There are many factors we look at when choosing a host. There are literally thousands of providers in the World and there are many, many considerations to take into account. I like to take a systematic approach and narrow down my field of possible hosting provider candidates before I even look at prices. I write down a list of criteria that I must place on choosing an appropriate website host and these form my requirements base.
1. I look at the required target audience and their geographic location – where does you target market live? And I seek to answer the question; do I want to rank more highly in a regional index rather than an International Index? For example, let’s say you sell blue widgets and you are based in Melbourne, Australia. Through your website you only ship to addresses within Australia. In this situation you would ideally want to be listed more prominently in the Australian regional search indexes – like google.com.au
Why do we need to consider this? The reason is simple, the search engines will rank you more highly in a regional index if you use a hosting provider based in region or country in question. So, this is our first factor
2. Dedicated IP Addresses or Shared. When it comes to search engine optimization this can have an impact so I like to mention it as early as possible in choosing candidates for website hosting provider. Some SEO professionals believe that not having a dedicated IP can have a detrimental affect in Google rankings but from my experience it sometimes does and it sometimes doesn’t. I have had some sites come in with high PR rankings on shared IP’s and others when I shifted to a new IP the PR of the site jumped, so this is still a bit of a mystery when it comes to Google rankings. My advice from a logical SEO perspective is that you never know with whom you are sharing an IP address; they could be running a porn site or a warez site, so logic says get the dedicated IP if you can.
3. Requirements of the coding and database for my website. As an example you might be using a Joomla website and with this comes certain requirements – we need PHP, a MySQL database, a web server (HTTP), sendmail (if you want to get/end email), and some kind of file transfer access (FTP or SFTP). These might seem like fairly common requirements but there are additional items you might want to consider in this segment like the operating system of the host, Linux or windows or what other services they have running on the server, Perl CGI-BIN access, SSI, .htaccess, telnet or SSH crontabs. This item covers all dependencies your website has on services and software to make it perform correctly on the web server.
4. Reliability, Speed and Uptime Guarantee. There is nothing that can hurt your business more than your website visitors coming to your web site only to find that it’s inaccessible. You lose a lot of credibility and possibly even sales through your website being down. You should consider removing a candidate web host if they do not provide you with at least 99.9% uptime. Many web hosts will provide guarantees like this and you should seek to find them. Many web hosts have redundant back-up systems for Internet access that are used when the main connection fails for some reason. Do your research and find out how many redundant connections they have to ensure less chance of the website being unavailable. Website “Redundancy” means if any of the normal Internet connections are interrupted then an alternate Internet connection will be used.
5. Customer Support. One of the most frequent complaints that people make about website hosts is the lack of customer and technical support. From my experience it does not matter if you are an expert or a novice in web hosting, you still need a web host with a good customer support system. Many web hosts offer email, online chat and phone support while others are available only via email. In most cases, email support is adequate, but you should be cautious if a potential web host has no phone number available in case of an emergency.
Response times to support questions can vary greatly. Some web hosts may take only a few minutes to get back to you while others take days or even longer. It’s important to find out what support any web host candidate provides. Searching on the Internet for references can often be of assistance in this regard.
6. Data Transfer – Traffic/Bandwidth. This is often referred to as “bandwidth”, which is the amount of data that can be transferred from or to your website. Basically look for a service which provides a good amount of traffic when compared to other services available. Also when choosing your website host you should ensure that the plan you are on can be expanded so that any foreseen increases in traffic can be accommodated accordingly.
7. Disk space. Again, take into consideration other hosting providers and find a service which provides a good amount of storage space in comparison. You might want to take into account any foreseen increases in storage space required also and factor the ability to be able to change the plan to accommodate these needs.
8. Price. This is always a huge consideration after all you could get a dedicated server for about $200 per month but for the most part this is not required for a new business website. The normal business website is not going to have 5000 visitors per day when it first starts up. Of course there are exceptions and if you are expecting this much traffic then you should get the dedicated server straight away. If however you are like most normal businesses and looking to gain a web presence then I would advise you to get a shared server with a dedicated IP. For something like this the prices can vary from $5 per month to $100 per month. Often you get what you pay for, so you should look at what services they provide for the money and weigh these up against the benefits. Often there are extra’s that are suitable for your particular needs, like Joomla support or content input or specialized hosting services.