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Choosing web hosting provider - Features to look for and questions to ask

Choosing Web Hosting Provider - Technical Support
Choosing Web Hosting Provider - Space, Backup, Email Accounts
Choosing Web Hosting Provider - Database Services
Choosing Web Hosting Provider - Misc

We have been developing web asplications and hosting our own site for more than a decade now. Recently we were posed with a question from one of our clients about web hosting providers. Till last month they never had to worry about the services offered by their hosting provider. Then they got a warning eamil from their provider that they are using more space than they were allocated. The client sent me an email asking to switch their provider but asked to compare couple of providers before I make any decision about it. They wanted to see some kind of comparison sheet to decide which web hosting provider to use. And this whole excercise was an interesting and educational expereince for me. Throught this articlde I will share some of my personal experience and expereince of few of our astutue cleints in chossing web hosting provider. We will list features and services provided by web hosting providers and try to explain how much important] part they play in the deicsion making. At the end we provide a comparison sheet for 3 web hosting providers for who we have some feedback from my clients as well as my personal expereince.

Technical Support

You might be worndering why did we start the feature set with technical support. Belive it or not this you will find one of the most important deciding factor when it comes to hosting your web application. Think for a moment, your site suffers serious problem or you accidently introduce something in the application that requires restarting the web application. Since you don't have physical access to server, you need help from your provider in getting this resolved. And you pick up the phone and call their support number and message on the oher end says, we are open 9 - 5/M - F. Now what do you do. You send an email or login to their support site and log an incidxent. But nmobpdy is there on otjer end to look at your issue or does not have enough technical skill to resolve the issue. Now you can start to feel how important it is to have a web hosting ptovider with a very good technicsal support team and ability to resolve your issues. Most of the web hosting providers have automated tools that allow you to take care of most of the common issues that you may run into. Following list provides you few very important and most common technical support features that your provide should be able to provide you or you should ask them before signin up.

  • Do they have 24x7 phone and email support?
  • Do they have technical expertise to resolve all kind of web application related issues?
  • Do they have automated tools to restart the web application?
  • Do they have automated tools to modify logging behavior of the application so that you can trouble shoot the issues yourself if need be?
  • Do they have automated tools to chnage the user context under which your web application is running? For example changing authentication mechanism from anonymous to Windows authentication or basic authentication?
  • Do they have automated tools to change the framework used for the application for example switching between .Net 1.1 and .Net 2.0 framework.

Following table provides comparison for three 3 web hosting providers based ASP.Net hosting service provided by them to us and our clients. This table does not list all the features provided by these providers. We will update the list as we get more feed back.

Provider WebHost4Life BoundGrid GoDaddy
24x7 Support Yes Yes Yes
Emergency Support Yes Yes No
Quick To Responsd Emergency - Within 30 minutes
Emergency - Within 15 minutes
With 1 hour
Not quick response
Within 4-6 hours (may be)
Technical Expertise Very Good Very Good Very Good
Switch Framework Automated Call them Call them
Control Panel Provides control for most of services Provides control for most of services Limited feature set
Issue escalation Yes Do not know No

In next article Choosing Web Hosting - Space I will discuss how amount of space, number of email accounts etc. play part in decision making.

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