Define your requirement and choose accordingly. What are you hosting, and what do you need?
Are you running a personal blog, or business website? Personal sites rarely need much more than is offered in the cheapest packages, but a business will have higher requirements, and often need a more expensive, all-inclusive package. If you plan on running an online store, be sure to get an SSL certificate. If you are hosting large-sized photographs, make sure your bandwidth and storage are adequate, but remember not to overlook other parts of the package. If you plan on hosting your own video files, you’ll need more, perhaps a lot more, depending on how many files you’ll be adding and the amount of compression of the files.
You also need to consider what operating system the server is running. Wordpress requires a Linux-based serve, which most host companies at least offer. In fact, most web applications require Linux, and the general consensus is that Linux servers are more stable and better suited to hosting websites. So make sure you can get a Linux-based server, even if your host seems to want you to choose Windows.
If you’re wanting one or more email addresses to go along with your domain name, does your host offer them, and how many? Some only give a main “admin” email, which can be fine, but if you want to divide your email addresses by subdomains, or have some for your family or employees, having more is an asset. As well, consider whether they are web-based or POP3, and whether the storage space used for them is deducted from your overall storage space allotment. Some hosts do, some don’t, so be sure to check.
Finally, how do you want to pay? The best deals usually come in a prepaid contract, for 1, 2, or even more, years – do you want to be stuck with this package if you later find the service bad, or can you handle having one host for this long if it gives you a good deal? As long as you do your research ahead of time to pick a good host, it can sometimes be worthwhile to take a long-term contract, but don’t jump into it just because of a bargain price.
Most of the small business websites don't really need more than 50mb space.
Don't just fall for space – how many domains and databases can you have?
Does your potential host allow multiple MySQL databases and multiple domains on one account? You will normally overestimate your storage and bandwidth needs, but initially underestimate your database needs. If you want to run multiple subdomains, tie several databases into one Wordpress installation, or run different applications that require databases, it makes no sense to settle for only one or two. If you plan on growing your website at all, having access to a large number of databases can make it much easier, and cheaper than having to purchase more from your host.
The same goes for domains – while initially you may only want one domain on a hosting package, if down the road you want to add to it, not being able to can be expensive. If your potential host doesn’t tell you how man domains you can host on a single hosting package, ask! Unless you have no intention of ever considering creating another website, which I highly doubt, you need to be able to host multiple domains. If you can’t host more than one, consider how much it will cost you to purchase new hosting for every domain you want to buy. Doesn’t seem reasonable, does it? You’re much better off paying a little more to another host and getting multiple domains.
Do they offer a Wordpress easy one-click install using Fanastico?
Does the host you’re considering offer a one-click install? While a one-click install can seem amazing, sometimes it’s not as easy as it’s cracked up to be. Remember that you will likely need to take a few steps yourself before the one-click will work, so be sure your host offers instructions on how exactly to get it to work. If it doesn’t offer this service, the main Wordpress website has very easy instructions on how to install it yourself – even the most inexperienced user could figure it out. So be sure that if it is available, but doesn’t work out like you expected, that you’ll be able to install it yourself – as in, make sure you understand the basics of FTP file transfers, and read over the Wordpress website.
Do they keep the Wordpress version up-to-date in the one-click install application list?
If your host uses a one-click install, does it keep the version up-to-date, or are they several installs behind? Minor updates aren’t as much of an issue, but if your host is on version 2.6 and 2.7 has been released, being behind can cost you – the newer versions have new management tools, new layout styles, bug fixes, and major improvements to the overall usage of Wordpress. Old versions need to be upgraded, and if your host can’t keep up, it’s safe to assume they’ll be slow to fix other bugs, too. Also, be sure that they tell you how to go about upgrading your install using their service, since doing it yourself can be a bit tricky and a mistake risks you losing all of your previously posted content.
They provide huge space at low cost and lure you into buying. Then, you realize they only allow one domain and one database!
Do they have good, quick customer support?
Support can be, at times, more crucial to your online success than the control panel, storage, bandwidth, and cost. Especially cost. Frequently, cheap hosting packages will lead to inadequate customer support – how good can the tech support be if the company isn’t bringing in much money? The cheapest hosts just can’t do it. Consider what good support staff is if all they can do is tell you they can't do what you need them to so you’re site will work. 24/7 support sounds great, but if they can’t help you, what good is it?
