Below are areas you should think about when choosing a website hosting provider. Thinking through what you need at the outset and matching it to the appropriate provider will be time well spent.
Whilst most website hosting providers quote a monthly fee this is often just for comparison purposes and you actually have to pay 6/12 months in advance as a minimum. Others offer various options, obviously being cheaper the more you pay in advance. If you do not want to (or cannot afford to) pay in advance you need a website hosting provider who allows monthly payments.
If you are happy to pay in advance you need to check the Terms and Conditions to establish your rights to cancel and get a refund. The best providers do not lock you in at all. If you pay monthly it is reasonable to expect to be able to terminate at a months notice.
A money back guarantee features in the packages of some website hosting providers who will give a full refund on request within a specified number of days of signing up. Whilst this should not be a major factor in choosing a provider it does at least show their confidence in their service and you might find out how good their support is during this period.
The lead-in packages often only allow one domain to be hosted. This may be fine but it is worth looking at the costs for multiple (or unlimited) domains, as once you get started you may well discover a need for another domain.
Website hosting providers sometimes include a domain in their package. Check if it is always free or just for an introductory period. It is likely that the free domain will use one of the less popular extensions (it will not be.com) so it may not be the best option for your new site.
In case your site attracts a lot of traffic it is safest to have unlimited bandwidth then you never have to worry about this. However where limits apply they are unlikely to be an issue for a new site in the foreseeable future.
Much the same applies as for bandwidth (above).
Loading time is important both to provide a good experience to users of your site and because Google are now taking this into account in the search results. You can have your site monitored by third parties once operational but at the outset you can only go by existing user feedback. This should not be an issue with any of the top website hosting providers. Your website hosting provider should also provide a guarantee on percentage uptime which should be around 99.9%.
Many website hosting providers offer both Linux and Microsoft hosting. There is no connection between this and your PC operating system and I recommend that you go for Linux unless you have a specific reason not to do so. Linux powers the majority of websites, including major sites like Google, and there is a wealth of free software, tools, forums etc. dedicated to it. Many people now use WordPress to build their websites or blogs and about 95% of these installations are on Linux as it is easy and straightforward. The exception would be where your website developers specify the need to use Microsoft based hosting.
The following should be available:
* set-up and control multiple email accounts on your domain, preferably with a webmail service.
* setup multiple FTP accounts
* access to and control of databases
* tools to backup the site (and databases)
* It is also good to see support for Fantastico – which makes it very easy to install WordPress.
In many ways this is the most important question. The best service in the world is no good if you cannot get help from your website hosting provider. Look for the support options to include a toll free phone number. It is also worth searching the web to see feedback from real users.