Reliable web hosting is essential if you're going to run a successful business website. It provides the foundations on which your site will be based.
If you trade online, you can’t afford to suffer from downtime.
If your site goes down you risk losing sales and damaging your reputation. But with so many providers out there, how can you find a reliable web host?
Here are the eight questions you must ask to get reliable web hosting:
- Do they have good reviews? Once you have a shortlist of hosting suppliers, search for online reviews of them. Less reliable web hosting companies will tend to have bad feedback, but do bear in mind that larger companies will generate more reviews overall.
- What’s the support like? The most reliable web hosting companies will offer round-the-clock telephone support, answer your calls straight away and let you speak to someone who can fix the problem. Check if you can find their phone number easily ― if it’s hidden, maybe they don’t like to talk.
- Can they supply references? A reliable web hosting company will be happy to put you in touch with satisfied customers who can tell you about their experience. Alternatively, you might be able to get one of your own contacts to recommend a reliable web hosting company.
- How do they handle account management? A common cause of website downtime is businesses forgetting to pay their bills. A reliable web hosting company should send reminders in plenty of time, alert you if a payment fails, and warn if you get close to any capacity limits. Many reliable web hosting companies will assign you a dedicated account manager.
- Is there a service level agreement (SLA)? An SLA should form part of your contract with a reliable web hosting company. It guarantees that your hosting will be available for a certain proportion of time (usually 99.9 per cent or higher) and that you will receive help with problems within a set timeframe. A reliable web hosting company's SLA should entitle you to compensation if these targets aren’t met.
- Do they own their own infrastructure? Some web hosts resell a hosting service that they buy from a bigger supplier. It still might be reliable web hosting, but if something goes wrong, they may be reliant on their supplier to fix it. The best companies tend to have direct access to their own servers and data.
- Do they have supplementary systems? As with any other IT set up, reliable web hosting companies should have no single points of failure. Check they have backup power and network supplies for their servers. Some may also operate a content delivery network (CDN), which replicates your website across servers in different locations for extra reliability.
- Do they test their backups? Every web hosting company will claim to keep everything backed up, just in case anything goes wrong with their servers. But the most reliable web hosting companies should be able to tell you how often they take backups and when they last tested them. For real peace of mind, you should make your own backups too.
The IT expert
“Although it might be tempting to opt for the cheapest hosting package available, quite often this can cost you a lot more in terms of time, effort and restrictiveness,” advises Steve Wagner, managing director of Fair Web Solutions.
“You should ensure you have the right level of hosting to satisfy the needs of your business ― both for the short term and future growth.”
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