A step by step guide to choosing a hosting agreement for your website that best suits your needs, including an appropriate service level agreement.
- Determine how you will create your website. For instance, if you plan to build a site yourself, most template-based website creator packages include hosting.
- If working with a web designer, make sure they are involved in choosing your web host. They may even provide hosting as part of their service. It's important your hosting package is compatible with the technologies your website uses.
- Think about whether you will be selling online. Your web hosting company may be able to provide a secure payment and checkout system as part of your package.
- Try to roughly determine what hosting capacity you will require. For instance, how much space will your site take up? How many visitors do you expect to receive?
- Consider how you might expand your website in future. Moving to a new host can be time consuming, so make sure you can add capacity or features to your hosting package.
- Look for a service level agreement (SLA). This guarantees a certain level of availability (uptime) for your hosting - usually at least 99.9%. The SLA should provide you with compensation if performance targets are missed.
- Make sure there is adequate support. Most web hosts offer telephone support and online chat, but the quality can vary. Try and make sure support response times are part of the SLA. Ensure there is a formal escalation process in place.
- Establish what backup facilities are included, how frequently data is backed up and how often they are tested. Many web hosting companies charge extra for backup services. Ensure you have a disaster recovery plan and take your own offline backups.
- Check what security precautions the hosting company has in place to protect against spam, viruses and malware. For instance, do they have firewalls? Are security measures regularly audited by an external assessor? Will they provide you with an SSL certificate if you sell online?
- Check that you are happy with your responsibilities. For example, you may have to update plugins that your website uses. If you want the hosting company to handle some of these tasks for you, opt for a managed hosting package.
- Once you have identified a potential hosting company, search for online reviews. Make sure the company is well-established and has a good reputation.
- Review the contract terms carefully. You may have to commit to a minimum contract period. Watch for hidden fees - for instance, some companies may charge extra for regular security scans.
- Check how easy it would be to move your data to a new web host in the future. Is your data locked in? Would the host provide any assistance?
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