As a Software Developer, I often get asked to recommend where is best for web hosting or domain name purchase. Over the years I have used many hosting companies, most of whom I’ve dropped after a short period for one reason or another. It’s not always easy to get out of your mistakes; you may be in contract, already paid months/years in advance. Even if free to go it’s a pain to move webs, you can suffer downtime and that can affect your business reputation.
It’s this ‘list of negatives’ that have helped me find good hosts, so on my criteria to watch out for is:
Price. Expensive doesn’t mean good, and sometimes I’ve paid a lot of money hoping for quality service and finding that it was not.
Repeat cost. Be very careful with advertised prices; some hosting prices are just introductory and the next month or quarter you may see a massive increase. Domain name prices work the same; pay pence to buy one and a rip-off price to renew.
Contracts. Watch out for the 12-month+ contract. It means if you soon find that they are poor then you’re stuck. Many hosts offer lower prices for longer-term hosting paid up-front. Unless I know the host, what I do is join on a monthly basis and then extend if they are good enough. Even if there are no contracts, check how easy it is to leave!
Support. This is sometimes difficult to ascertain until something goes wrong – and then it’s too late. I once had a site go down on a Friday night and when I phoned I was told that support staff didn’t work weekends (I soon dropped them). Some hosting companies are better at Windows than Linux and vice-versa. Reviews don’t always help here as you don’t know if customer complaints are due to the hosting company or the customer’s own fault. If you haven’t got personal experience with the company, try to ask a friend who uses them. If you do get a problem and your host sorts it quickly then stick with them.
Ease of Use. I suppose ‘ease’ depends on your own experience and ability, but understand what you are getting in your deal. Many hosts set up with fancy front screens that require no skill to work with, but others require you to work with the server direct. Windows Server requires very different skills to Windows Desktop. I once (accidentally!) ordered a bare-bones Linux server which came a black console screen with a prompt and had to load Apache on it myself.
Extras, like WP, email, databases and sub-domains. Hosting companies can differ widely on what they offer as a base package. It’s easy to make the mistake of signing up and then finding some of your expected extras missing. Many hosts now class email as an add-on extra (and not always cheap). Is WordPress just a one-click install, all set up and working? Have you got enough databases you need and in the right format (MySQL, SQL Server)? Will the host support sub-domains if you need them? What versions of PHP do they support? Do you need Ruby or Python? Is all the software you would like to run supported?
Scaling Up and Down. You start with a small server and your project takes off. How easy is it to scale the Server? I’ve found that most hosts scale well. Move to the next plan although often you can choose more RAM/Disk/CPU and simply pay; the website keeps working without any problem to you. If you’re on a Cloud server it may be automatic, but keep your eye on costs.
Who do I use?
I’ve found big is better. The large hosting companies have more support/knowledge base available and their size means costs are usually good. I’ll give the two companies who I have been with for many years. I’ve included affiliate links if you are interested.
My Windows hosting is with GoDaddy. I use remote desktop to manage the server myself and have upgraded both Disk size and RAM size over the years. The reliability has been excellent and when I have had questions they have been answered quickly. I’ve tried several other Windows hosts and GoDaddy has easily been the best.
My Linux hosting is with HostGator. There are several very good Linux hosting companies around, but HostGator has been my favourite mainly because of the ease of use. I host multiple domains on the server, reliability has been excellent, support (when needed) has been excellent. One click install of WordPress. Good email support. Good prices.