Consumer’s guide to choosing a good Web Host
As an insider in the web hosting industry, I’ve read just about every blog post on choosing the right webhosting company or how to find the best host. Unfortunately most of those are also attempting to tilt you to one host or another through affiliate partnerships. Some of my best friends are affiliates, I have no problem with them, but they are naturally bias. This article is different. The only revenue ever made from this blog is donated (as promised in the footer) and a handful of the example hosts I have used here have absolutely no personal or money-generating relationship with me.
How to Vet a Hosting Company
So you’re in the market for a new hosting company. First you need to determine whether you want generic hosting or hosting built for WordPress. Once you know which you need, then you should follow our 11 point guide for vetting them for quality. You should consider a 8 out of 10 passing. Let’s get started.
- Do they have testimonials on their website? Is it recent? Is there a domain or business name attached to it?
- Are they priced realistically for your expectations?
- Do they have a published money-back guarantee with no loopholes?
- If a US based hosting provider, is it registered with the BBB?
- Search twitter, how are the reviews? Are they active?
- Do they blog? How active is their blog?
- Do they publish a status site? Are they transparent with their outages?
- Is there a phone number published? Do they answer it 24/7?
- Ignore all awards.
- Management team’s names available?
- Are they at all a Green Hosting company?
Do they have testimonials on their website? Is it recent? Is there a domain or business name attached to it?
Testimonials are the easiest thing in the world to fake, and yet one of the most trusted metrics on a website. Remember, every website, whether a business or personal blog needs inbound links to help generate business. You want a well-established hosting company to link to your website, so it’s suspect if they do not have an actual domain name attached.
Good example is WebHostingBuzz - there is a business name attached to that review and if you google it, it shows as an actual business.
It’s also a fairly recent review. Be suspect of old reviews.
Are they priced realistically for your expectations?
Web Hosting is not one size fits all. If you expect your hosting provider to be online 99.9% of the month, don’t expect to pay less than you would for a latte that you might enjoy for twenty minutes. It’s very possible that $4/month hosting is fine for your website, but know that there is a difference in quality delivered at $4/month, $10/month and $29/month. There may be $10/month hosts who do better than a $29/month and there may even be $4/month hosts who you’re ecstatic over. But generally, if you pay peanuts you get peanuts.
Do they have a published money-back guarantee with no loopholes?
You should expect a minimum 30 day money back guarantee, aim for 60 days. Read the Terms of Service and ensure that there isn’t any loopholes. It should be an absolute no questions asked money back guarantee. The only exceptions granted should be for license or domain fees. Those often can not be refunded.
If a US based hosting provider, is it registered with the BBB?
The easiest way to find a BBB rating is Google. Very simple.
If they do not have a BBB, be cautious. Businesses don’t have to have BBB but I’d expect them to if they are quality. I’d probably only dock them a half point if they failed this, for some reason some quality hosts simply don’t deal with BBB.
Search twitter, how are the reviews? Are they active?
Search Twitter - I searched for page.ly for example. You really should find actual people talking about the company here, not be flooded with affiliate offers or negative responses. A few negative responses is a not a deal breaker here, but look for the hosting company to respond. Make sure they are active on twitter – not simply feeding posts but responding to their clients.
Do they blog? How active is their blog?
Inactive blogs show me a company who can’t follow through with their plans. If they launched a blog they had plans to blog, and if they don’t do it now there’s a reason for that. You should expect active blogs.
Do they publish a status site? Are they transparent with their outages?
This is a critical one. Look for a status page. I’ll use the hosting provider I use – WP Engine – as an example. Here’s their status page - they aren’t perfect, they have outages, but they fess up to them and don’t hide their dirty laundry. Be cautious of a host who only shows you their current or last issue.
Is there a phone number published? Do they answer it 24/7?
This is another half point question. There will be some hosts who do not have phone support. There is occasionally good reason for this – but still be cautious. Look for a phone number and call it. Call it during business hours, there’s absolutely no excuse for not having phone support during business hours.
Remember, don’t just look for a phone number but call it. How long is the hold time? If your website was down, would that be an acceptable length of time to hold? I’ve seen plenty of hosting companies with infinite hold times. That’s just evil. Worse than not having a phone number is having one that makes you hold infinitely. Your time is valuable.
Ignore all awards.
Every top 10 review site will issue awards to hosting companies. They do this to try to convince the hosting company to link to them. This helps their search rankings (if a host links to a top 10 site, Google will see that top 10 site as more credible for reviews about that host). So just ignore them. Possibly even subtract a point if they blast you with more awards than reasonable. It’s a marketing trick.
Management team’s names available?
Look for the name of the managers in an About Us page. I like to see faces too, but demand names. When you find a name, google it. You should hopefully find their twitter, linkedin and various other profiles. If you can find them now, you’ll find them when you need them. Nobody wants their real name easily available if they are going to have unhappy clients.
Find a host who passes at least 8 out of those 10 and you’ll be in good shape. I used real life examples in this guide, I wouldn’t link to a hosting company if I didn’t think they treat you well, so there’s a good place to start if you’re simply not sure where to go for hosting.
I, Nick Nelson, do not in any form or fashion profit from this website. All revenue that might be generated will be donated to PageAhead or FoodLifeline in Seattle.