First things first
Do some due diligence and basic checks to ensure you’re going with an established, reputable provider;
- Are they a real UK company? Real address, registered at Companies House, VAT registered? Make sure the company is actually active too!
- Do they own and operate their own infrastructure or are they a reseller? There’s nothing wrong with the latter, just be aware that there’s more levels in the food chain should things go wrong.
- How is support? 24×7? Manned by knowledgeable staff or will you face call centre syndrome when needing help?
- What do their customers say? Look for real customer reviews on independent third party sites like ReviewCentre and also on social media, like Facebook. Ignore top 10 list websites, these are mostly ran by affiliates and don’t give a true picture of how good a company is.
Are they the right host for me?
- Do the companies on your short list have the type of hosting you’re after? Whether its traditional shared hosting, WordPress, reseller, cloud or bare metal dedicated servers, make sure the packages on offer suit your needs. If in doubt, ask the host themselves (this is a great test of their responsiveness and understanding customer needs).
- Within the different hosting types, is there a suitable package for the size or complexity of your website?
- Is the pricing clear, straightforward and within your budget? No one likes hidden fees so stay away if something doesn’t look or feel right.
- Can I upgrade/downgrade/change package easily? Any long-term contracts? Money back guarantee? The more flexible the hosting provider, the easier it is for you as the customer.
Important technical factors
Two major pain points experienced with almost every sub-par hosting provider are slow site performance and downtime. These are often caused by slower, older servers that are overloaded and/or poorly managed and maintain. Slow load times will have your visitors leaving in droves, while downtime means they can’t get to your site full stop. Further, both of these headaches cause more pain with things like SEO rankings, business reputation and more. When looking for your preferred UK host, consider
- How fast does the hosting provider’s own website load? While not an exact science, this is a good indicator
- Do they have example customer websites and how fast do they load?
- Do they have an uptime guarantee and/or publish uptime stats and figures? How good are the numbers?
- Do they have a status page or area where you can see previous incidents? How were these handled and how open/honest was the provider when tackling technology breakdowns?