Before you choose a web host, you should first of all figure out what you want to achieve with your new website. A small website intended to be used by close family and friends can be managed by a small hosting business. If you plan to become the next Amazon, you need much bigger and faster hosting services. So your aims and business plan may determine which companies you consider suitable for your new baby.
Do you know anything about creating a website? Can you program in Java and HTML? If not, or you doubt your abilities, you might want to choose a provider that includes an easy site-building system, or can offer training in what you need to know. A site builder allows you to select a theme (layout, colours, etc) for the site and then help you customize it for your requirements (enter your own titles, text, pictures, etc).
An essential for any new website is a domain name, the address typed into a browser to take the user to the site. Most web hosting providers allow you to buy a domain name when you sign a contract with them for hosting services, but you might want to spend time beforehand researching what domain names are available and which ones suit your needs. Your web hosting provider should be able to give you email services using the website’s domain name this gives a professional appearance to email addresses.
When building a new website, it is often important to be able to upload files (text, photos, graphics, etc) to the hosting server. Some web hosting providers require customers to use an upload manager. These can be inefficient and slow at times, especially compared to batch file transfers through an FTP program. You should check to see if you can upload using FTP software such as FileZilla to your new website.
Whilst start-up costs are an important factor, do not be deterred from ensuring that your potential provider has capacity to allow your website to grow if more space is needed. You should check the provider’s pricing plans to see what they can allow.
An important thing to consider is the level of customer service on offer, and what help pages and FAQ pages are on offer. You might have needs for 24-hour telephone support, 24 hours reply email support, and/or live chat services, so make sure they are available.
If you intend to go into ecommerce, it is vital that your web hosting provider can support SSL (secure socket layer). This encrypts the connection between a customer and your website. It also requires SSL certificates and a secure server with https:// capability. Does your prospective provider give what you need here?
You also must understand the kind of hosting you are buying. Some providers offer what is called ‘shared hosting’, that is several websites run on a shared server and share resources (although traffic and data are kept separate). These are fine for small websites, but if you have big plans, you need to choose a provider who can assign your website to a dedicated server. This means that your website is the only one on it, and it uses all the memory and disk on the server.
Something else to consider is if the hosting company uses Windows servers or Linux servers. Generally speaking, Linux servers are cheaper to obtain and run, and there is a wider range of ecommerce software for Linux than Windows.
Final tip: Search Google for reviews of the companies in your shortlist to see what other users say about them.