10 Things to Consider Before Signing up With a Web Host
Last updated on Apr 7, 2017
The web hosting industry is highly saturated and there are numerous good as well as bad web hosts out there. In fact, conducting proper market research is nearly impossible for the average buyer in the web hosting industry, simply because the options are too many.
That said, what homework should you do before you sign up with a web hosting provider? Of course, you must be aware of your own requirements and needs so that you can pick the perfect plan for yourself. However, is there anything that you must do before you finalize a web host, other than focusing on your website in particular? In this article, we will take a look at ten things you should surely consider before selecting any web hosting provider.
1. Refund Policy
Most web hosts advertise at least a basic refund policy, and unless they are a fake enterprise operating from a shady location, most web hosts happily honor their refund promises. If you do not like or do not need the services being offered, you get a refund!
Such refunds, however, tend to come in various shapes and forms. For example, there might be a 30 day refund period, or 45 days, or even 90 days! However, what happens after that?
You should ask the web hosting provider you are looking to sign up with about their refund policy. Do they offer pro-rated refunds? If so, is that refunded actually to you or given to you just as account credits?
2. Pre-Sales Support
There is a lot that you can judge about a web hosting provider on the basis of pre-sales queries. For instance, things such as response times and level of support can be assessed. More importantly, while Sales queries are generally not handled by the Technical Support team, you can still measure the quality of support that you are likely to get from a given web host if you sign up with them.
Be sure to send questions and other pre-sales feedback to any web host before you sign up with them.
3. Scope of Support
This one is simple: just ask about their scope of support and to what extent they might go to help you out. This is especially relevant if you are opting for a managed plan — say, a managed VPS or managed WordPress hosting. Will your web host secure your server and account? What about script updates and troubleshooting? What happens if your website is compromised or you need additional server resources for a short while (say, you make it to the first page of Reddit)? Similarly, how many websites can they transfer and/or restore from a backup?
4. Anti-Abuse Policy
This is an area where most people tend not to conduct any research. But considering the fact that the web hosting industry is full of spammers, having a look at anti-abuse measures being put into place is well worth the effort.
If a given web hosting provider does not have a clearly defined anti-abuse policy, do not bother signing up with them! However, you should also bear in mind that most companies tend to stick to their respective national laws, and a web host from Asia may not need to offer explanations related to DMCA laws.
But all said and done, certain laws should still apply. What happens if a website is hacked or if unwarranted content is hosted? What about warez sites and pirated content downloads? You would not want your content in the hands of a company that hosts pirated data for a few bucks, would you?
5. Software Versions
There are certain web hosts out there that still do not support PHP 7 and their clients are being forced to use PHP 5.6 (even worse, 5.3). Such outdated scripts can pose browser compatibility issues and even security problems for your website.
Make sure you consider looking at the version of software being offered to you, especially if it is shared hosting. cPanel, PHP, and everything else should not be too outdated.
6. SSL Certificates
Wondering what is the need to talk about SSL certificates, especially if your website does not even need one? Well, read this post — SSL certificates have now become a search engine ranking factor and you should consider getting one for your website.
However, many web hosts have cashed in on this opportunity to upsell SSL certificates at ridiculously higher prices! Make sure you conduct proper research — unless yours is a PCI compliant eCommerce store or business that requires the green bar, you would do fine with a free AutoSSL or Let’s Encrypt certificate. Paying for an SSL certificate, if the free one can suffice for your needs, is not a wise choice.
7. Online Reviews
Quite possibly, web hosting is the only field wherein a Google search will leave you more confused (and often misinformed) than you already are. With high affiliate pay rates, never-ending spam, and shady web hosting firms, online searches for web hosting are filled with wrong and misleading information.
Furthermore, check out the social media profiles for the web host you are searching for. See if Twitter has too many tweets from distressed clients, or if Facebook has various negative or positive comments.
8. Ongoing Promotions
Now, if everything does seem to be in order and you really wish to sign up with a given web host, try to see if you can get a better deal from them. Many web hosts tend to have seasonal or full-time ongoing promotions wherein you can get a recurring or one-time discount.
If all else fails, just ask their sales team if they might be able to offer you a discount! For most of the web hosts, especially ones that are not owned by mammoth-enterprises such as EIG, this works really well and you will easily get a sweet discount on hosting.
9. Memory and Other Limits
This is rather straightforward: check for the limits that are applicable on your account. Ask about memory and CPU limits, and also ask about the suspension policy for websites that do not obey the memory limits. Will your site be immediately suspended? Or will you be given time to optimize your site and bring the resource usage down?
Also, bear in mind, “suspension” is different from “termination”. A suspended website means your site will be back online shortly once the issue is taken care of (for CloudLinux hosts, this means your site might come back online within a few minutes). A terminated website, on the other hand, means your account is terminated and you need to find hosting elsewhere.
Let’s face it, we know that “unlimited” is a false metric to measure any hardware. Yet, many web hosts tend to use it. “Unlimited” in itself is not a bad thing. It is, at best, a buzzword.
Look for the web hosts’ AUP, or Acceptable Use Policy. Is the unlimited disk space truly unlimited? Many web hosts disallow certain file extensions on their unlimited plans, or insist that the files being stored are vital for your site. Similarly, for unlimited bandwidth, you get no restrictions as far as visitors consuming your bandwidth are concerned. But for WordPress plugins or other software modules, bandwidth consumption can lead to problems on unlimited packages.
So there you have it, ten key things that you must consider before you sign up with a web hosting provider! Got any other pointers? Share them in the comments below!
Sufyan is a contributor to a variety of websites and blogs about technology, Linux, open source, web design, content management systems and web development. Learn more about his works on sufyanism.com