How or where you host your website may not seem like it's all that important to the overall marketing plan of your site, but I guarantee that you'll only think that until your website or email goes down when it matters most. Over the years I've used almost a dozen different web hosts providers. In that time, I've found only one or two which were virtually hassle-free, and for that I had to pay some pretty sizeable hosting fees.

Web hosting costs have reduced drastically in the last several years; however, you shouldn't choose a web host based solely on cost. As inexpensive as it might be month to month, a poor provider can cost you thousands of dollars in lost sales if your site or email goes down or simple fails to function properly on a consistent basis.

When researching various hosting companies, look for quality over cost. You don't necessarily have to pay an outrageous monthly fee, but you do need to find a host that provides you all the features you need with minimal inconveniences and ongoing problems.

Tech Support

A good web hosting company will provide around the clock call-in tech support. Personally, I avoid any provider that only offers email or online tech support. That's a personal thing for me; you'll have to make your own judgment on that. If you call, you should not be left on hold for more than four or five minutes before reaching a representative to help you. If you email a tech support issue, be sure your provider responds to requests quickly—-within hours, not days—-and is able to quickly and competently provide you a solution.

Down Time

Many providers offer some kind of uptime guarantee. Be sure to read the small print in order to fully understand what that means. I've dealt with providers which the guarantee was only for the website and not for email. I went a full day without functioning email and the host refused to give me any discount on that month's service charges.

Many providers give a 99.9% uptime guarantee. This means that the provider guarantees that their servers will not go down for more than 8 hours per year or less than 45 minutes each month. Of course, if you're in the middle of a big marketing campaign, 45 minutes can be crucial.

If a provider fails to meet their guaranteed up time, you can usually get your hosting charges waived for the month. If it happens regularly, you can literally go months without having to pay fees. Sounds nice, but it's really not adequate compensation for the amount of traffic, and perhaps business, you lose while your website or email is not functioning as it should. If you are currently with a host that goes down more than a couple times a year, you may want to reconsider who you host your website with.

Next week I'll discuss what you need to know about server load monitoring as and secure servers.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
September 21, 2005

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.

Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > Selecting a Web Host Provider - Part 1