Picking the right web site hosting company:
Since OurShop.com is geared toward answering questions for “merchants”, we will focus on professional full service web hosts. This still leaves us with a mind boggling number of choices.
What to look for in a web site hosting company:
- Operating System and Program Language Capabilities – Most web site hosting companies allow front page on either a unix or windows based system but if you need .ASP files you will need to be on a windows based server. Likewise, some windows packages may not allow programming languages such as Perl. Many companies provide both windows and unix based hosting though their package rates may differ.
- Full Management tools including email setup, file management, web based security (to password protect areas of your site), FTP support (to transfer files), and online page creation. See if the web hosting company includes an online demo of their web site manager tool.
- Additional applications that can easily be added to your web site, like bulletin boards, shopping carts, calendars, and banner management
- Fast connections to the internet (T3 connections or better) so the public can get to your pages quickly. T3 would be acceptable with small hosting companies though OC-x is preferable.
- Competitive pricing – Todays hosting environment is very competitive but be sure to select a company that can sustain itself. Be sure to review available add-on costs looking for items that you expected to be included in the basic pricing. We’ve had the most success with web hosting companies that have straightforward pricing. Hosting with a company that has additional price add-ons can end up costing us much more than the price we expected.
- Physical location of the servers. Are the servers in the same country as your customers? Is the location prone to natural disasters or political instability? Are there any other factors that are involved with that particular location?
- Excellent support and reliability. Some hosting companies actually *do* know that they make their money by keeping their web site hosting costomers happy and well supported. Find out how their support works, the reliability of their servers, whether or not they are the actual hosting company or if they are reselling someone elses services. Do they have a disaster plan?
The first 6 items can be done by checking the web hosts information pages and testing their online demos of applications. The last, however, is a little more difficult but you can do some testing by finding the support number on the company’s pages and giving it a call to see how prompt the response is. You can be straightforward and tell them you are a potential customer and are testing their support availability. You may even have some questions that you can ask.
Though support and reliability of web site hosting companies is last on our list, we’ve found that most sites moving from one hosting company to another are based on dissatisfaction with support (typically unanswered questions and recurring or unresolved issues). It is very important to be reasonably comfortable with the level of support and competence you expect from your prospective hosting copmany.
One of the best ways to find a good web site hosting company is to talk to people you know (vendor/customer relationships, friends, etc) that have web sites and ask them about their experiences with their current web hosting services. You should be able to get candid, reliable responses.
And finally, we’ve put together a list of web site hosting companies that we are familiar with and comfortable with the level of support they provide. These web site hosting service providers can help you through every step of getting your e-commerce web site online.
We are always interested in hearing merchant’s experiences with their web hosts. Please feel free to to use our our contact us page.