Signing with a Web host is a long-term commitment. Though you can leave a host at any point, doing so is, at best, a nuisance that would be best avoided and, depending on the contract, can be very expensive.
As a result, when you sign up for a new host, you want that relationship to work out and last. However, doing that can be very tricky as hosts often times bury the important information under a pile of useless info and marketing.
So what should you check out about a host before your sign on? Here’s the short list with five things you need to know before you sign up.
Before you even seriously consider using a host, you need to do a search for reviews of the company.
Though even the best host will have some negative reviews (any company, if large enough, will have some unhappy customers) but if you see a lot of negative reviews and there is a pattern to them, there might be something wrong. If people keep mentioning bad service, unreliable connectivity or other problems, it is probably time to look elsewhere.
Likewise, if a company has no negative reviews or, even worse, almost no reviews at all, it’s a sign that the company is either very new or very small. This isn’t necessarily a strike against the host, but does make it more of a gamble to use them.
In short, see what others have to say before you get burned by a host that already has a lot of bad press.
2. Technical Specifications
Though hosts are quick to promote their prices, how many domains you can host and what your bandwidth caps are, those aren’t the requirements for your blog. If you plan on using WordPress, for example, you need the following things:
- PHP 4.3 or greater
- MySQL 4.0 or greater
- The mod_rewrite Apache module
These requirements aren’t exactly impressive but they are important. Some hosts offer ultra-low-end accounts for static sites that don’t include PHP (surprisingly enough) and others don’t offer or place restrictions on MySQL.
Make sure that your host meets the requirements for whatever blogging platform you plan on using and will meet the needs of all the sites you plan on running without any difficulties. If you have to, ask questions of the sales staff.
3. Room to Grow
Your host can’t just meet your needs of today, but it needs to have room for you to grow. Even if your shared hosting account says that it is “unlimited” it really isn’t, it is only unlimited until your site becomes a burden on the server.
Make sure that your site gives you plenty of room to grow, either in the form of generous bandwidth and space allotments or easy upgrades to larger plans. You don’t want to sign on to a host you’re going to outgrow in a few months, so think about your future and see if this host can grow with you.
4. Content Restrictions
Read through the host’s terms of service and see what kinds of content are prohibited. Though all will prohibit illegal content, others may go beyond that and restrict “adult” content, large files (over X MB in size) and other restrictions. Others may limit how you link to or offer such content, such as prohibiting direct linking to music files, including legal ones.
You don’t want your host making editorial decisions on your behalf. Even if you don’t plan on hosting “adult” content on your site, for example, if you want to talk about something that might relate to the topic your host might make you reluctant. The same goes for any file and script restrictions the host places on you. Remember, these rules are often very subjective and how they are applied may depend heavily on how happy your host is with you as a customers.
Before you sign on, make sure that there will are no potential conflicts between your hosts TOS your site. Though most hosts aren’t looking for a reason to remove customers, you don’t want to give them a reason to, especially if your site grows rapidly.
5. Their Support System
If something goes wrong, how are you going to get help? Study their support system. Do they have a phone system? A trouble ticket system? An email address? All three?
Take a moment to look up how the host handles support issues and, if you can, give it a try. Call the number and see if there are real people or if it’s just a phone tree. Send an email if you can.
The last thing you want is to sign up for a host, have something break and then have to scramble to find out how to get a hold of someone or, worse yet, learn that no one is there.
The problem with buying hosting is that many people approach it as if they’re buying a TV or a microwave. They look at the stats provided, they compare prices and buy what they feel is the best deal.
However, the best deal does not mean the best host. Just as with the TV or microwave above, buying the cheapest product without any research can leave you very unhappy in a very short amount of time. If you want a host that lasts, you need to check them thoroughly before you turn over your credit card.
In short, before you sign, know what you are getting into and make sure that it is right for you.