1. Starts with you. Determine your needs. Space, bandwidth and budget.
a) Space – Cover your needs and allow for expansion if needed.
b) Bandwidth- Same as above.
c) Budget – Set a realistic budget for yourself. How much are you willing to spend? Lowest price too highest. Being a little flexible on your price will give more hosting choices.
2. Follow some basic guidelines for even considering a hosting provider.
a) Does the host have phone number? At the very least a web host should provide you with a contact phone number. This doesn’t have to be a 24-hour a day number but your future host should be available during normal business hours in their respective time zone. A toll free shows a willingness to provide convenience for their customers.
b) Do they provide at least 24/7 Support Desk? Support is important, this is a must. You should have access to support 24 hours a day. Test the support desk. Choose anytime of the day or night and contact the support desk to test response times, ask any questions you might have. A response time under an hour is good; less than thirty minutes is considered excellent.
c) Take a good look at their web site. This sometimes can be over looked but I believe this says something very important about the hosting company. If they care about how they present themselves to the public, they are more apt to care about other things like service and maintaining a high reputation.
e) Do they have an Uptime Guarantee? We won’t set a number on this but a hosting provider should be willing to disclose what their commitment to service is. A professional company will have this included in their Terms of Service.
f) Do they provide a Money Back Guarantee? Again, this should listed in their Terms of Service.
g) Payment Options – A host should provide their customers with more than one payment option. Credit cards and other payment option such as PayPal or something comparable.
3. Make a list of at least four to five possible hosting providers that fit your needs from the guidelines above and do some research.
a) Search these forums and others to see what type of information you can find on the host.
b) Compare features and price of the hosts on your list.
c) Contact the host either by phone, email or support desk and ask any questions you might have.
d) Check Testimonials – If the host has a list of testimonials if possible send an email to one of those customers and ask for their feedback on the host. Most people are happy to give a recommendation. This can also help determine if the testimonial real or a fabrication.
e) Finally you might want to consider doing a ping test if you can, check some customers web sites if listed, see how fast they load.
f) Make your choice, sign up and good luck.
There are so many hosting companies out there today, and the choices are close to endless. These guidelines are not fool proof in anyway but if you follow them you will have a better chance finding a host that you can trust in delivering quality service and save you from moving from host to host. In twelve years of buying web hosting and dedicated servers I have never once had a provider suddenly disappear on me in the middle of the night. Good luck and good hunting.