10 Essential Questions To Ask When Choosing A Web Host

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 05/21/20 •  15 min read

There are currently over 1.8 billion websites online today, and over 1 billion internet hosting companies. Every website on the internet is hosted somewhere, but not all web hosts are equal. So, how do you know which web host to choose?

Choosing the right web host is very important to the health and security of your website. Your web host determines how fast your website loads, and is responsible for protecting your site from hackers. Asking the right questions will help you determine which web host is worthy of your business.

What is web hosting anyway, and what differentiates one web host from another? In short, a web host houses your website on its servers. As you might guess, some web hosting companies do a better job than others. They may market themselves well, and might even be very popular, but that does not mean that they are the best by any means.

In fact, some web hosting companies are horrible. Below is a list of 10 questions that you should ask your web host before determining where you will host your website. Only after these questions have been answered in light this article, should you consider doing business with a given web hosting company. Remember, these are the questions you should be asking your web host.

1) Where is the server located that your site will be on?

The reason that this is an important question, one that must be answered, is because you want to make sure that your website will display quickly when a user visits it.

For example, if you live in the United States, and your website is hosted on a server somewhere in Australia, visitors from the United States will have to wait an extra second or two before your website displays on their screen. This may sound a bit extreme, but if your site take longer than 1-2 seconds to load, people will leave and go somewhere else. This is known as “latency”. Latency is the is the amount of time it takes for the web host server to receive and process a request so that the page will display.

The closer one’s physical location is to the your web host, the faster your website will display for them. This, of course, assumes that the web host utilizes fast servers. But this is also why it is important to use a web host that is located in an area of the world where there is a lot of internet traffic.

Most hosts, (any host worth their salt), will have multiple servers located throughout the world so that your website will display as quickly as possible.

2) How fast are the servers that your website will be on?

This can be a “geeky” questions, but it needs to be asked of your host. If you don’t know what would be a “good” answer, share what they tell you with a computer geek friend, and ask what they think about the hosts response.

Basically, you want to make sure that the server is running on SSD drives and you want to know how much RAM will be allocated to YOUR website.

If the web host can not, or will not answer either of these two questions, . . . run. Don’t bother asking them any other questions, because you will be wasting your time. Every web host should have the answers to these two questions on the tip of their tongue, and should openly be willing to share this information with anyone who asks.

3) How many customers share the same server that your site will be hosted on?

Shared hosting plans are just that. Shared. They generally are very inexpensive, and that’s because you are sharing the hardware with other websites. How many other websites is the question you want to find out.

Shady hosting companies will not want to share this number with you. But if they do tell you up front without hesitation, that also says a lot. It says that they are confident that their servers can handle the traffic and that they have (or can allocate), sufficient hardware to accommodate the traffic as needed.

4) Do they offer “1-Click-Installation” for WordPress?

Some web hosts do not make it easy for users to get their website up and running quickly. Their only concern is getting you to sign up for their hosting plan.

There are hosts, however, that make it extremely easy for you to get your website up and running within minutes. They offer the ability to install your WordPress website with one click. Web hosts that offer this type of automation make it really simple. They intentionally make it easy for you, with no hard geeky-questions to answer.

Now, in all honesty, it does take more than one click. You do have to answer a few questions, but again, a good host will make it very easy for you to install your WordPress site.

5) How easy is it to upgrade or downgrade your hosting plan?

It’s a good sign if the web host makes it easy to upgrade or downgrade (without penalty). Of course, you will pay more to upgrade, but you should pay less to downgrade without being penalized for doing so.

Why would you want to upgrade or downgrade your hosting plan? Because when signing up for a hosting plan, you really do not know how fast the traffic to your website will grow. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard an ad on the radio advertising a product where they gave the name of the website, only to find that the website would not come up because they had chosen a very basic hosting plan that did not allow for lots of traffic at the same time. A better hosting plan would have allowed for more traffic.

