First and foremost, does your site run and for how long?” Uptime for web hosts is usually measured in percentages. Typically, we recommend finding a host that has a 99.99% uptime. The critical aspect is the four nines as this gives you as little downtime as possible, and therefore fewer headaches.
Based on 60 minutes per hour, 24 hours per day, 30 days per month – here are the downtime numbers:
99% Uptime = 7.2 hours down per month
99.9% Uptime = 43 minutes down per month
99.99% Uptime = 4.32 minutes down per month (usually a server reboot)
Stay away from 99% servers as you will be making phone calls weekly to your host. Make sure you have at least three nines from your service agreement.
Help!” My site is down. OMG!” I am getting screamed at by my boss!
When you need help, how long does it take for the host company to respond?” If you email them do they respond same minute, same hour, same day?” If you call them, are you on hold for 1 minute, 20 minutes or more?
Remember to factor in all costs, including your time, when choosing a hosting company. You will call your host at one point in time. It will be a critical time too, and you don’t want to have to wait 20 or 30 minutes to speak to a support representative. I know that when you call our company, someone picks up the phone immediately during normal hours and for off-hour emergencies my mobile phone rings.
I recommend that you test out support before you sign onto a web host. I have had instances with support email wait times of 8+ hours and 1+ hour of phone wait times. Contact their support team and see how quickly they respond via email and phone, just to be safe.
Speed still matters and there is a difference between hosts in this area. Some shared hosts load up their servers with thousands of web sites, including yours.You are just one small site on one small server. Some web hosts control quality through more servers and less sites per server.
Also, did you know that know only is load speed a major factor in visitors staying on your site, but for SEO purposes speed does matter. Site load speed is now a factor in the search results. So make sure your site is on-par with other sites.
Before you select a host, you should know whether you need a Linux or Windows platform. I have seen a few clients caught getting the wrong platform and having to switch. It is not a big deal, but it is a simple check with your design team, so just ask their preference.
More importantly, check to see whether you will need a Shared, Cloud, VPS, or Dedicated server. Each has its own costs and technology. A quick guide is here:
Shared hosting can be cheap – $10 to $50 per month. The reason it is cheap is you share the same server with potentially thousands of sites and all those files reside on a single server – a single point of failure. So if this server goes down, so does your site. These are good for non-critical applications and for general brochure sites.
Cloud servers / sites are a hybrid whereby you do share resources with other servers, but your files are distributed onto multiple servers. You do not have the limit of being on a single server. Your sites can grow. Cloud servers start anywhere from $20 (Grid Hosting at Media Temple) to $150 for Cloud Sites at Rackspace.
VPS technology is short for Virtual Private Server. This is where you do share a server with other sites, but not nearly as many. The good news is there is always a cap because it’s usually based on the RAM and Storage limits of the server. You could end up with just a few large sites or perhaps 50 or so smaller sites. You get your own hosting environment within that server and set limits on memory, storage and bandwidth, but you are still sharing overall resources of the same server. A crash of one site does not affect your site, as resources are independent. VPS can start at $50 per month and go to over $200 per month depending on your needs.
Finally, there are dedicated servers. This is the top-of-the-line, where it is just you on the server. This typically requires you to manage your own server. Dedicated servers can start anywhere from a few hundred dollars per month and up. You can add on multiple servers, firewalls, load balancers and all sorts of other goodies. This is typically for the most advanced sites and not for a typical law firm web site.
Can you web host scale with your web site? Finally, can your site scale?” With social media allowing sites to get lots of traffic instantly, it is important to factor in whether your site will suddenly become popular. If your hosting account is on a shared resource, it could crash the server.
This is why Cloud computing has become more popular. With cloud computing, theoretically your bandwidth and resources increases on demand. This has saved a few of our sites that suddenly had internet fame with a few popular links.