1. Choose an Established Web Hosting Company – Perform a whois search for the domain name of the web hosting company you plan to use, discard any potential web hosting companies who have not been established for at least a year – most web hosting companies fold during their fist year of service, leaving their few clients out in the cold.
2. Customer Support/Service – This is repeatedly and quite rightly recognized as the most important factor in choosing a web host, it doesn’t matter if you are the Bill Gates of server administration – if your host goes down and you can’t get hold of them when you need to you are losing money. Ensure you are getting 24/7 customer support – phone a potential host on a Sunday evening and ask them some technical questions, if you are happy with their response, move on to the next stage. Service should be affected just because you chose Cheap Web Hosting.
3. Domain Name – Only choose a cheap web hosting company which will allow you to have your own domain name, many free web hosts will give you a sub domain eg. yourcompany.freehost.com when you really want yourcompany.com free hosting may sound great but connection speeds will be slow and you will lose credibility with your customers – it just looks unprofessional.
4. Uptime – Most web hosting companies will publish server up-times. Don’t be fooled by an up-time of 99%, this means the server is down for an average 7.2hrs per month or 3.6 days per year – that’s 3days 14 ½ hours that you are not making money. It is therefore imperative that you choose a webhosting company, which has a 99.99% uptime guarantee.
5. Bandwidth – Bandwidth i.e. the speed of your connection should not be confused with web hosting data transfer allowance, which is the amount of data that can be transferred to and from your server or website per month and is measured in Gb. Most web hosts actually incorrectly use the term web hosting bandwidth in place of data transfer allowance, and it is important when choosing a web host, you choose one with a quick connection. Most web surfers will give up on a page if it takes more than 20 seconds to load – ask the cheap web hosting companies about their connection speed, at least 30MBit should be what you are aiming for. If you can’t find published data, then visit the host’s site at peak times and rapidly surf through its pages – they will be using the same connection to the web, if you are happy move on.
6. Type of Hosting – Do you need a dedicated server, or will you be better of with shared web hosting, this comes down to certain factors such as expected traffic and security. Dedicated web hosting is much more secure and will give customers much more confidence when using your site in addition your bandwidth will not be effected by the traffic of other sites hosted on the same server – cost will be the major factor in this decision as dedicated hosting is substantially more expensive.
7. Security – do the cheap web hosting companies you are looking at offer an SSL, Secure Socket Layer security is a must have for anyone intending to take payments over the internet, it is a way of encrypting transfers that makes paying on line safer and more attractive for your customers.
8. Platform – Linux or Windows, making the decision as to which is best comes down to what you want to do with your web space. Both Systems can host Multimedia both can host dynamic content, but the question becomes you need to run Windows based applications on your server? If so then you have no choice but to use a Windows Hosting solution, if the answer is no then can make your decision based on other factors such as choice of host, cost and reliability. Linux is cheaper, as you have no licensing fees to pay Microsoft, Linux is generally more reliable as it was designed for server use and being open source has been developed to the stage where it is almost bug free. The Linux based database applications are much more powerful and allow much greater flexibility in creating your site.
9. Disk Space – you should see how much space your web files take up on your computer before deciding upon a cheap package, taking into consideration the fact that as the business grows so too will the web site.
10. Data Transfer Allowance – the maximum amount of data transfer that visitors on the site can achieve each month measured in gigabytes. If you choose a package with an inadequate amount of bandwidth, your web hosting company may charge you to access more.
11. Backups – How often is your data backed up what happens if there is a server failure.
Money Back Guarantee – Most hosts will have some form of 30 day money back guarantee.
12. Statistics – These tell you who is visiting your site, when they are doing it and which pages they are looking at, it will also tell you which page they land on first, all of which help you to market you site more efficiently most even record which browser visitors to your site are using which can be invaluable information for targeting software for example.
13. SEO – Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting your website indexed and then ranked by the top search engines, such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN, for the uninitiated this can be a very daunting and time consuming process and many good web hosts provide a Free rudimentary SEO service, in any event nearly all will submit your site to all of the top search engines for indexing. An additional incentive being offered although not really SEO ,is the inclusion of Free Google Adwords or similar coupons which help to get you started with one of the many pay per click ad campaign providers.
14. Databases (Number and type) – If you intend to host a blog, or use any form of content management system (CMS) you will need database functionality, the best supported and most widely used is MySQL, you will generally need 2-4 per domain name, for blogs, product catalogs, CMS, banner rotation etc.
15. Scripting – What do you wish to use? CGI, PHP, Perl, Python, SSI, the type will depend on the databases you wish to use and the level of server side scripting you wish to perform.
16. Number of Email accounts – Ensure you have enough.
17. Sub-domains – Ensure your host will allow you a sufficient amount of sub-domains, for blogs, faqs, etc, these allow you to use different content management and security systems for each as well as many more email options.
18. Price – With Web Hosting as with anything else you are going to get what you pay for, that said there are some great bargains out there and so long as you follow these steps and the plan you are looking for meets your requirements (above) then go for it, just beware of some of the completely free hosts as they will lack certain functionality. Conversely avoid paying too much, or choosing features you know you will never use.