With thousands of web hosts waiting for your business, it can be hard to choose a reliable web host. Here are some presales questions to help you narrow down your list.
What is your Uptime?
This is a big one, seeing as how a website that is down isn’t a website at all. Ask your potential host what their uptime is.
A reliable host will always have their statistics, preferably with a third party like Alertra. If at all possible, go with a solution that uses a third party. While many sites don’t for good reasons like cost, it is far too easy to fudge their own numbers.
Also ask about how long the statistics have been recorded and how often sites are checked for connectivity.
Finally, find out about scheduled downtime.
Are you a Reseller?
Ask them if they are just middlemen. If they answer yes, try to get them to tell you who their host is. They will probably refuse, but if they don’t…
Do you Own your own Datacenter?
Sometimes the web host owns the servers but not the datacenter they are in. It is not necessary to have your own datacenter, but it does speak towards reliability. It means that they are well enough established to have invested in critical infrastructure. It also means that they are in control of everything running into the server.
Do you Keep the Servers up-to-Date?
There are many more questions you could ask about unmanaged hosting, but this is a good start. Some web hosts will rent you an unmanaged server that hasn’t been updated in quite a while. It’s operating system, the server on it, etc. will all be horribly out of date and you will have to fix that as quickly as possible.
A few other questions for unmanaged servers: how much to reinstall the operating system? How much is a reboot? Does the control panel cost?
If they don’t keep unused servers up to date, ask when the last update was.
How Long does it take to Replace Broken Hardware?
Hardware breaks. If your server goes down, you need it back up as fast as possible. Ask your potential web host how long it takes to switch out damaged hardware. Ideally you want the problem to be fixed within a few hours, though sometimes the wait can be a couple of days.
What Software is Bundled?
Many web hosts post what their service has, but unmanaged don’t. Regardless, it is a good idea to ask what software comes with your server. They should give you the specifics of what server software they are using (for example, Apache or Lightppd), what control panels, if there are any, etc. Just get them to list everything. Sometimes you can be surprised at how little your host gives you.
Do you Support SSH?
SSH support is extremely useful to have. SSH stand for Secure Shell, and it gives you access to your server’s operating system. Not only can you execute more complex tasks like scripts and database operations using SSH, it also provides a more secure way of transferring files to your server.
SSH is not important for everyone. It requires console knowledge to use, and tends to only be useful for advanced tasks. But if you want precision control over your server, you need SSH.