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How to Pick a Web Host

by JC Holmes

Picking the wrong host can turn out to be a costly mistake. The company I work for has held accounts at dozens of web hosts, and oftentimes, a substandard host can run into problems that cause your site to be down for multiple days, resulting in thousands of dollars in lost sales.

No hosting service is protected 100% from hackers or unforeseen server/network problems. But by selecting a reputable host, it is definitely possible to minimize the number of issues that may arise. Here are some basic guidelines on choosing a host.

1. Select a host that has been in business for a while and is backed by a large company.
Big is not always better, but you definitely want to choose a stable business that has been around for a while. Brand new or very small hosts often use inferior networks and can go out of business in this highly competitive field. No matter what anyone says, switching hosts is a major hassle that you want to avoid at all costs. A host with a proven track record and substantial size is more likely to stay in business and keep your business running smoothly. Even better is a hosting service backed up by a name-brand company, like Yahoo or IPower.

2. When in doubt, select the host that offers a plethora of features
You may not need PHP, mySQL, a shopping cart system, or a secure server right now, but that does not mean you won't need them in the future. As your business grows, so will your website. A host that has a lot of diverse capabilities will be able to adjust to any new needs your website may require.

3. Customer support is crucial
Things can and do go wrong. That is why you want to select a host that offers phone support, preferably 24 hours/day. This can be of critical importance later on, so make sure the host you select provides this kind of support.

4. Easy to use control panel
This is one that is often overlooked. A control panel is basically the interface you use to set up your site, and perform such functions as adding databases, adding users and email accounts, etc. Most web hosts offer a demo of the control panel you will be using. Try it out and make sure it is easy to use and easy to understand. Otherwise, you will be in for a major headache later.

5. Do not let price be the only factor in your decision
Selecting a bad host can cost you thousands of dollars in lost sales. Don't pick a host simply because it is cheaper. With web hosting, you definitely get what you pay for. Support, features, and company reputation should be the main factors that guide your decision.

Sunday, Sep 24th, 2006