It’s vital your site is hosted with a reputable, stable hosting company. If it’s not, the chances are you’ll spend most of your time chasing support, troubleshooting on your own and watching your visitors get fed up with performance.
When something goes wrong, and chances are it will at some stage, you want to get great support. If the supplier offers 24/7, 365 day support then that’s a great start. Things can fail at any time of day or night and if you’re audience is world wide then time matters.
Ideally look out for a hosting supplier that has a phone number which is staffed by knowledgeable staff ideally in your country. Try give the number a call before you sign up just to see what the waiting time is like and how their staff seem at the other end.
Try to find out if their support people at the other end of the phone are those that deal with managing the servers, or if it’s just staff working from a crib sheet in a tiered system. The last thing you want is to be passed around sitting on hold whilst your site’s throwing a wobbler. When you’re giving them a ring before you sign up, ask to talk to someone who manages the servers directly and see what sort of response you get.
Self service support is also important, take a look around their site to see if they have forums, knowledge bases and FAQs you can look up. These can be a great resource if you’re unable to contact support for whatever reason.
Web Server Availability
Most suppliers will say they have 99.9% guaranteed uptime. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve hit the holy grail of hosting. Quite often these guarantees mean very little. For a start, the uptime may not include scheduled downtime. And what if someone digs up a road outside the data centre and goes through their internet connection causing a drop in service—it’s unlikely that they’ll drop their statistics for that. You could argue that it’s quite fair that they don’t since it’s out of their hands after all.
Secondly, if they compensate for downtime outside of this—check out how much they value this at. Chances are it could well be less than potential revenue lost through your site being unavailable.
Servers will go down, it’s how they manage the downtime that’s important. Take a look around their support forums if they have them, do a few searches on Twitter, look up reviews on Google (if you can find independent honest ones). See what other customers are saying about their service before you jump in.
Web Server Accessibility
Check out if they allow you to access the server through a control panel, and / or SSH. If you have the power to troubleshoot, change settings, manage email, control backups, then it can save so much time and give you more control over how your site functions and behaves. Even if you’re not sure how to use some of these tools at this time, it’s better to have the option there should you need them at a later date or if someone working with your site needs access to something you can help them out.