Once your company has made the decision to seek out a hosting service, be it for data, a website, an application, back-end functions, an intranet, or any combination thereof, there are several hard and fast rules to picking the right one. With price being relative, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the companies are auditioning to work with you, not the other way around.
Tony King, Director of Operations at Managed.com, believes there is still something to be said about trusting yourself — your gut — when considering a hosting provider. "If you talk with them and you get a bad feeling, remember there are a lot of other options out there. If you get a bad sense from a company, don’t hesitate to look for another one who is willing to help you and can answer your questions,” King said.
Research, recommendations, and word of mouth will be among your greatest allies here, not to mention simply applying the smell test to every company that seeks you out or that you are interested in. Be confident and ask questions of the hosting companies you’re considering. If no one responds, or they can’t answer your questions in a timely manner, you are probably better moving on. As King likes to remind his team, "Even in a predominantly digital industry, people do business with people they trust.”
Every customer is different, just like every hosting service is different, but there are some universals that will generally lead you in the right direction as you search for the ideal match for your hosting needs. Here’s a closer look at a few.
If a company says its server uptime is 99.5%, have them prove it to you with real statistics. If it turns out to be 97.5% or even 99.2%, there’s your first red flag that you’re dealing with a company that is willing to stretch the truth.
Plenty of hosting services want to sell you the package they’ve created, rather than adjust to your specific needs. If they aren’t willing to bend at the start of the relationship, what makes you think they’ll do it when you’re asking for new options farther down the road? This is key if you’re looking for a long term, mutually beneficial partnership.
3.Who’s On Your Team?
Most companies will give you plenty of attention when trying to get your business - talking about an entire array of IT specialists, software engineers, web designers, etc., who are on staff to make things easier. But just because all those people work there doesn’t mean that your package includes their services. Find out exactly how much support you’ll be receiving, when it’s available, and how you go about acquiring it.
Your hosting company should be more than just the place your website is. Ken Dillard, Director of Customer Care and Support at Managed.com explains, "You want a true hosting partner. You want someone who is going to have your back 24/7/365, not just Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on their time. Find out up front what kind of support you will get after a sale. How do you open a ticket? Who can you contact? What processes are in place to handle an issue? Will you have to wait a long time? A well-organized support team should be able to communicate all of these to you up front. You don’t want surprises when your site is down. Ask them to walk you through a ticket request so you can find out what their processes are."
4.All In or Stay Out?
Depending on what your specific needs are, you might want any level of interaction from your hosting service provider - ranging from them setting up the domain and leaving you alone, to constant meetings and connections where they give you advice on best practices for running your intranet, pulling in new leads, etc. You must communicate your desired level of interaction to the provider early in the process, to make sure they are not only able to provide it, but willing as well.
5.Check Out Their Business Website
Nothing tells you more about how well a hosting service does than to examine its own website. If the lines are neat and the content is constantly being updated, you’re more likely to have a winner on your hands. If you’re spotting typos or it’s fairly obvious that someone hastily threw together a WordPress site with stock images in hopes of passing themselves off as a multi-national corporation, best to cross that name off the list.
Also consider how transparent a company is about their practices. Does a company have ready documentation that they can get to you quickly? Are they on social media? Do a little digging and find out how active they are communicating with their customers. The growth of social media gives you — the customer — more access than ever to a company. Do a little sleuthing and see what others are saying.
King adds, "Ask around. Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful consideration people have in the consumer decision making process. People take a personal recommendation from one person much more seriously than they do any number of ads. Find out what other people are saying about a company.”
The ability to reinforce your plan’s resources when you need it should also be something considered when looking at hosting providers.
Johnny Gregory, Senior Account Manager for Managed.com says, "A good hosting company should be able to scale your website up and down with ease. Whether your company is growing or you just need more resources for a busy season, your hosting provider should be able to increase your performance to exactly what you need when you need it. Also look for a hosting provider that considers your site’s resources from day one. In the industry, this is called “Server Density,” and it can make the difference between smooth site performance and long load times."
"Some hosting companies will cram as many plans, customers, and websites onto a server that they can. If you populate a high-density server like this, your customers will definitely experience a negative impact on performance. We build our servers to be low-density — fewer customers and websites on an individual server means there will be more resources when you need it and better performance overall", Gregory continued.
One last thing to consider is how long a hosting provider has been in business. Age does not equal quality, but it can indicate a company has had the time — and continued success — to implement a well-run machine that can handle the most demanding website environments.
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