It does not matter whether you are going to subscribe a free or paid hosting plan, there are a few things you need to know and verify before you sign up any web hosting plan.
This is the most important thing to consider when deciding whether or not to sign up a plan. If the service provider does not provide any money back guarantee, then I will advice you to stay away from the provider (unless it is a free plan, of course). Money back guarantees act as insurance for you. If disaster happens within the coverage period, you will able to escape without loss, or else you will be flushing money down the toilet. Even if money back guarantee is available, you still have to verify 2 issues. First, what is the coverage period? 30 days? 60 days? Refund anytime on prorate basis? Second, whether it is conditional or unconditional money back guarantee? So, make sure you read all the clauses. One of the fastest ways is to ask the sales department and keep a copy of the conversation as proof.
Test the water
Try to contact the sales department via email, phone call or ticketing system. How much time do they need to reply you? Have they answered your questions accurately? Do not be happy if the sales department answers you within minutes as your main focus will be on the support department. Sales department only deals with you in the short term, whereas support department will be dealing with you in a longer term. So, are you satisfied with their services?
Speed of the support
Are they taking a reasonable amount of time to reply you? Generally, paid service will receive faster support response as compared to the free service. However, there are a few exceptional cases. I have both free and paid web hosting plan. To my surprise, I receive support response within 15 minutes from the free plan. On the other hand, the paid plan needs 2 4 hours to provide a response. Thus, try to test the speed of the support before you commit to any plan as you do not want to wait for a long time when you need assistance.
Are they operating on 24/7/365 basis? 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year? One should choose a provider that operates 24/7/365 basis. The reason is simple. You will never know when the problem will arise. So, if you encounter any problem, you can report to the provider and get the problem fixed immediately. Please remember that your online store is operating 24 hours a day, thus 24-hour support service is crucial to you.
Attitude and behavior
Is the web hosting service provider friendly? Is the support team willing to help? Some of them may not seem to care (none of their business attitude) or answer your questions rudely when situation arises. Of course, this will make you angry and increase your blood pressure! However, some are willing to go the extra mile. They are helping you to install a third party web application, while some may say it is not their responsibility and suggests you to contact the third party for assistance.
Knowledge and experience
Even though you receive a fast support response, but do they actually answer or solve your problem? Sometimes, they say the issue is fixed. However, you find out the problem remains unsolved. So, you will need to report the problem again and wait for further response. So, it is time-consuming if they do not get the issue fixed the first time. Thus, a knowledgeable and experienced support team is important to your web development.
Web server reliability
What is their server status? Is the server going down frequently? How long is the downtime? Your corporate website represents your company, product or service. If your website always goes down, it indirectly implies that your company, product or service is not reliable. As a result, it may turn your customers away. Therefore, choosing a provider that provides 99.9% network uptime guarantee is crucial. It helps to grow your business.
Compliment and complaint
No one can please all the people all the time. So, a good web hosting company will receive few complaints, while a bad web hosting company will receive plenty of complaints! Launch your internet browser and try to find out the feedbacks from different users about the company. You can include keywords like good, bad or scam into the search engine. However, you should be alert. Some of the websites are promoting web hosting services, therefore the comments may not be true. If you need advice, you may visit Web Hosting Talk forum. It is one of the largest web hosting communities. Many people are sharing their views in the forum.
This is normally not an issue as all the features are being displayed on the website before you sign up for a plan. However, you need to know what you need. For example: you are going to install a third party web application, so you have to find out whether the server can support such web application or web hosting provider allows you to do so.
I wish the guidelines above can help you to select the right web hosting service provider