When shopping for a hosting provider for your website, you will find a seemingly endless supply of web hosting providers trying to garner your business with promises of massive amounts of server space, many nines of uptime, ?unparalleled? customer support, etc. for prices as low as a few dollars per month. But before you hand over your credit card to the company that seems to be the best value because they charge $4.95 for 100GB of server space, make sure you look at the other features and restrictions of the service as these elements will likely be far more important to you in the long run.
For example, if you want to create a blog or forum on your website, do you know how to get these services up and running? If you are electing to go with bare-bones hosting service, you will probably have to upload WordPress, PHPBB, etc. to your hosting account, provision the appropriate databases, and configure the solution to work properly. If you are comfortable with performing these tasks, then a service that meets the minimum technical requirements of what you are looking to do with your site will be sufficient. If you need some help getting your blog or forum off the ground, then you would probably be better served by a fully automated hosting service like that offered by GoDaddy where with the help of a simple online wizard, you can install and configure a variety of popular web applications.
You should also consider what restrictions are put in place by the hosting provider. Many web hosts will make claims of unlimited bandwidth or unlimited server space, but as one logically assumes, these claims come with a catch. For example, a web host that claims to offer unlimited bandwidth may have a stipulation in the fine print of the user agreement that gives them the right to suspend your account if you exceed a certain percentage of CPU usage. In this case, while you theoretically have unlimited bandwidth, you will never be able to exceed a certain threshold because CPU usage is being used as a throttle.
In the case of unlimited server space, once again it is common for the fine print to again nullify this feature. Web hosts who tout huge amounts of server space frequently also prohibit using your hosting account as file storage. 100GB of server space may seem enticing, but since it is unlikely that you will ever need more than a few Mbs to store your website, it should not be a deciding factor when shopping for a web host.
Another claim that you should take with a grain of salt is the size of the web host’s datacenter. Just about every mom and pop web hosting service have a picture of a sprawling server farm on their website. What they don’t tell you is that many of the small hosting providers merely rent server space that they then resell.
At the end of the day, it is difficult to select a web host based purely on the claims of the individual companies. More so than in most other industries, probably the best resource you have for finding a quality web host is user reviews. Every web host promises certain levels of uptime, performance, and customer service so instead of taking their word as truth, find out what people who have actually used the service have to say. Then, once you have found a well-regarded web hosting service that meets your personal needs, you can feel confident in your purchase.