You should test out customer support yourself, but also look into other blogs and websites that offer reviews. If other people have had a good experience, you probably will too, and vice versa. This is doubly true for anyone who doesn’t have much experience with web hosting and servers – if you don’t know what you’re doing, they need to be very good and very responsive.
And, on the topic of customer service, will they investigate if an issue arises that you can’t solve? While many hosts will be happy to troubleshoot and fix most issues, many cheap hosts skimp on service, and will be quick to blame you or the software for any issue – and completely fail to help fix it. No matter what caused the problem, the tech support should be able to either A. Help you fix it, or B. Direct you to where you can get the information on how to do it yourself.
Do they provide 99.9% uptime guarantee or do they face frequent down time?
When you’re initially choosing your host, an uptime guarantee can be a good thing. However, make sure you check and see what it is they are guaranteeing – not all downtime is guaranteed, and often the downtime that isn’t will be what happens. Basically, a 99.9% uptime guarantee means that you should have no more than 40 minutes downtime per month, or 8 hours per year. While this sounds good, in theory, having this downtime at peak times could still be disastrous. Check what they’re offering if there is downtime - a guarantee is no good if you don’t get anything from it. Be sure you check reviews on other websites as well, since you won’t know what downtime is like until you’ve bought your hosting.
For example, If they don't allow access to .htaccess file you won't be able to use permalink - the super cool SEO feature of wordpress.
Do they do regular backups?
How often are backups done? If the server crashes, how do you go about getting your content restored? While most hosts do handle backups, how often are they done? It can seriously hurt a business or major web presence if a server crash destroyed your content, and the backup is from months before. Of course, a responsible webmaster would do as much as possible to ensure they have their own backups, but sometimes it’s just not possible to have everything saved offline, so a solid backup plan through your host can be good insurance.
Some hosts use paid backup services, rather than offering hosting plan backups outright. This may be a good solution for you, depending on your finances, and how much time you have. If you choose to pay for your host to handle backups, you will likely be able to choose how often they’re done. If you’re running a high-volume website that’s updated daily, a daily or weekly backup would prevent major data loss should the server fail. But, if your site is smaller or updated less frequently, then a monthly backup may be enough.
Planning to use a premium theme after you purchase the hosting?
Premium themes can help you stand out, as they are rarely used on a large number of websites, and are often more detailed and have deeper functionality than free themes. Premium themes generally geared towards bigger websites and businesses, rarely standard bloggers. If you’re not sure about whether to use a free or premium theme, check out websites like Smashing Magazine (http://www.smashingmagazine.com) for information and examples of high-quality themes, both free and paid.
Check for the premium theme requirements before making a decision. Ask the theme designer what’s required to run it, and how much back-end editing will be needed to make the theme work. Many premium themes have plugins that are required to run correctly, so find out what they are. Check if they have a user forum or blog, and be sure to read other user comments and ask questions. Support is also crucial if you’re new to Wordpress – setting up a theme can sometimes be confusing, so having access to the designer for help can make the process a lot smoother.
Do they offer support for web development tools?
No matter what hosting package you’re looking at, make sure that you see support for the following developer tools:
PHP MySQL Ruby on Rails Python/Perl CGI .htaccess cron jobs/Telnet access
These are all widely used programming languages and databases, so if you don’t have one or more of these tools in your hosting, your design options will be limited. Wordpress requires PHP 4.3 and MySQL 4.0, so these should be the very minimum provided by your host.
Does the host allow you to change server configurations? Some applications require non-default settings, so to run them you would need the ability to change these settings. For example, if you’re looking to have password-protected areas, will you be allowed access to the .htaccess file so you can do that?
Does it have GD Library support?
GD Library is an open-source code project for image creation, and is often used for creating thumbnails and graphics in web design. Many themes use the GD Library code library, for its simplicity – GD Library is available in several programming languages, so be sure to check that your host can support it
Many themes now come with a feature that automatically resize pictures to fit in your blog. Those scripts need GD library support from your web host in the backend.
It’s always wise to ask about your concerns before you buy the hosting packages.
If you have ANY questions about the services, hosting packages, etc. Be sure to ask them before you pay – handing over your money only to find out your issue isn’t addressed can hurt, badly. They should be fully concerned with helping you make an informed choice – if they’re not they’re probably hiding something.
Choosing a host for a Wordpress-based website shouldn’t be a stressful task, but if you don’t properly research each option, you could end up with some nasty surprises down the road. Wordpress is a great tool for running a huge variety of websites, and having a good host can make it even easier.
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