lose important information, customer data or orders.
  8. A proven track record. Ask to see testimonials and examples of other websites they host. Check that they work with other businesses like yours. Google the web hosting company to see what people are saying about them.
  9. The contract. Look at the terms and conditions. Are refunds or account credits available on your contract if the host does not meet the terms of the contract or you are not satisfied? Is there any flexibility in what is being offered? How long is the contract? Can you get out of it if you want to?
  10. Moving hosts. Some website hosting companies will offer to transfer your site from your existing host to their service. If so, check they can move all of your files, images and data to the new host location easily and, above all, smoothly.

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