Contributed by Jann Chambers
For some, choosing a web host might just be a case of finding a web hosting company with the cheapest pricing plans.
However, if you’re looking for a web host that’s actually decent, and is going to guarantee your website has a solid host with a good reputation, then you’ll need to know a few important factors before you dive in.
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1. Speed and Performance
When choosing a web host, you’re essentially deciding the most suitable server for your website; all websites (and their data) are stored on either a shared, cloud-based or dedicated server. There are some variations to this, such as, whether you rent or own an entire server or part of a server. However, the first thing to research is whether the web host can guarantee your website with great performance.
Many web hosting companies now offer a percentage uptime guarantee, such as, 99.9% – this not only shows that the company are confident in their services, but they’re also providing you with a promise that your website will be ‘up’ (online) at least that percentage of the time. Whether you’re hosting a personal website or an eCommerce store, the purpose of having a website is for it to be seen. So you’ll want to ensure your web host can provide you with this level of guarantee. If not, what’s the point in having a web host at all? Saying that not all web hosts provide a guarantee, but you can perform your own checks using helpful tools like Pingdom.
As well as your website performing well, your web host can also have an effect on your website’s page speed. So, why is this important? A good page speed is essential for providing an excellent user experience; a large percentage of users will abandon a website if it hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds.
Secondly, page speed affects your SEO, so if you want to increase your SEO score, page speed really matters. Google PageSpeed Insights provides an overall score for your website, pointing out areas that need improving to increase your page speed. More often than not, we see that a website’s server response time isn’t good enough, and the only thing that can control that is your web host. So make sure you’re paying for the right resources.
Web hosting is a competitive market. You’ll often see that web hosting companies are now offering additional features with their pricing plans. Common features are the use of a control panel to manage your website, DNS settings, etc. and 1-click installs. 1-click installs, like website builders, are probably the most common feature, with good reason – with literally the click of a button, you can install all of your favourite apps like WordPress, Joomla, and eCommerce shopping carts straight to your website at no added cost.
The features each web host offers really depend on your own needs; you may already have a website designed and developed, therefore won’t need a website builder included, but it might be nice to have in the future.
Quite often we come across web hosts who offer marketing as part of their plans. These range from Google Ads to Bing, giving you free credits up to a certain amount of money. This is really useful if you plan on implementing a paid search strategy for your website. They can be a great starting point to get your website’s marketing on the go.
3. Customer Service
It goes without saying that a decent web host will offer a great level of customer service – and so they should. Again, customer service really depends on your preferences; most web hosts offer 24/7 support via email, live chat, and a ticket system, whilst others may only offer some methods of support.
If you’re a beginner, then it’s always sensible to choose a web hosting solution that comes with instant support – if you encounter an issue, you’re going to want to get it sorted there and then, with answers that make sense. Companies like TrustPilot are useful when researching the best web host, as they tend to provide honest customer feedback from users who are already paying for their services.
4. Signup versus Renewal costs
When you first sign up to a web host, you’ll often find some great deals; web hosting companies, like many other businesses, entice their customers with offers and sales upon initial sign up. The problem is, what you might think is a good deal could turn out to be something different along the line.
Some web hosts will offer a discount on your first month’s payment, with higher monthly payments throughout your contract term. Others will offer cheaper monthly prices if you pay biennially. Some will be easier on the wallet if you pay yearly. However, most web hosts, unfortunately, do charge a higher price at renewal if you choose to stay with them.
If you like your web host, and you’re happy enough to pay extra for another term, then you shouldn’t have any issues. However, if you’re looking for the best deal, make sure that you’re not tied into any kind of contract. This allows you to look around for cheaper options when your year is up. Just be mindful of what you’re paying now, as well as in the future. Don’t get stung with a renewal cost that you didn’t previously know about.
5. Refunds and money-back guarantees
Many web hosts offer their customers a money-back guarantee if they’re not happy with their services, or want to try another provider. Generally speaking, web hosting companies offer at least a 30-day money-back guarantee. Some even offer up to 90 days, which is great if you’re not entirely sure whether your chosen web host is right for you.
However, as with any refund policy, you should check your web host’s terms and conditions very carefully. Ensure that there aren’t any hidden catches behind what they say, versus what they actually do. Some web hosts will provide you with a refund, within your guarantee, and outside of it, on a pro-rata basis. Others may tie you into a contract.
The key here is research; don’t be afraid to give your web host a full check before paying any money. You could even submit a support ticket, start a live chat, or give them a call to be absolutely sure you’re happy with what they’re offering.