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What You Need To Know About Web Hosting

This will give you some idea of how many web hosting companies there are: Reviews.com recently narrowed down a list of thousands to 49 contenders for its top honors. Reviewers approached their task from the standpoint of someone signing with a web host for the first time.

In the end, FastComet nosed out the competition for the top spot. GlowHost, the runner-up, was close behind.

Keep reading to find out how Reviews.com made its selections. You might gain insight for launching your own website or evaluating your current hosting service.

The Basic Criteria

Hosts had to meet four basic requirements:

• At least three types of hosting

Companies that do not offer the three basic service tiers — shared hosting, either Virtual Private Server or Cloud hosting, and dedicated hosting — were eliminated.

• Support 24/7

The reviewers were sticklers for customer service and professionalism. At the very least, hosts had to provide around-the-clock support by phone or live chat in order to be considered.

• Servers located in the U.S.

The Reviews.com team focused only on U.S.-based servers with at least one data center in North America. Companies with additional data centers got extra kudos. The closer customers are to the host server, the faster a website will serve them.

• Uptime of 99.95 percent or higher

Many companies boast 100 percent uptime, but the possibility of a technical difficulty prevents them from guaranteeing it.

Reviews.com hired a third-party monitoring service to verify claimed uptimes and ensure that they were at least 99.95 percent.

Other Considerations

Once the hosts met the first four criteria, the reviewers got even more picky. They shifted their focus to details like available resources, quality of interaction with customer support and site user-friendliness. Here are some things they looked for:

• Prominently located contact information

The best companies had their phone numbers, email addresses and live chat buttons in plain sight.

• Extensive resources

Hosts that offer written guides, video tutorials, user-to-user forums and blogs got high marks. The reviewers were especially admiring of those that provided tips on building and maintaining a website or installing software.

• Transparency

Reputable hosts make it easy to compare service tiers and prices at a glance. Hosts with misleading come-ons and too much fine print were disqualified.

• Friendly, knowledgeable customer service

Overwhelmingly, companies were more responsive to live chat than email. Phone calls were graded according to how quickly a caller can reach a representative. Representatives were evaluated on knowledge, helpfulness, patience and friendliness.

Reviewers also tested sign-up processes, wait times to go live and tools for creating and maintaining a website.

Finally, they looked for companies that keep scalability in mind by accommodating both novices and seasoned pros.

The Top Picks

These features earned FastComet the No. 1 spot:

• Visually appealing website and dashboard that are easy to navigate

• In-depth knowledge base

• More than 300 templates for designing a website

• 99.99 percent uptime

The runner-up, GlowHost, was highly commended for outstanding customer service. It also stood out for these features:

• A server location in Australia and several locations around the U.S.

• 99.98 percent uptime

• No setup fees

• Three-month money-back guarantee on the one-year plan

Did You Know?

Shared hosting is a great way for first-timers to get started. It is affordable and fairly easy to use if you are not technologically savvy. It is not the best choice for experienced webmasters or big companies, but it is suitable for startups and small businesses with light traffic.

With shared hosting, many websites share a common server, resources and collective bandwidth. One disadvantage is the possibility of your website slowing down when another site on the server experiences heavy traffic.

Virtual private server is the next step up. You still share a server with VPS, but you have your own operating system, disk space and bandwidth. You can choose from a few additional resources for customizing your site.

Cloud hosting ensures that your website will never go offline. You pay according to the amount of traffic on your site, and for brand-new businesses, that is a nice perk.

Dedicated hosting is the highest tier. You rent a server that you have all to yourself. Service is faster, more flexible and more secure, but you will pay more for it. Dedicated hosting is recommended for websites that routinely experience heavy traffic or require additional layers of security.

Reviews.com recommends paying a little extra for private domain registration. This keeps personal information like your address and phone number off the internet.

If you will be handling sensitive information like credit card numbers and passwords, get Transport Layer Security. TLS not only makes your website safer for your customers, but it factors favorably into search rankings.

Since thousands of companies are vying for your business, identify your needs, review your budget and do your homework before choosing one. Wired, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and PCWorld are good resources if you need more help.

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