Because the host could not handle the traffic, they lost a lot of potential customers. Perhaps you won’t ever advertise on the radio, but what if a friend on FaceBook were to recommend a product or service of yours, and for whatever reason, that Facebook post went viral? Would your hosting plan allow for the traffic? Would they allow you to easily upgrade your plan with the click of a mouse that would take effect immediately? A good host would.

Given this possibility, you need to know how long will it take your web host to upgrade your hosting plan, should you find yourself in such a situation. On the other hand, you may find that the traffic that you anticipated is substantially less than what you hoped for. In such a case, you should be able to easily downgrade your hosting plan at any point in time, should you feel the need to do so.

Most web hosts will allow you to easily upgrade or downgrade your hosting plan, even temporarily, if need be. If they won’t, stay away from them because they are too small of a company, and it signals that they won’t be able to handle other issues that may come up.

6) What plan is in place if the server dies?

Computers are not infallible. Even with our best efforts, they are still susceptible to power outages, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc. Occasionally, servers have to be rebooted and software needs to be “patched”. This all happens in the background and you have nothing to worry about. However, most web hosts will boast an “uptime of 99.99%” which is not perfect, but acceptable. The question is, when the server is down, is there a backup server that mirrors your server so that your site does not go “down”?

When rebooting a server, it means that the website will be down for 2-3 minutes, 5 minutes at most. For most websites, this is not really an issue, unless you are running an online store. In that case, you definitely want to ensure that your hosting plan allows for a mirrored server. That means that your website is hosted on one server that is mirrored in real-time, so if one server goes down, the other server will instantly pick up where the other one left off.

7) Do they provide free SSL?

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. When you enter information on a form, everything on that form is susceptible to hackers. That means your name, birth date, social security number, e-mail address, credit card number, or any other piece of information that you submit on an online form.

Without an SSL certificate on your website, all of that information is insecurely passed from computer to computer until it makes its way to the destination server. That means that all computers between you and the destination server can see the information you submitted.

It used to be that you would only use an SSL certificate on a site where you would submit credit card information. However, with the increase of identity theft and credit card fraud, SSL has now become the norm.

In fact, Google has announced that they will be flagging ALL websites that do not have an SSL certificate. This means that when you visit a website that does not have an SSL certificate, it will read, “Not Secure” in bright red in the URL of the browser.

So, when people visit your website, and you have an SSL certificate on the website, the URL will show up as https:\\ instead of simply http:\\.

If a user does not see https:\\ in the URL of your website, they will likely not submit any information, even an email address, and certainly not a credit card number. They would be foolish if they did. Just make sure that when you purchase a hosting plan, ask if they offer a FREE SSL certificate with the hosting plan.

8) How responsive is their customer support?

It is imperative that you find out the answer to this question, as it is probably the most important question to ask, and definitely should NOT be overlooked.

Here are three things you can do to ensure that their Customer Support is all that they say that it is BEFORE you ever become a customer of theirs.

Call their toll-free number

How long it takes to speak to a real person on the phone? I’m not talking about “Press 1 for Customer Service, Press 2 for Billing, etc”. I’m talking about a REAL person.

I did this one time. I literally called the toll-free 1-800 number and to my surprise, when they picked up the phone after three rings, and said, “How can I help you?”, I was blown away. I replied, “I’m considering using your services and I just wanted to know how long it would take to speak to a real person. You passed with flying colors! I didn’t even have to interact with a machine!”

The reason that this is important to find out, is because it will show you just how much they truly do value you, as a customer.

Utilize their “Chat Support”

If Chat Support is not offered . . . . find another host. Don’t even bother. If Chat Support is not offered, it means that they are a small company, and don’t have the man-power to address simple questions. Without Chat Support, your 90 second interaction can take 3 days to get resolved when e-mailing back and forth. It reminds me of the game, ping-pong.

Also, if they do have Chat Support, ask the questions listed in this article. It doesn’t take long to tell if the chat support representative is a part time 11th grader, living in their mother’s basement, hoping to get a few hours in before bed time 😉. You will also be able to determine if they know what they are talking about, or if they are simply responding with canned answers.

