Guest Post by Borkos
Hosts these days are a dime a dozen, and many offer the same basic feature set with strikingly similar pricing packages. If your requirements are relatively straightforward and the company has a decent website, all your questions will more than likely be answered right there. For those with e-commerce or high-traffic sites, there are likely additional considerations you must take into account. In either case, it’s still helpful to ask questions.
Why ask questions if the website has already told you all you need to know? For casual sites that aren’t business-related, there’s probably no need. But if you’re going to rely on your website to bring in income, you need to know not only that the host has top-tier features but fast, knowledgeable support, and asking questions is the best way to see for yourself whether that’s true. Granted, most companies handle sales questions separately from support, but there are a few things to watch out for that will help you determine if this host deserves your business.
If your question is answered by an uninformative boiler plate or other generic response with no personal note attached, they obviously don’t care enough to deserve your business. Worse, if it takes the company more than 24 hours to get back to you, that should be an automatic disqualification.
Here are six critical questions to ask each candidate for hosting your website. You can find many of these answers somewhere on their site, but odds are a few will be hard enough to find that you’re better off simply asking them. It’s best to ask these questions via online chat or email rather than phone, because you’ll end up with a written record of the session that you can refer to as you query different hosting providers.
- Does the provider have a direct connection to the internet backbone? If not, how many hops downstream are they? What is their connection type and speed, and how much of this bandwidth is used on a regular basis?
- What is their backup strategy? What happens if your machine crashes and is unrecoverable? How often do they back up your data? Similarly, what happens in the event of a power failure? How long can they function on battery or generator backup?
- Do they use the latest versions of critical software such as PHP, MySQL, Pearl, etc.? What’s their upgrade plan when a new version of a commonly used software package is released?
- What are their support options? Is there 24-hour phone support available for emergencies? Do their phone support personnel speak your language fluently?
- Is there a penalty for switching plans mid-stream?
- Do they engage in throttling bandwidth usage at any time? If so, under what circumstances?
This list is hardly exhaustive, but it touches on each important aspect of web hosting. You might have noticed that disk space was absent from this list, but today’s hosts offer more than enough space to suit all but the most data-intensive applications. These might seem like basic questions that any competent company would answer in their general literature, but you’d be surprised how often that’s not the case, especially things like their upgrade strategy and bandwidth throttling criteria.
When asking these questions, pay attention not only to the answers but also to the way in which each question is answered. This will go a long way toward telling you whether a particular host is right for you.