How to Choose a Hosting Provider

Not all hosting providers are created equal. Picking the wrong hosting company can be a costly mistake. In this section, you’ll learn what to look for in a hosting service and how to spot a bad deal.


What makes a good hosting company?

Contrary to what so many believe, the cheapest hosting company is not always the best option.

When trying to decide on the best hosting provider for you, you’re going to need to look deeper than price to find that right mix of cost, customer service and server reliability.

We’re going to quickly discuss 6 key criteria that you can use to evaluate your options: Uptime, pricing, plans available, customer support, control panels and brand transparency.

1. Uptime

Uptime” describes the percentage of time your website is accessible to visitors. When a host’s server goes down, searchers can’t reach your website.

Downtime can be costly for both your bottom line and your reputation.

No hosting company can promise your website will be available 100% of the time: servers require regular maintenance and there’s always the threat of hacking, crashes or unexpected events like power outages.

That said, it’s reasonable to expect your site to be live 99.99% of the time.

Those little percentages make a difference, too! A website that is live 99% of the time can still be down 7.2 hours a month or 3.65 days a year, while 99.99% means just 52 minutes a year.


What to watch for:

  • Does the hosting company guarantee uptime? At what percentage?
  • What is the host’s policy on downtime? Will they credit you with free hosting if they don’t meet their guarantee? Read the fine print.

2. Pricing

Everybody loves a good deal. The good news is that there are a ton of great, cheap hosting options available for every budget.

That said, what you pay should reflect the value you get in return – and there are a lot of deceptive pricing models out there.

For example, some hosting services offer the first year at extremely cheap rates, then crank up the price by over 500% as soon as the first year is over!

Other hosting companies refuse to offer prorated refunds – you’ll pay for the whole year up front, but if you decide you want to leave, you’ll still pay for the months you didn’t use.

While price should be a consideration, keep in mind that sometimes funding a great support team or more powerful servers costs a little extra. In those cases, you get what you pay for.

Evaluate price in the context of everything else – not as the only variable.

What to watch for:

  • Is the pricing comparable to the competition for a similar plan?
  • Is it “introductory pricing”? What does the fine print say?
  • Do they offer prorated refunds if you change your mind?
  • Are there coupon codes or special deals that could save you money?

Wondering how much you should pay? If you’re in a hurry, check out: “How Much Should Hosting Cost?”

3. Customer & Technical Support

If (and when) you have questions that need answering, problems that need solving or technical difficulties with your hosting, a helpful support team is a godsend.

You’ll want to take note of  service quality (do they speak English? Can they answer your question?), format (phone and web are the most common) and speed (how long will you wait?)

What to watch for:

  • Do they offer web, phone or chat support?
  • Is the support based in the U.S., or do the team have a strong command of English?
  • Is the advice given by the team actually useful and pertinent to your situation?
  • How long are the average response times for support tickets?
  • How long are the average phone wait times?

4. Control Panels & User Interfaces

To manage your hosting, you’ll need to log into some sort of control panel or user interface.

Control panels allow you to do things like upload files, install a content management system, monitor bandwidth usage, set up and manage your e-mails and virtually any other web-orientated task you need to accomplish.

Some control panels are even integrated with billing so you can pay bills or monitor your costs.

It’s important that the control panel be intuitive and user-friendly. Thankfully, most hosting companies have adopted the standard cPanel – the easiest control panel to use.

What to watch for:

  • Does the host use the standard cPanel, or a custom solution?

If you’ve got questions about how to use the cPanel, feel free to jump ahead to our “Introduction to the cPanel”.

5. Brand Transparency

Chances are, you don’t want to support a slimy business. Unfortunately, there are hosting companies with bad policies hidden in the fine print, deals that really aren’t deals at all and deceptive marketing tactics.

You should choose to work with a company who is upfront about their plans, pricing and services – and who doesn’t stoop to sketchy marketing just to make a buck.

For example, any company offering “unlimited bandwidth” is lying. Bandwidth is ALWAYS limited; as soon as you approach your unspoken limit they will call you to switch to a more expensive plan.

What to watch for:

  • Does the company pretend to offer unlimited bandwidth?
  • Are their pricing plans clear?
  • Do they offer prorated refunds, or make their policies clear?
  • Do they sponsor fake review websites that make them look great?


Knowing what to look for in a provider can help you avoid getting ripped off. In the next section, we’ll show you how to assess your needs before choosing a hosting plan.