When choosing a web host, there are many things that you should consider before doing so. This is why it’s wise to always do extensive research before signing up with a host. While I might not have listed *everything* that you should look out for, I’m pretty sure the following tips would be helpful to anyone who has no clue on what things to avoid. In any case I will update this page when I have more pointers to add.
If a web host is not a registered company, they’re basically saying “we’re here today but we may be gone tomorrow.” Maybe it’s just me, but I am not comfortable giving my personal data and credit card info to random teenagers running a hosting “company” in their mom’s basement.
Always make sure you check a web host’s about page and see if you can find any information about their company. Search the Internet for their company records, press releases, etc. You can also check their domain WHOIS for more information about their business.
I’d be very wary if I couldn’t find anything at all about a web hosting company, which leads to point #2…
In my opinion, private WHOIS is fine for personal websites, but never okay for online businesses. A domain’s WHOIS information contains contact info such as the registrant’s name and billing address.
This may be a matter of personal preference but I’d rather do business with companies who are transparent. If a web hosting company has nothing to hide, there should be no reason to keep their WHOIS info private.
SSL certificates are a must for any online business. These certificates ensure that your connection to a website is encrypted. The last thing I’d want to happen is for my personal details and credit card info to leak because of a website that’s not secure.
If a web host wants to give an impression that they’re professional, responsible, and trustworthy, they must have an SSL certificate. No excuses.
A lot of hosts have their phone number on their site, but a lot of these numbers aren’t even in service! Before signing up with a host, call their phone number. If it’s not working then it’s either the host completely forgot they had a phone (which means they aren’t serious), or the host posted a random phone number on their site just for show.
More and more web hosts are offering unlimited space, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited domains — basically unlimited everything! While their offer may sound like you’re going to get the most out of your money, it may actually mean the opposite.
Truth is there isn’t a way to provide unlimited resources. These unlimited hosts set a resource limit per account and these limits are usually hidden in their TOS/AUP. They create the illusion that you’re getting unlimited space, bandwidth, etc. because your site doesn’t actually use up much resources to begin with! To give you an idea, most small sites/blogs use way less than 1gb of space.
What happens when your site hits the limit set by the “unlimited” host? Your account will get suspended and I’m sure you don’t like the sound of that.
Just remember, these web hosts usually provide more than what they think you can use, but never “unlimited” in a sense that they will never ever run out of resources. In most cases you’ll be better off with a host who promises guaranteed space and other resources, especially if you’re planning to expand your website/online business.
I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen enough of these:
Shared hosting for only $2/month!*
*if you pay for 3 years worth of service
Free domain name!*
*it’s actually included in the price you’re going to pay
Our $5/month hosting, now only $10/year!*
*only for the first year, regular rates apply for renewals
Lesson? Always read the fine print!
It may seem like it’s better to have your domains and hosting in one place (i.e., managed by one company) but the truth is you’re going to save yourself the hassle if you purchase your domain from an external domain registrar such as NameCheap. Why?
There are hosts such as Bluehost (owned by EIG) who don’t offer monthly payment terms. In their case the shortest term you can sign up for is one year. This is usually a bad sign because they might be doing it to prevent clients from leaving once they experience how bad the hosting service is.
Now, I’m not saying that all hosts who don’t have monthly plans suck but I’d like to point out that I have yet to find many good hosts who don’t have monthly or at least quarterly plans.
Anyway as far as billing cycles are concerned, my advice is to always sign up for a month first. If you prefer to pay annually, just switch to that payment plan once you’re sure you’re happy with the service you’re getting.
If you are planning on signing up for a longer term (1 or 2 years) to get a lower pricing structure that’s understandable, but make sure there is a clear money-back guarantee period. Also check their cancellation policy. Some web hosts offer pro-rated refunds if you decide to cancel your plan, in which case you will get back the money for all unused months on your plan.
Have you ever tried signing up for any of GoDaddy‘s hosting plans? If you have then you very well know what I mean by unnecessary addons and upgrade offers.
When I want to sign up for a $12/month hosting plan, I expect to pay $12 at checkout and not some price close to a hundred bucks. I avoid hosts who focus too much on upsells — and you should too. Why? They give the impression that they only care about the money and it’s true most of the time.
Another thing to note is when you’re already with a web host and they suspend your account then tell you that you HAVE to upgrade in order to get your website back up. Always discuss specifics with the host before you upgrade! And while it may be true that you’re using too much resources, sometimes the plan they recommend offers way more than what you actually need. If this happens to be the case then maybe it’s time for you to switch hosts — you don’t want to pay for something you’re not going to use.
There are hosts who charge for things that most others would do pretty much for free. I’ve had a client who paid $150 to get his ~80mb cPanel backup restored by his web host. I’ve heard of a host who charges $25 for a simple main domain name change when this service is typically done for free because the process takes just a minute or two!
Sure it might be in the web host’s terms that simple tasks like those would incur a charge, but I don’t think it’s justifiable to charge so much for something that doesn’t take too much time. Watch out for those, and make sure you completely understand a host’s terms before signing up with them.
This is probably the most important bit. I know it’s a no-brainer, but if a web host has a lot of negative reviews then that should automatically raise a red flag!
Check for recent and legit reviews from customers. See if the reviews have some things in common. If they do, then you’re most likely going to experience the same issues if you sign up with that host.
If you are still considering a host despite their negative reviews, you should at least try asking them about the complaints posted by their customers. Doing so would give you a better idea of what happened and it could help in setting the right expectations.
You should always be vigilant when dealing with web hosts. A lot of web hosting companies are professional and can be trusted, however there are also many hosts out there who want nothing but your money. If you read through some of my experiences with web hosts you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Here are three more tips to avoid wasting money:
Bottom line: Doing extensive research about a web hosting company is very important, no matter how boring that may sound. It is your responsibility to check if they’re legit or not. Also don’t give in too easily to shady marketing gimmicks and such — you don’t want to be their next victim and I’m sure you won’t like the feeling of being ripped off!