Top 5 Things to Verify About a Shared Host Before Buying
Shared hosts offer great features and prices for both new webmasters just starting out and seasoned webmasters. The best feature is typically the price. A lot of shared hosts can offer basic plans for under $10 a month. The extensive bundle of features you get for that cost is not always the best way to go however. There are often terms and conditions (which are skipped over all too often) that can make the best price and feature combination not worth a tenth of what they are charging. Here is a list of 5 things, in no particular order, to verify before deciding on a shared hosting plan.
- 99.9% Up Time - Verify that the plan includes 99.9% up time. This is in my opinion the most important one because if the host isn't committed to keeping the connections and servers running at all times, it doesn't matter what features or deal you get, your website will be unreachable.
- Unlimited = Unlimited - Verify that if your host advertises an unlimited amount of anything, you will indeed get unlimited amounts of it. Some hosts will offer unlimited bandwidth for instance, but throttle you if you start consuming too much. Another downfall with unlimited (bandwidth in particular) is the impact other users can have on the system. If the host doesn't have a limit in place, one user could consume a large percentage of resources, which will in turn decrease the performance of your website.
- Exceeding the Limit - Verify that the host doesn't suspend an account that goes beyond its allocated limits per month, whether it be bandwidth or another limited feature. This may not be a bad thing for those webmasters who are not relying on the website for anything, or those who are not looking to have a regular following (I don't know very many of those kinds of webmasters), but it is very bad for webmasters that can't have down time. If at all possible, try to make sure that your account isn't suspended for going over; have them charge you accordingly. If you aren't comfortable with this route, make sure that you keep a close eye on your limits and make the necessary adjustments to ensure you don't exceed your limits.
- Established Support Record - Verify that the host has an established and verified customer support record. You will inevitably need to talk to support when your site goes down, because it will go down, and I have dealt with hosts that take around 4-6 hours to get back to you. Make sure that you can talk to someone within minutes if your site is experiencing problems. You aren't able to do much to help your site when using a shared host, so you will rely mostly on the support they offer. THIS IS KEY!
- Speed of Upgrades - Verify that your host will upgrade to the new releases of features such as PHP, MySQL, cPanel, etc. as soon as possible after the stable releases become available. I have heard many cases, and been a part of cases, where you buy the most recent version as part of your hosting package and the releases don't get updated/upgraded after that. The new machines that are set up get the new releases, but the machine you are on might not get them for months or even years after the release.
Have you dealt with something that might not be a typical item to watch out for? Let us know in the comments if you have any tips to keep us aware.