Questions You Should Ask Before Signing up With a Web Host
Last updated on Dec 3, 2015
Anyone who has ever searched for a web host knows that there are countless web hosting providers out there, both big and small, good and bad. Nearly every web host makes a big set of promises, and while some do deliver on their promises, many others just use loopholes to evade their promises and jeopardize their clients’ websites and data.
As such, when choosing a web host, what all can be done? Of course, reading proper reviews, doing your research, as well as reading a post or two on reliable sources is really essential. However, what about certain key questions that you can put before your web host, in order to better understand their terms and conditions as well as the scope and extent to which the said web host might be willing to go to assist you. After all, asking questions and knowing what you are signing up for is better than losing your website data and traffic owing to a misunderstood clause.
In this post, I will be discussing some questions that you should ask before signing up with a web hosting provider.
Obviously, most web hosts tend to have a refund policy, and they display it very clearly on their websites. In fact, any user, before signing up, goes through the refund statement well.
However, generally, users remain limited to the basic info: “30 day money-back guarantee”, for example. That’s all. Such money-back guarantees, of course, are a good thing to have and these can really help you test a web host before signing up for a longer term.
But one thing that you should, definitely, ask a web hosting provider before signing up with them is: “are pro-rated refunds an option?”
More often than not, most web hosting providers offer a money-back guarantee, be it for 14 days, 30 days, 60 days or even 90 days, but keep quiet when it comes to pro-rated refunds. So if you sign up for a year, and after 8 months, wish to jump ship to a different web host or abandon the website altogether and cancel your hosting package, there are no pro-rated refunds that you can avail.
Personally, I believe every decent web host should offer pro-rated refunds at least as account funds, irrespective of the money-back guarantee. Be sure to check regarding pro-rated refunds before you sign up with a web hosting provider.
2. Technical Specs
This is more of a diluted question, and technical details may or may not matter for a good number of people. For instance, asking about PHP may be useless for you if all you intend to do is run some HTML pages. Similarly, if you are not running any Node.js scripts, you will not be needing Node.js enabled on the hosting either.
That said, there are certain broad questions that might be worth asking before finalizing with a web host. For example, if you are running WordPress or a similar CMS, be sure to ask about PHP versions active on the web hosting package that you are opting for, and whether you have the option to change the default PHP version by yourself.
One very helpful and simple question that you can ask is: “which version of cPanel are you using?”
If you get something like “Oh! The latest version, I’m sure.” — you should probably think twice before signing up with such a web host. Applying security patches and bug fixes to cPanel does not take a lot of time and unless the host is using a highly customized and tweaked version of cPanel, there is no reason why they should delay cPanel updates. Just check the latest version of cPanel on their official website, and compare it with the version being offered by the web host you are considering. If it’s an outdated version that has reached its end of life for updates and support from cPanel, definitely run. On the other hand if it’s only one release behind the latest version of cPanel and it has the latest build (updates/fixes) for that version, it’s not a concern. One example I can cite is Namecheap — they are a good web hosting provider by all means, but for some strange reason, they are slightly lazy when it comes to updating the cPanel version on their shared hosting. This is not something that will raise a red alarm, but surely not something that leaves me happy either.
Another question worth asking is: “what is your policy regarding backups?”
Yes, every good web host will take regular backups, and while you should surely keep your own backups, it is still a good idea to check with your web host about their backup policy. However, rather than focusing purely on the frequency of backups (daily vs weekly), focus more on how easy is it to restore a given backup, if the need ever arises. Does the host offer you access to backups in cPanel itself so you can restore it yourself? Do they do it for you upon request, free of cost? Is there a limit on the number of backup restores that you can ask for? These are the questions worth asking.
Let us be honest: money matters. Before you sign up for a web host, see if they have any active promotions or discounts going on.
Generally, web hosts tend to advertise their promotions via channels such as Twitter or Facebook, their blog or popular web hosting forums. You can check such channels for any ongoing promotions, or simply ask the web host in a sales ticket: “are there any discount promo coupons I can use?”
I have had great luck getting recurring discounts from web hosts simply because I asked them for it. So when signing up for a new web host, one of my pre-sales questions always happens to be related to ongoing promos and special deals.
Choosing a web host can be a confusing job, but pre-sales questions can really help you shortlist the ideal candidates. What are your thoughts about the above-mentioned questions? Have any questions of your own? Share them with us 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