Send them an e-mail

See how long it takes them to respond. My web host usually responds to email tickets within 20 minutes. That’s just ridiculously fast. I have personally dealt with one “web host” that could only be contacted by email, and even then, “they” (really, it was one guy), took two days to respond, . . . asking me for additional information! It was during this crisis situation, that I realized the value in ensuring that any web host that I used, must have top-notch customer support.

Do you really want to entrust your business website to an 11th grader who is more concerned about posting on Facebook than he is about ensuring that you get the help you need?

9) Do they provide a money back guarantee?

Why is this important? With some web hosts, you may find that the hosting company is not as “responsive” to your requests as you once thought. Unfortunately, there are a lot of web hosts that talk a good game, but make sure that they put their money where their mouth is. If they don’t offer a money back guarantee, move on to find another hosting company.

You also may find that navigating your way around their hosting services is a lot more difficult than you anticipated. Remember, if the hosting company does not offer a “30 Day Money Back Guarantee”, there are plenty of others that will.

Offering a money back guarantee also helps to build credibility by letting the customer know that they really have nothing to worry about. If you want to cancel their membership for any reason, you should be able to get a complete refund. Mind you, most web hosts will offer a 30 day money back guarantee, which frankly, is plenty of time for you to determine if they are all that you had hoped they would be.

10) How much does Hosting cost?

There is a lot of competition out there. Hosting is inexpensive. Very inexpensive. Packages start at about $3.95 per month. The next step up is usually $5.95 per month. It’s still ridiculously inexpensive.

Given how inexpensive hosting plans are, cost should not be the reason for choosing one web host over another. Customer Support definitely is, however.

I know that we just talked about this, but when you have a real need, and you need to speak to a representative on the phone, or via chat, which host is going to be more responsive? How long does it take them to respond to a support ticket that you submit? I would GLADLY pay even more, just to ensure that the Customer Support is always there for me, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, should I require their services.

Now, there are hosting plans that are as low as $2.95 a month, but then there are other hosting plans that are $24.95 a month and higher. What makes the difference? Speed, reliability, and customer support. I know that I keep coming back to this, but customer support is essential. Don’t ever skimp on customer support.

What web host do I use and why?

Before I tell you, let it be stated that I’m recommending this company because I believe in them, and they have served me exceptionally well.

This web host does not know me from a hole in the wall, even though I have received support via chat and the ticketing system. This adds even more credibility to my recommendation.

I once hosted all of my websites on SiteGround. However, I have since decided to gradually move all of my sites FROM SiteGround to WPXhosting.com.

Siteground offer a wide range of services at a very competitive price. They have excellent hardware servers and are very reliable, however, their business model must have changed recently, because their once stellar customer support is no longer “stellar”.

SiteGround has removed “Chat Support” from their website, meaning that if I need help with something that they can complete inside of 4 minutes, I now have to submit a ticket and wait up to 24 hours to get the issue resolved. Their ticketing system does work great, but when I signed up, I paid $240 a year with the understanding that the chat support that they offered when I signed up, would be available to me throughout my subscription.

Frankly, I was extremely disappointed. And I let them know. To their credit, they offered me a refund for the balance of my remaining subscription.

Why do I use WPXhosting.com?

  1. They have a great reputation for reliability.
  2. They are a reputation for being extremely fast.
  3. Their customer support is phenomenal, (and most if not all of your questions can be answered via Chat Support from highly skilled individuals that know what they are talking about)
  4. I do pay more, a lot more, ($24.95 / month), which grants me up to 10 sites, but remember, you get what you pay for.

Closing Thoughts

I have written extensively on what to look for in a web host, and what questions you should ask before signing up with one. I speak from experience, and my hope is that you will take what I have learned and apply it so that you will have a great experience with the hosting company that you determine is the right fit for you.

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.