Website hosts can make or break your online business. Choosing the right place to host your website is a huge decision – and migrating to a new host can be a major pain, so take the time to ask the right questions when setting yourself up. Know that a lot of bloggers out there who make hosting recommendations aren’t technical users users – and they don’t always understand what is really needed to run a website.
After working with dozens of hosting companies over the years, there are few questions I always ask when vetting a new provider.
1. Does the web hosting company have 24/7 support?
This is a non-negotiable item – there’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a launch or program and your site goes down (this has happened to many of my friends during huge launches – and there’s nothing more stressful than hearing “There’s nothing we can do.” This is why I recommend you DO NOT host your site with a friend who resells budget server space (or even worse, has their own server). You need a company that will answer the phone, chat or email 24/7/365.
Ask your host how often they backup your site. Many services don’t do this – the better ones do it daily. (FYI, you should be doing backups on your own as well – redundancy is a good thing!) More info on how to do this in my launch your website guidebook.
3. Is the web hosting company based in the US?
This is a personal preference, but I look for companies whose servers and support are both based in the US. (Are you located outside the US? Choose a hosting company who has servers near to your your location and specific audience.)
4. Do they have multiple types of hosting plans?
Most small business start out on what are called “shared-server plans” – this means that your site lives on a server with hundreds or perhaps thousands of other sites. Normally this is fine, but can prove hazardous if another site on the server gets hacked. Some hosts will throw thousands of sites onto one server, which can negatively affect page loading times. Further, when you get massive traffic and outgrow shared hosting, you need the option to upgrade your plan to a dedicated server.
5. What is their track record?
Are there pages upon pages of unhappy customers? Do you see a lot of unanswered tweets and unanswered support questions?
6. Do they have an active maintenance/update page?
It’s inevitable that there will be downtime – it’s the nature of the business. Every major hosting company will have an outage or need to do maintenance at some point. What’s more important is how (and if) they communicate this to their users? Look for a support twitter account or status update page on their site.
My favorite companies communicate updates in the following ways:
- send emails to affected customers
- send out regular tweets
- have a server status page on their own website
7. What other services do they provide?
Domain registration, e-commerce and e-mail functionality are all standard offerings from web hosts — however, I find that companies who try to do everything under the sun tend to NOT to be the best solution.
8. How often do they update their own software
Whenever I am forced to use a hosting company that uses outdated software, I cringe inside. Ask them how often they update and upgrade their OWN software — that way you know they are keeping up with technology.
9. Do they give back in some way?
Again, this is a personal preference. Many hosting companies now give back in some way to compensate for energy consumption – for example by planting trees or by using wind energy.
10. If you’re running WordPress, are they a company dedicated to performance?
Companies like WP Engine only run WordPress sites – they are tuned to the performance needs and security considerations of WordPress specific customers.
Who do I use and recommend for website hosting?
Want completely managed WordPress hosting and want white-glove service?
Got a ton of sites and you’re comfortable with doing a bit of the work yourself?
Siteground* offers a great economical option to get you started. I’m a fan of their GoGeek plan that includes migration and site cloning.
*Please note that these are affiliate links and I may be compensated if you sign-up for their service.
I have used these companies for years and firmly believe in their services and support.
Sarina Oden says
Thank you for this. I am in the process of getting started and there are so many hosting companies out there it can really be overwhelming. The pricing vary so much and its hard to narrow down one. As a beginner who is just trying to get a simple site (will probably just do some blogging 1st before offering any products) up and going, would there be a hosting company that you would recommend? xoxo sarina christine
Michelle Martello says
Hi Sarina –
I’ve used Media Temple for the last 8 years and been pretty happy with them – they now have wordpress managed hosting at a reasonable rate (See my links above). Thanks!