Do a Google search using the term “web hosting company” and you’ll get close to 5 million results. How can you winnow down this multitude of choices to find a company that will serve your needs? There are many different factors that may influence your choice – here we look at some of the more important ones.

First of all, you will need to know exactly what your requirements are, not only now, but also what you may need in the future. This will allow you start cutting down the number of choices from the start, especially if you know that you will be using some of the more advanced features available that may not be offered by smaller companies.

The support provided by the web hosting company is very important, especially for new or inexperienced users. Try to see how quickly a company responds to you by sending an email question to them – if you get an answer back within 24 hours then you can be fairly confident that your questions will be answered quickly. See if telephone support is available too, and test that. By the way, don’t expect telephone support to be free – some companies do charge for that, though if they do then you should expect that their email support is faster than the average.

Do some research around the Web. There are many forums, blogs and message groups that discuss web hosting. See what sort of reputation the company you are considering has amongst users. Remember though that people complain far more easily than they compliment – don’t let one user sour you on a company that otherwise has good reports.

The operating system that is used by the web host may matter to you. There are two choices, either Unix/ Linux based or Windows based. For some, either choice would be fine, as the end-result will be identical. However, if for instance your database used MS Access, then a Windows based server would be a better choice for you. Similarly a database created using MySQL would be better hosted on a Linux server. Since Linux is free, web hosts that offer this are normally cheaper than the Windows servers. By the way, don’t let the type of software used to develop your site influence your choice – sites built using Front Page will run happily on Linux servers. However, it may be easier to write and test scripts on a machine that runs the same type of software as the server that runs the scripts.

Check what the company claims as its uptime, usually expressed as a percentage. Beware – some companies will claim that their uptime is the time that the server is powered on, rather than the time that the server is actually connected to the Internet.

Take a close look at their web site. See how responsive it is – if the hosting company’s own web site seems slow and sluggish, that does not bode well for yours. Look at the design and lay-out – does it look professional, or is it full of misspellings, mistakes and dead links. If so, it may show a lack of professionalism that may carry through the entire company.