There are three extremely simple answers to this question.
Value for Money
A Google search will uncover thousands of blog articles relating to this but you will find that most are paid-for posts that tell you to “stick with the big names”. Interestingly, the bigger the web host becomes and the more well known it is, the worse all three of the above become. Don’t be swayed by stupidly low prices as often the money is made in the provision of essential services that they then require you to ‘add on’. As a result, none of these three areas are achieved, telling a very different story to what those blog posts say.
Instead, it is worthwhile spending a little time researching your potential new web-hosting providers, creating a kind of “comparison chart” that looks at the three areas mentioned above.
In fact, if truth were told, you are far more likely to have a positive web-hosting experience by trusting your requirements to a smaller web host, such as a web hosting reseller.
Resellers come in all different shapes and sizes, although often you will find that a reseller also offers other services as the main focus of their business, such as website design. Web-hosting providers such as these are generally a far better choice as you receive friendly and reliable service backed up with the technical knowhow that is so important in an area such as web hosting.
Lets take a closer look at the three key points to look out for.
Everyone is entitled to nothing short of outstanding customer service. Is it really too much to ask to speak to one person (no press 1 for this, 2 for that, 3 for the other… hold tone for 10 minutes… and so on) who is genuinely happy to help you, keen to stay in touch with you (even when there isn’t a problem), and has a vested interest in delivering exactly what they have promised? With a smaller web-hosting provider you get exactly that.
Web hosting set-up and administration can be an absolute nightmare even for the most technically savvy of people. You should be able to have access to your own web-hosting account first and foremost. Don’t trust everything to your web host. I know a lot of small businesses that have had issues with cancelling products and services and the such-like because the web host they were doing business with decided to “get funny” with them. If you have access to your own customer control panel then you can at least have a little control over what happens with your account.
Your customer control panel should be nice and simple. The bigger the web host then usually the more complex your control panel becomes. All you need is the ability to actually find what you are looking for, such as where to manage and order/cancel your domain names and hosting packages, where to go if you need to update your personal and security details, and where to go if you are having problems and need either a simple FAQ’s section or a simple online support form to complete in order to request help.
Value for Money
Don’t get “cheap” mixed up with “value for money”, and don’t be tempted with rock-bottom prices and tall promises.
Instead, you should look for a web host that gives you more for your money, in terms of both service and features. For example, a well-known UK web host that advertises on TV provides a low-cost hosting package that at first glances looks extremely attractive. However, when you actually look at what the package includes you are disappointed very quickly. The package in question doesn’t provide any MySQL Databases (you’ve got to pay for them!), it doesn’t provide any one-click-installs for the popular website frameworks such as WordPress or OSCommerce, and there are lots of restrictions on usage. A smaller web host often has all of these features inclusive of their slightly more expensive package – backed up with great service and excellent usability.
Where to look
Start with simple online searches, by all means looking at the bigger providers, but make sure you search for smaller local providers too and give serious consideration to using them. After all, if you have an issue with your service then who would you rather be dealing with – a random customer service operator that is more than likely based in another country, or the same person you speak to each and every time who is based 30 minutes up the road?
Choose wisely, make an informed decision, and do what is right for you and/or your business.