Question 1: What is the nature of your business (or businesses) and why do you need a web host?
From the beginning, I've had my entire business online. So obviously the need for hosting was a requirement. There have been some offline businesses I've tried, but the lure of a worldwide audience and unlimited earning potential sparked my online career.
Question 2: Describe your Web Hosting journey. Which hosts and types of service have you tried and why did you move?
As I type this, I am trying to remember how many hosts I've been through over the years. I think it's around 7 or 8 to date. Don't even remember all the names.
I've noticed a similar theme when it comes to hosting. I hear great things about a certain host, join up and all is peachy. But over time, the service begins to degrade. I don't know if it's the fact that they grow too fast and can't keep up, or they get lazy, or they get bought out, more on that in a moment.
Early on I used shared hosting, but it did not take long to realize that this type had its limitations, not to mention I was at the mercy of others.
I soon graduated to managed VPS hosting and have not looked back. VPS is like having your own dedicated server, but at a lower cost. Future plans may include a dedicated server, if the needs warrants.
What are the most important features/benefits you consider when choosing your Web Hosting service?
1) Speed - The obvious has always been important for me when I am choosing a new host. If my websites are not fast enough, I lose potential customers (maybe forever) and possibly search engine ranks. We know if someone comes to our website and it's slow or there is a problem, there is a good chance they will never return.
2) Support - Things happen. There have been times I've broke my websites or parts of them. While I try to fix what needs to be fixed myself, I can't have my sites down for long, whether it's my fault or the host. Every minute my websites are down I am losing money so support needs to be quick and knowledgeable.
This was another problem with my last host, often the support personnel did not have the 'know-how' to help me. Nothing worse than a support ticket getting bumped up to the next department and you have to wait again...if you get a timely response at all.
3) Price - While I am price conscious, it is not always the deciding factor for me. I feel that most times, you get what you pay for. Since hosting is the most important part of my business, it is critical, I don't want my business to suffer because I want to save a few bucks. Frankly, I feel that too many people are lured in by low-cost or discount hosting offers, and it ends up costing them even more in the long run.
And to be even more frank, if one works a proven online business plan and takes action, their hosting will be more than paid for. It will then be a tool to generate even more income.
The other thing to remember is that most every quality hosting service will offer different plan options, so one can move up as their business grows.
Question 4: Are there any web hosts you would definitely NOT use? And if so, why?
I would not recommend my last host, which was HostGator. Not saying they are the worst, but there were too many reasons to leave.
After they were bought out by the EIG group, things started going downhill. Almost immediately after the buyout, all hosting was moved to different servers, in a different state, which caused quite a bit of downtime for many customers. Even after the move, downtime happened and often when it occurred it lasted for hours on end. If I remember correctly, all my sites were down for up to 8 hours at a time. That is just unacceptable.
Next to suffer was the support. Wait times for phone and chat support soared. It was not uncommon to wait for an hour. Support tickets took days for a reply, if there was a reply at all. Often I would have to repost to the ticket to get any response. Or I would need to get on the phone to get any assistance.
After the buyout, my websites also took a hit when it came to speed. Speed tests showed it was slower. Actually just moving to my new host recently, my sites' speed jumped 8%. Granted it's not a huge jump, but it is an increase and every little bit helps.
The last straw was when I was having trouble with a WordPress plugin. After getting no reply for over 3 days to a support ticket, I decided I had to switch. They say they are getting better, but I wouldn't hold my breath. I know of so many people who have ditched.
Funny, switching to my new host, I now have a faster server, 3 times the memory and a much faster hard drive, for a few dollars a month cheaper. Pays to shop around!
Question 5: Are there any other tips or advice you can offer on selecting a web hosting service based on your experience?
Do Your Research - The biggest tip I can offer any one searching for a new host is to do your homework, do your research. I cannot stress it enough. If you're serious about building a business online, you need to be serious about choosing the right hosting service.
You could have the best website in the world, sell the best products in the universe, promote stellar affiliate products, whatever your business model, but if your websites do not function properly, none of what you've done will matter.
Of course we cannot believe everything we read online, but if we search enough we will notice a pattern, good or bad. Often a simple Google search will yield first page results of a scam.
Most every hosting service will have a Facebook page. Check it. Or if they have other social media accounts. Look high and low.
Also, don't be taken in by all the "reviews" online. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that probably 90% of them are either fake or simply affiliate promotions.
Be sure to also look for recent posts about a hosting service. Although they might have been outstanding in 2010, doesn't mean they still provide the same service. My last host was one of the best when I signed up several years ago, but things change and they can change fast.
1) Start On the Right Foot - When possible, go with VPS (virtual private server). Shared hosting services are just that; shared by others. What if someone else on the server makes a mistake and brings down the server? What if another user on the server gets hacked? It could make the entire server vulnerable.
2) Hosting and Domains - Another important point that is hosting related: ALWAYS use two DIFFERENT services for your domains and hosting. If you have to leave your host on a bad note, or they are being difficult, when you're in control of your domains, you can point them to any host you wish. Control of your domains is of the utmost importance.
3) Maintenance - It's important that you take care of your sites. Hosting services can only provide so much security and backup. Make sure to keep your sites up to date and have a plan in place for backups and security.
4) Migration - If you're switching hosts, and if you have a lot to move, take advantage of hosting provided migration. My last move was painless. I simply gave the new host my log in details for the soon-to-be-sacked hosting service and they moved everything for me with all the same login's. It's like they picked it up over there and set it all down over here. Saved me SO much time and frustration.
5) Preparation - One last thought... always be prepared to move. While it should be standard practice, you need to have backups of everything just in case you need it. Backups on your computer, backup hard drives, and something like a cloud system can save you.
A good example... while WordPress is an outstanding platform, too many times we get lazy and install plugins and themes through our WP dashboard. Or we edit files, such as theme stylesheets though the dashboard as well. Problem is, when we do that, we do not have backups. Then when you go to upload to a new hosting you find out you're missing all kinds of things.
My current choice of hosting services - KnownHost
Why? Fast and very qualified customer service. Quality hardware with responsible prices. I've been more than satisfied.