How to Choose a Web Host
Choosing a web host for your web site is one of the most important decisions you can make. The correct host will ensure that your web site is fast, has backups available, and has little to no downtime. The first thing that many businesses look at with hosting is the cost and while this is important it shoudn't be the most important factor in choosing a host.
Choosing a web host for your web site is one of the most important decisions you can make. The correct host will ensure that your web site is fast, has backups available, and has little to no downtime. The first thing that many businesses look at with hosting is the cost and while this is important it shoudn't be the most important factor in choosing a host. The maxim You get what you paid for is very true. Choose the cheapest option and/or don't do enough research on the hosting company and you'll have a bad experience due your site going down, the host not providing quality technical support and hidden restrictions.
It's very important that the host you choose provides technical support in a timely manner and makes it easy for you to get the help you need when you need it. Look for a host that has multiple support channels available including via the hosting control panel, email, live chat, and telephone.
Your web host should provide backups of your site. Most hosting companies have database and file backups going back 30 days. Double check to be sure.
Room to Grow
You'll want to find a host that will allow your web site to grow by enabling easy hosting package upgrades. Many small businesses will start off with shared hosting and then as the web site traffic grows and the site expands the site will need a more powerful server. Using a host that allows for easy servery/hosting package upgrades will help make this transition smooth. A good host will have 2-3 levels of shared hosting, VPS and/or Dedicated servers. Furthermore when choosing VPS or dedicated servers you'll often have the choice of a managed or unmanaged server. If you or someone on your team is comfortable managing all aspects of the server including php, apache, security etc then an unmanaged server will be for you. Otherwise choose the managed server. The extra cost is well worth it in peace of mind and time saved.
Your web host MUST have an excellent uptime record. While no web host can guarantee 100 percent uptime, it should offer at least 99 percent uptime on average.
Check around with your friends, colleagues and of course your web developer for recommendations. A web host with a poor reputation should be avoided, you'll also want to choose a host that is known to work well with the CMS that is powering your web site. Online reviews of web hosting companies should be taken with a grain of salt due to companies across all industries using fake reviews. Rely on friends, colleagues and trusted industry professionals such as your web developer.
Recommended Web Hosts
The top host that I recommend is Site5 see September 2016 update below. This site and many of my clients are hosted on Site5. I've been using Site5 for 8+ years and have had an excellent experience from day one. All of the requirements laid out above are met and exceeded by Site5.
Alternatives to Site5 that I recommend include Rackspace and Nexcess.
September 2016 Update
I know longer recommend Site5 as I ran into some issues and I was extremely dissatisfied with customer support. I did some googling and discovered that Site5 had been acquired by EIG and that EIG is notorious for acquiring hosting companies and then the quality goes downhill quickly. You can read all about it here, here and here.
I have since migrated my sites to A2 Hosting.