questions should I ask?
We polled analysts and people at the top
hosting companies and asked them what they would ask if they
were shopping for a host. Here's what they suggested.
|Do you host
spammers or adult sites?
Picking a shared host is like moving
to a new town: you may have no idea who your
neighbors are until it's too late. And if you're
sharing a machine with a spammer or other miscreant,
there's a chance that whatever trouble comes down on
his head could land on yours, as well. For example,
if your host's IP address range is on a permanent
spam-block list, your outgoing e-mail might get
blocked, too. Before you pick a provider, casually
inquire about its attitude toward bulk e-mail and
adult sites, suggests Chris Kivlehan, sales and
marketing manager for INetU. If the provider seems
amenable--that is, it takes money from spammers or
|Can the service
grow along with my business?
Today, you're just two guys in a
garage; tomorrow, you might be the next Google. But
moving from one host to another can be a real pain,
so make sure that your solution is scalable and can
grow along with you, advises Rawlson King,
contributing editor for the Web Host Industry
Review. If you're able to move from a shared to a
dedicated server and keep the same provider, you're
|Can you handle
fluctuations in traffic?
Like most stores, some e-commerce
sites are seasonal--traffic will spike near holidays
but remain relatively consistent the rest of the
year. If this describes your site, consider
negotiating a service-level agreement with your host
that lets you expand bandwidth during particular
times of year, advises Rudy Pataro, chief technology
officer for Fry.
Many companies sell hosting services,
but they don't always support them. In some cases,
resellers handle level 1 support calls--basic
problems that can often be answered by a low-level
techie--but pass the more difficult level 2 and 3
calls on to their own hosting provider. The handoffs
aren't pretty, says Christopher Faulkner, CEO of C I
Host, which is why his firm handles all support
calls for its network of 8,000 resellers.
running the show?
A slick-looking Web site can make a
fly-by-night operator can look as professional as a
big-time hosting organization. The easiest way to
tell who they really are is to pick up the phone and
call, says Jim Collins, chief marketing officer for
Affinity. If you get an answering machine--or if the
same person picks up the sales, tech-support, and
customer-service lines--they may be too small-time
for your needs.
|Will you be
around next year?
Though the big hosting shakeout
happened a few years ago, some companies are finding
it hard to survive in the hosting market even today.
You don't want to commit your firm's online future
to a company that's going to bail on you in six
months. The key question is how stable the host is,
says Lanham Napier, president of Rackspace. He
encourages would-be customers to visit their
facility and check it out for themselves.
|What else can you
do for me?
Ultimately, a host should provide
more than an Internet connection and a place to
stash your Web site if you are out to build more
than a simple personal site. The top providers can
also help you design, build, and market your site.
When you talk to a Web host, ask, "How are you going
to help me succeed on the Web?" says John Lally, VP
of marketing for Interland. "The Web hosting company
should be your partner," says Lally. "They should
have some skin in the game."