Monday, 6 February 2012

How to find the Best Hosting Company

This entry is submitted to us as guest post. The author’s views are entirely their own and may not reflect the views of Alrayes Web Solutions.

We live in a digital world. We are constantly connected via laptops, tablets and smart phones whether at home, at work or on the road. Therefore, businesses must have a digital presence (website, mobile site, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) in order to effectively compete. In doing so properly, they are able to capture their share of the nearly 80% of Americans who begin their buying process online via a search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo.

However, unlike a brick-and-mortar store, consumers always expect a website to be live and accessible 24 hours of every day; any level of downtime would ultimately prove costly. A down site could result in not only the loss of customers and sales but an overall negative impact on the brand. This is one of many factors to take into consideration when selecting the best hosting company for your business.

So here are five considerations to make when choosing the best hosting company.

1. Reviews

If you want a powerful indicator of what your experience will be, start by checking what others who have purchased the product/service have to say about it. As with every other product and service purchased online, this is a great tool for evaluating a web hosting company. The easiest way to find a basic review is to type the name of the potential company followed by the word “reviews” (e.g. Company X Reviews). Make sure to read through more than one though because not all reviews are equal.

Extra Tip: Keep in mind that there are paid review sites out there. So compare and contrast multiple sites to ensure you have an accurate picture of what you are getting. Also, look to sites like Google Maps, Google Product Search, Yelp, Amazon and Yellow Pages because these sites provide user generated reviews.

2. What is the Service Level Agreement (SLA)?

What is your web hosting companies Service Level Agreement or SLA? Many companies will promise 100% uptime or more commonly a 99.9% uptime guaranteed; however, this is often misunderstood. What this means is that in the event that your site is down at any time, you will be compensated per the terms of the company’s SLA. An example would be when a company offers you a support credit good for 1 or 2 days to your account for every hour you are down. It is impossible to promise that a network will not go down at some point, but a quality SLA will help manage any harm as results from the lost uptime. Therefore, look for an SLA that best fits your needs.

3. Data Centers

With hosting companies, more is better. Companies that invest heavily into a reliable network of data centers do this to ensure uptime and reliability. More options means more opportunities to select a data center that best fits your needs. You will be able to select the data center closest to your office to optimize your colocated servers, select one close to your main customer base to reduce latency or you may choose to set up a server in separate locations for failover or backup. Ultimately, the more choices you have the better decision you can make.

Extra Tip: Having data centers that are geographically diverse will help protect against service interruptions to power or network due to natural disasters or severe weather.

4. Services they Offer

What is the core of the business? When researching possible hosting companies, you want to ensure that the company you select has the ability to nurture your company’s growth. If you are starting with shared hosting, you will want to know that you will have options as your business grows to upgrade to virtual private servers or dedicated servers. Also, make sure that the technical support you will need is handled in-house by highly trained staff and technicians to ensure quality.

Extra Tip: Call to make your order. Do they offer phone support? Are the representatives friendly? Do they want to help you with your service? How many times does their phone ring before you get help? Ask yourself these questions before ordering online, and you will get a better idea of the level of service you can expect.

5. Price Comparison

This is a very price sensitive market, which requires all hosting companies to be competitive in their pricing structure. You will see countless promotions, deals, coupons and guarantees. So when you start to compare price, look to see the services, support and fees that will be associated with the product you are about to purchase. For example, Company A might offer the better price point, but Company B offers better services with a Price Match Guarantee. The goal is to find the optimal value, not just the lowest price point. This is an industry where “you get what you pay for.”

*Bonus Tip

Effective search engine optimization can often be limited in a share hosting environment: specifically, if you share an IP with a number of poor sites or spam sites. This is the classic "guilty by association" situation because search engines might not differentiate your IP with the other sites on the same server. However, you might not be ready to jump up to your own dedicated server. There are a number of hosting companies that will provide you with multiple Dedicated IPs that you can leverage for improved optimization for your site(s). So keep this in mind when you make your final consideration because if the goal is to reach top organic search placement for your key terms, then finding a hosting company that will offers you Dedicated IPs is a solid choice.

Finding the best hosting company can be a long process, but it does not have to be difficult. Do your homework to find the company that best fits your needs, and you will save yourself countless hours down the road. Hopefully these tips will aid you in the decision process of choosing the best hosting company for your business.

Richard Norwood is the Marketing Manager at Superb Internet, a web hosting company that provides a full line of services from Dedicated Hosting to VPS and Colocation. Follow him at @SuperbInternet.

Image by SXC

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