A simple Google search using the term “web hosting” will give several million hits. How can any user, especially one that is inexperienced, choose a web hosting company? These five things to look for should at least allow the user to narrow the field.

The most important item on the list is support. Top-notch technical support should be the first thing to look for, especially if the user is relatively inexperienced. Don’t look just for email support either; make sure that there is a telephone number for urgent issues. Make sure too that support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – technical problems could occur any time. Try to get a feel for how responsive the support is by sending them an email and seeing how quickly they respond. Make a phone call late at night – make sure that they really do have someone available at all hours.

The next thing to take a look at is their reputation – what other users feel about their web hosting experiences with that company. Some web hosting companies will give out a list of users that can be contacted for their opinions. This is good, but only to a point – when I was a salesman I knew which of my clients I could rely on to give a good report! Check out message boards and forums around the Internet and see what comments are being made about particular companies. Take these with a pinch of salt – don’t let one negative comment outweigh many good comments. Also find out, if possible, how long the company has been in existence. It’s not a sure-fire guarantee of longevity, but in general companies that have been in business for some time tend to be more stable.

Make sure that the web hosting company can supply all of the services you need, or those you are planning to add shortly. You may not need ASP or PHP support at first, for example, but if it is something you intend to add once the site is up and running then make sure that you will be able to do this. It can be a time-consuming business moving from one hosting service to another, and some forethought here will save time and money later.

Pricing is important too. If one particular web hosting company is offering a pricing plan way below the rest of the market, you may want to think twice about opening an account there. It’s not necessarily bad; the company may be new to the business, and the cheap prices just a way of increasing business. However, it could also be a sign of extensive overselling, which may cause web sites on that company’s servers to be slower than they should.

The last thing to consider is rather more subjective. How do you feel about the web hosting company? Take a look at their web site – does it look neat and professional? Disorganized? Talk to their staff, both sales and technical support – are they knowledgeable and helpful? Or maybe they try to brush you off with stock answers, or are less than polite. Remember that your future income will be dependant on this company being able to host your site. If you are not comfortable with that thought, then keep looking.