BrowseBy Sharon Florentine

Sharon Florentine is a freelance writer who covers everything from data center technology to holistic veterinary care and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting.

Whether you are trying to find your first managed web hosting provider or looking to switch from your current provider, there are some important considerations to take into account and some crucial questions you need to ask.

First and foremost, you need to determine if the provider you’re considering offers the right type of services for your website’s unique needs. Find out what types of plans they offer, whether it’s partial or fully managed or the hot new buzz, cloud based web hosting. Your business’ technical savvy and the amount of support you need from a provider can eliminate some potential service providers right off the bat. As Thomas Parent, a Rackspace blogger, writes in this guest post on WHSR, determine whether a web hosting provider can offer:

·      Management of Windows or Linux environment, or both

·      Application of security patches and upgrades

·      Management of the platform: hardware, networks, operating System, storage, database, domain name system, firewall, etc.

·      Clusters, redundancy and load balancers

·      Support for the applications and languages your business requires, like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, PHP, mySQL and .Net, for instance

And, Parent says, some hosting providers can also accommodate backup, application support, security and, if you’re switching from a current provider to a new one, migration assistance to their site from your old one.

Once you’ve determined whether or not a provider can offer the services you need, you should inquire about their service levels. A fast response time and timely problem resolution are critical, but this is one area where you will get what you pay for. Sure, you might save money up-front with a less expensive provider, but 24/7/365 monitoring and support can be invaluable – especially if you run a customer-facing operation where downtime could cost you customers and revenue.

Another important consideration is availability, or uptime. As Parent notes, while every business certainly wants 100 percent uptime, it could cost more than your budget allows, and no provider can guarantee 100 percent uptime. A detailed service-level agreement (SLA) will lay out the average uptime you can expect, and also explain what their process is if they can’t meet the contracted uptime guarantee. Sites like devote themselves to tracking the uptime and performance of many hosting providers, and offer a valuable service for businesses using managed hosting.

There are other specific considerations to take into account, such as whether or not a provider can handle traffic spikes, the amount of server control your in-house IT department needs to have and, of course, cost. Armed with these questions and the knowledge of your own business’ unique needs, you can be assured that whichever provider you choose is the best option for your business.