February 4, 2010
Nerdsonsite

What to Look for in a Hosting Provider

In a previous article, I explained a few of the problems caused by the never-ending struggle by many hosting providers to lower pricing. Today I would like to explain a few of the qualifications that you should be looking for when searching for a new hosting provider for your business activities.
Availability
The easiest way to eliminate a hosting company from your list is if they fail to publish their availability or uptime statistics. Any company that refuses to be transparent on this issue is hiding something from you, and the uptime and availability of your business website is absolutely crucial to your bottom line. If the prospective provider does publish their statistics, ask these three questions: do your statistics cover ALL your servers (many will only show their best server, or a sampling), do your statistics reflect availability as opposed to uptime, and are your statistics gathered and guaranteed by a third-party?
Team
When any public entity or large corporate submits requests for proposals, they always want to know the size of the team that will be supporting them. It is crucial that you determine if the new hosting company is a one-man show, or a large, distributed team. No matter how qualified, experienced and personable the one-man operation is, when he or she goes on vacation, your business will be left in the cold.
Reseller
Closely following the team question is the tasks of determining whether the provider is actually just a reseller for another company. While resellers in and of themselves shouldn’t be discarded just on this merit, it is important to determine whether you are really just dealing with the middle man or with the actual hosting company.
Service
The next question is this – what kind of support can I expect when something goes wrong? Some of the better hosting providers will provide excellent 24×7 phone support, but does this really go far enough for your business? Will a phone support technician really be able to adequately help you diagnose that email client issue you are having, or help you setup your new employee’s address over the phone? Look for a company that can provide on-site support in the form of a qualified individual that can truly understand your needs. After all, no matter how good phone support is, your business can not afford you spending time on the phone troubleshooting with a faceless individual, especially the time waiting on hold.
Services
Next, what services and flexibility does your provider offer? While the basics are now (generally) offered by any company you’ll look at, here are some crucial aspects that you may not get, and should look for. Hack detection, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited disk space, SEO services and on-site service. On-site service clearly falls under two categories, but it is a crucial aspect for any business that wants a truly symbiotic relationship with their hosting provider. If your hosting provider offers unlimited bandwidth or unlimited disk space, inquire as to whether there is a catch – many will actually have a limit in the fine print.
Complexity
Just how complicated will it be to hosting with the new company? If your new hosting provider will not take care of ALL aspects of your hosting (domain names, registrars, DNS, email, web, anti-spam, anti-virus, etc) then you will have a much more complex and un-productive life trying to marry all the different providers you have. To maximize your productivity, profitability and pleasurability, you will need to find a provider that will take care of all aspects of your hosting and website for one price.
Price
While price is the last thing I recommend checking, it is important to ensure that you are not being gouged, and that the price can be justified. Remember, the better the quality, the higher the price. It is then important to determine the perfect balance in this equation for your business.