Looking for a New Web Host? Use this Checklist to Avoid Mistakes
If you're trying to choose a new web host and you're completely lost, I understand you.
I've been there before.
You're screaming at your hosting provider through their support threads. They suck at responding, they're unhelpful, they're not willing to compromise.
Or maybe you've never created a website before and have nowhere to start.
Perhaps you've seen the hundreds of “best web hosts” lists and don't know who to trust.
Well today, I'm getting you a bit closer. Use this checklist to help you determine who your next web host should be.
Beginner's Web Host Checklist
This section covers the basics. If you've never used a host before, start here. Further down in the article we talk about advanced features that may become too confusing. So if you're just starting out, go through this list. It helps to put together an Excel document comparing the hosting companies you're considering and how well they meet the below criteria.
- What type of support does the hosting company offer? Look for 24/7 support by phone, email, and chat. Many hosting emergencies don't happen during office hours.
- How fast is the support? Some companies can take hours or days to reply to tickets (Rackspace). Others are super fast and respond right away (SiteGround).
- How many websites can the hosting plan hold? Some beginning packages at hosts like WP Engine only allow one website. While others like SiteGround and HostGator allow unlimited websites. This is an important feature but don't base your decision on this alone.
- What is the uptime guarantee? Does the hosting company offer a 99.99% uptime guarantee? This means that they guarantee your website will almost never go down. Read hosting reviews across the web to see real user experiences.
- Does the host offer free migration? Migrating your website to a new host is a daunting task. Even experienced developers and site owners make mistakes when transferring hosts. If your hosting company offers it for you, that's a huge perk.
- Do they automatically back up your site? Mistakes happen. The best hosts automatically back up your site. Some devious hosts don't include it, and can charge you up to $150 or more if you accidentally delete your site.
- Does the host include easy installs for popular website platforms? It's extremely common for web hosts to include one-click installs for popular applications like WordPress, Magento, Drupal, etc. Make sure your host offers this, if not, that's a red flag.
Advanced Web Host Checklist
Moving on to some more advanced features, these are things you don't want to miss if you have a bit more experience. These are things you might have run into in the past that are extremely frustrating to miss. Even if you're a beginner, if you have a fairly large or complex site you'll want to take note of these.
- Does the host offer one-click staging? Creating a staging copy for site development is extremely important. It can be a pain to create and transfer staging domains. Choose a host that makes this easy.
- Do you have a limit to the sizes of a database in order to make a staging copy? Even hosting companies that offer one-click staging might have a limit on the database size. This can be very frustrating. What contributes to your database size is the size and quality of images, number of pages, whether you're on an ecommerce platform or not, and other data points.
- Does the site offer a Git integration? FTP is the old school way to update your site. True site developers use some form of change management, such as Git. Good hosts offer an easy integration for your site.
- Limited amount of inodes for Git to work? Inodes are little files that are created by your site and can often add up if you're using an ecommerce site or other site with lots of data points. It can be very frustrating to have “unlimited” hosting and then you realize that does't apply to inodes.
- What happens if your site gets hacked? A client website I was working on got hacked and the web host SiteGround took down our entire site to prevent infecting other sites on the shared hosting. That may be necessary from their perspective but it didn't seem fair to us. They didn't properly warn us and it caused a huge headache.
- Does the host offer malware monitoring? Another nice to have item, although you should also get a dedicated service like Sucuri.net to really make sure you're covered.
There are a multitude of other items to look for when choosing a new host. Looking at the price is just one aspect. If you're creating a tiny hobby website, then you'll be ok with the cheapest you can find with decent reviews. But if your business relies on your high quality website, you'll need to get a host you can rely on. A host with the features and quality you need.