Choose a Hosting Service Based on Your Own Tech Skill Level
Choosing a hosting company has as much to do with your skill level as it does with the capabilities of the hosting company.
"If you are completely non-technical, you'll want a service that provides backups and patches for you regularly," said Phil Anderson, founder of Budget Simple, an online budgeting service. "If you are a control freak, you'll want a service, like Amazon or Linode, that lets you do everything yourself," he said.
"From a technology perspective, everything for small businesses has become commoditized at the entry level," explains Ohashi. "Most Web hosting companies will offer some kind of LAMP (LinuxApache MySql PHP) setup that allows customers to run most of the popular platforms, such as Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, etc. For the more advanced users, Web hosting is growing more specialized and technical, but for most small businesses, that isn't relevant yet."
Add to Your Web Host Checklist
In addition to the major points covered above, here are a few other items that belong on your criteria list.
First and foremost: how well does the hosting company provide security and compliance services, especially if you accept credit card payments online. PCI compliance, for example, has an exacting set of rules that must extend to your website. Don't let a hosting service give you lip-service on security and compliance issues; find out exactly what they do and how well they do it.
Backup, recovery and upgrades
You also need to know how often the hosting company upgrades its hardware and software, and what it offers in terms of backup and recovery should the worst happen.
Be aware that some companies use antiquated equipment -- mainly because their margins are so low that they either can't easily afford upgrades or they hesitate to do so. Further, servers in a hosting company are just as likely to suffer a natural disaster as your company; you need to check and make sure the hosting company provides offsite data backups and doesn't keep them on a server in the same location as your website.
Website Wipe Out
Next, rethink hosting all your online assets with the same hosting service; sometimes that leads to a different kind of disaster.
"We come across cases where someone hosts both their website and their podcast on the same service, only to have the podcast become so popular that the website host shuts down their account and website," said Rob Walch, vice president of Podcaster Relations at libsyn, a podcast hosting service.
Granted, Walch works for a podcasting hosting service; you would certainly expect him to say such a thing. However, he is also right. There are cases of a video going viral or a podcast becoming popular and the hosting service shutting down the whole kit and caboodle so that their systems are not overwhelmed. Be sure to consider such a possibility when selecting a hosting service, and then think again before you launch any additional products that might take out your website.