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Selecting a Host

Once you have narrowed your web host choices to several firms, you'll need to take a more in-depth look at them before choosing which one you should go with.  Click on the name of each host you consider to get a quick summary of their offerings.  For example, check which hosts have bigger plans available so you don't have to change hosts if your site grows to require more space or more transfer, and you can simply upgrade your plan with your current host.  If there are any reviews of the hosts, read them.  

Next, you should visit hosts' web sites.  Larger firms will usually have more elaborate sites with fancier features, like Flash intros.  This doesn't necessarily mean that such hosts are better but you should avoid hosts with pages that look like they were put together in 30 minutes with errors on them.  You don't want to deal with any host that doesn't treat web hosting as a serious business that deserves time and effort.

Look at hosts' plans pages to see if all the data you have checks out.  See if there are any promotions or discounts available.  If you have any questions regarding features offered by your potential hosts, you shouldn't hesitate to email them with your pre-sales questions.  This is a good strategy to check hosts' support quality.  For example, if a host doesn't honestly admit that it doesn't offer some feature, and instead tries to talk you into some other feature, you should cross it off your list.  However, you should note that some hosts have different priorities regarding answering pre-sales and technical support questions, so the quality of answers you receive may not necessarily correspond to your later support experiences.

Some plans will list additional features, not covered in our directory.  Some of them may be offered very rarely and they don't have their own category on this site, but you may be interested in them (for example support for cron jobs).  Other plans may list specific versions of server programs that you'd like to see installed (for example you may want PHP version 4, not 3, or a specific shopping cart software installed).  And some features listed may be obvious things that don't really deserve to be listed (for example support for client-side Java or Flash).

Before signing up with any host, you should carefully read their Terms of Use and Acceptable Use Policies.  Often, some crucial information that you should know before making your decision can be found there.  For example, many hosts will put important statements qualifying host's uptime guarantee (are they responsible only when their server is down, not their connecting network?) or limitations on so-called "unlimited" plans in these documents.  If there is a money back guarantee, see if the setup fee is also refundable.  If you have a controversial site, don't forget to check if there are any content limitations.  Look for any "catches," like daily bandwidth measuring or sale of personal information.  A vast majority of hosts won't have anything like that, but you should always be careful.  You should also go to the sign up page (of course don't enter anything before you are actually ready to pay) to see what payment and domain transfer/registration options are offered.

Browse host's site to see if there is a phone number (not necessarily toll-free) or a real mailing address (not a P.O. Box) listed.  In rare cases when you have a major problem with the hosting company that can't be resolved by email or online chat, you'll need this info to contact the company.  

If a host has any FAQ (frequently asked questions) posted, look through it.  Often, a FAQ can help you gather additional info, for example the specific version of host's server software.  One very helpful feature that only few hosts offer is an online forum for discussing this host's service.  Read a sample of messages posted to gauge what problems other clients had and to see how responsive the host was.  Any such message board should be a plus in your evaluation of that host.

Use a search engine on an independent message boards, like WebHosting Talk to see what people are saying about your potential host.  After that, use a search engine, such as Google, to look for any other info on that host that might be available somewhere on the Web.


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