There are only a zillion shared hosting companies to choose from. There are tons of features and options to consider, and some of the most important considerations require a some investigation. I recently went through an exhaustive evaulation of over 150 hosting companies for my current and future clients and wanted to share my thoughts and process in this series of tips.
Tip #1 – Tech Support Capabilities
I've been responsible for evaluating shared hosting companies and plans for clients since 1998. My number one most important criterion is the range of tech support capabilities. Support generally comes in one of the following forms: telephone, e-mail, chat, and knowledgebase. Here are some questions you want to consider asking:
During what hours is phone tech support available? Many companies offer standard business hours for primary tech support, but will answer questions by e-mail after hours. This is important to me as I often apply web page and programming updates after standard business hours with my clients.
If phone tech support is not available 24/7, what are the other support options? Many companies offer support by chat after-hours, which I've found to generally be as good as phone support. E-mail may be the other after-hours option.
What’s the turn-around time on e-mail support? Some only offer support by e-mail. This introduces a number of lags that may not be suitable for your needs. If my client's site is not mission-critical or does not offer e-commerce, I like to shoot for having 2 to 4 hour e-mail support turn-around.
How good is the knowledgebase? Many times, I don’t need to speak to someone about my support problem because I can find the answer in their knowledgebase. A knowledgebase (KB) is a searchable database of support information, code examples, and other knowledge assembled by the support team over time. Many times, a KB will answers to common questions and issues, so searching there first will often save you time. A good knowledgebase should address a wide range of topics, contain a number of posts in each topic, and be easily accessible from your hosting account, i.e. you should not have to log in to see the KB. A good host will be proud to make their KB accessible to all visitors, especially those evaluating its services.