The State of Web Hosting: Finding a Five Star Experience

Five Star Web Hosting

For a business owner, dealing with a hosting provider has been a necessary evil if he or she wants to have a website. The array of choices has kept most proprietors perplexed:

  • Should I go with a big company or “buy local?”
  • By what criteria should I choose a hosting company?
  • What is a fair price?
  • And what am I paying for anyway?

Add to the mix the fact that many web designers and developers are resellers for the larger hosting companies with the ability to set their own pricing, and you’ve got a truly incomprehensible choice to make.

Recently, though, I’ve watched a separation between the wheat and the chaff in the hosting world. The winners bring a new level of customer service that has not traditionally existed in this sphere. Yes, you might pay a little bit more for it, but in my opinion it’s well worth the extra few dollars a month.

What should you look for in a web hosting company?

Great Hosting Poor Hosting
Backs up your site daily. Backs up seldom, or worse, leaves the responsibility of back up to you.
Takes responsibility for their servers, monitoring attempts to hack and taking action immediately if a hacker gets in. Cleans up your site for free if it is hacked. Leaves it up to you to find out that your site has been hacked then sells you a $99/mo. Package that doesn’t even guarantee you won’t get hacked again.
Support technicians are knowledgeable about their servers and talk only to you until your issue is resolved. Support technicians work with three people at a time and are answering from a knowledge base rather than experience.
Support technicians will help with WordPress (or other CMS) questions. Support technicians will only answer questions about their server status.
Company cares about server speed and takes care of their equipment. Company denies that the server has anything to do with how fast your site loads.
If you decide to leave they will refund the unused portion of your package and be sorry you are leaving. If you decide to leave they quote a hidden clause in your agreement where you signed away your right to a refund.
Includes an SSL certificate with your package (https:// instead of http:// — a Google “requirement” for good search engine optimization) and installs it for you. Asks you to upgrade to a package three times the price to get an SSL certificate or charges upward of $30/yr. for SSL as an add-on and leaves it up to you to install, i.e., pay your web developer to install it.

One consequence of great hosting is that most of the companies in this category are focusing solely on hosting – that means no e-mail as part of your package.  If your company is using Office 365 it’s not an issue, but if you’ve relied on your host to provide an e-mail that is structured, you’ll have to make other arrangements.  Ask your web developer for a reference to a reputable IT firm who can make suggestions and get you set up.

As with technology in general, the web hosting space changes very quickly. Hosts that were my favorites two years ago are now on my “Do Not Use” list. Some of my current favorites weren’t in business yet.

My Current Favorites Still OK To Use Stay Away From
FlyWheel Bluehost Hostgator
WP Engine 1 & 1 GoDaddy
A2 DreamHost Network Solutions SiteGround Jumpline

The list above is subjective, based on my experience in dealing with the hosting companies my clients have chosen before they find me. On the negative extreme, when I asked to speak with a supervisor at Hostgator, I was hung up on. On the positive extreme, a FlyWheel “Happiness Engineer” (support technician) pushed my issue to the front of the line and in under a half hour I received an e-mail that my issue had been resolved.

Choosing a hosting company that values my client’s business and whose employees treat me with respect has become my number one criterion. What’s yours?