Sunday, 9 March 2014

Choosing a Website Host

For small to medium-sized businesses that have a website or those in the process of building one, it is important that they choose a reliable website host. Although it isn't particularly difficult to move a website if the first host you go with can't do their job, life is a lot easier if you can avoid moving a website once it has gone live.

The areas a website host is most likely to let you down are:

  • Their servers keep crashing.
  • Their servers are very slow to respond.
  • Their customer support is poor or very slow.
  • They don't keep their servers patched and up-to-date.

A server that keeps crashing is no good to anybody and the people who want to access your website will have close to zero tolerance if they visit your website on more than one occasion where the website is down. A website that is slow is only marginally better than one that isn't there at all. On the Internet, slow equals death.

One of my pet peeves are hosting companies that state they have 24/7 customer support when in fact they will only respond to support queries during business hours on business days. They will let you email or open a support ticket 24/7 but nobody will be there to answer it until 9 AM the next morning. This isn't very useful when your website goes down at night or on the weekend. Ask them before signing up about the hours their support people are actually in the office providing help.

Since speed is a concern it pays to have a website host located in or very close to your target demographic. For example my business is located in Australia and most of my customers are in Australia so ideally I would use a web host in perhaps Sydney or Melbourne. However over the years I have had a lot of problems with Australian website hosts and so at this time I'm still using a host based in United States. The closer your web servers to your audience the faster webpages from your site will load, most times anyway, so go local if you can.

As I mentioned earlier it is not particularly difficult to move a website should your website host let you down. This leads to another important suggestion. Don't be tempted to sign long-term contracts with website hosts. Instead, just pay by the month at least for a little while until you are certain that the host is reliable. Website hosting is so cheap these days that any saving you can make by signing long-term is mitigated by the risk of being lumped with a poor host.