Once you have a list of potential hosts, ask the following questions regarding their services [source: Farin]:
- What's the cost?
- Are there any set-up fees?
- Do you offer design or programming services?
- What is your support like? (Look for 24/7 full, technical support with guaranteed response times.)
- Will you have a firewall to protect my site from hackers?
- How many websites will I be sharing a server with?
- What's the process for canceling my account, and will I be charged a fee? (You should be free to cancel at any time.)
- What tools and software do you offer?
- What is your uptime guarantee, and how will you compensate me for lost time? (You can have your site uptime monitored by AlertSite or NetMechanic.)
- How much data transfer (or bandwidth) do you offer?
- What is your backup method and schedule? (There should be daily, off-site backups.)
- How much space can my site use?
- What are your upgrade policies if my site grows? (Beware of hosts offering unlimited data transfers and site storage. Those options cost them money, and they're gambling your site won't use as much as you think. But if your usage increases, you may be stuck with additional charges.)
- Do you have a list of clients I can contact as references?
Make sure to contact all references given and ask about any downtime they've experienced and how closely it matches what they were told is the norm; how they've been reimbursed for this downtime; and about the quality of the customer support and service. Then test the potential host's customer support by sending them an email and seeing how long it takes them to respond. Or call them at random times and see how helpful and accessible they are. The main thing here is to do your homework.