Picking a web hosting service is an important first step in putting your business online. All to often, small businesses pick "someone local" or are hosted by the person doing the web design. Your business depends on your web hosting service, so how do you pick the right one?
The first "red flag" to look for is something like "100% up-time". While you wouldn't buy a car that said "Our brakes only work 99.99% of the time."; or fly on an airline that said "Our planes stay in the air 99.99% of the time." - web servers are different. Unlike cars or planes, web servers must run 24/7 without interruption. A guarantee of 100% up-time is unrealistic and misleading. It is possible for a server to be 'up' and still not display a web page.
The second "red flag" is a web designer who offers to host your site. Most, if not all of these designers are resellers for large web hosting companies. And, most are very reputable. Unfortunately, there are some that are not so reputable. In these cases, problems can arise when you decide to either change your web designer or change the hosting service. Depending on how the site has been registered, you may find that the web designer, not you, is the registered owner of the domain name.
Unless you live near one of the major web hosting services, picking "someone local" may also be a ticket to disaster. If you are lucky, they will be resellers for one of the major companies. Unfortunately, they may be operating out of their basement with no power, backup or a limited connection to the rest of the Internet.
The following items are important factors in picking a web host. You should be able to obtain this information from the hosting companies website:
Specify a Linux, BSD or Unix operating system. The number of free, open source development tools available for these systems are far superior to what is available for other operating systems. Most major websites use one of these systems. This includes some Microsoft websites and Google, which uses Linux almost exclusively.
Also, look for a large amount of storage. You will never use it all for your website, however, a part of most web packages is an area outside the website. This is a perfect place for off-site storage of your computer's backup files.
The other package requirements listed will be used by your web designer. They are support tools for your website and your business. Your web designer will be able to explain them to you. Without them, the designer will be severely limited in what business support systems can be put on your site.
Choose your web hosting service with care. Your business depends on it.