Web hosting is a subject that divides opinion more fiercely than you might think. When people are arguing about what is most important in a web host, you can prepare for some strongly differing opinions. While there will be many who prefer that the web host has good tech support, and others will prize webspace above all else, a significant number of people will plump for uptime, every time. If your web host provides the right amount of uptime, the tech support won’t be so necessary (and you can always add more webspace later on).
Uptime is, however, essential no matter who you are and what your site is about. You might as well not have a website if it is going to spend more time displaying error messages to the people who want to read it. Most web hosts will promise in the region of 99.9% uptime. None can promise a hundred per cent, as this is an impossible promise, but you will note that the sites that offer 99.99% or 99.999% will be more expensive than those offering the simple 99.9. Nines are costly.
It is worth asking for proof if none is shown, or asking an impartial contact if the hosting company is as reliable as they say they are. It is one thing to lay claim to excellent uptime and quite another to reliably provide it.
Whatever else you look for in a web hosting provider, you should always be on the lookout for good customer support. All web hosts will say they provide it, just as all heavyweight boxers will say they are going to win their next fight by a knockout. Just because someone is saying something, it doesn’t mean it is true. There are several things you will need to ensure your web host has before deciding that it will provide you with the right level of customer support.
A toll-free customer support line is a sure sign that the company really is confident that it can give you the help you need without any messing around. Someone has to pay for a phone call and if it isn’t you, it’ll be them. If they’re paying for the call, they want it to be short and final, so they will move mountains to get you back up and running if there’s unscheduled downtime. Still, it is helpful to have a record of every query, so if they offer an additional email support service, you should double up by sending them email.
Many of the better web hosting providers also have customer forums. If they’re any good they will be patrolled and moderated by techies, and placing a post on the forum is a good idea if you have an unresolved problem. They don’t want to see a lot of posts on there saying their service sucks, because that’s liable to turn people off them – expect someone to reply to your query fast and have you up and running again. Finally, look out for hosts who have frequently updated documentation of potential downtime and other issues on their site. If you’re going to have downtime, it’s nice to know in advance.