How should I select a hosting company?
There are many different hosting options out there, and there is no 'single' fit for all. But if you follow these steps, and answer these questions, at least you should be comfortable with the company you will be selecting, and will be living with for many years to come:
1. Do they have a CPANEL?
Cpanel is a familiar tool to all developers. What we love about it is that many hosts will have it, so it is easy to navigate through the process of building additional sites, accessing the databases, etc. Hosting companies such as GoDaddy, Network Solutions have their own 'hosting panels', which they might think are 'easy to navigate', but in reality for a seasoned developer, it is like going through a maze every time you have to do something.
2. What is their backup process and scheduling? Part II is How easy is it to restore?
Backup, backup, backup, you can never completely prevent hacking, but you can be secure, by having a backup to 'go back to'...but if you don't have one you are out of luck...
When you ask about their backup procedures, be sure to ask how many version of the backups they keep, and for how many days/weeks do they keep the backups. If for example on a thursday you realized your site was hacked...you have to 'guess' at when the site was hacked and restore from THAT date, not just going back to wednesday's version of the site. So if you determine that the prior monday would be the 'cleanest version', you have to make sure that they have that version of the backup stored.
Once you have found the proper backup, how does the hosting company help you to restore it? Is it a phone call, online chat, do you press a button, or are you completely on your own...find this out before you pay them a dime!
3. Does the hosting company 'support' joomla! ?
Some of these larger hosting companies try to be the 'end all 'for everyone and end up being experts in nothing. Sometimes the issue you are having could be due to a software problem in core joomla or in a component that you installed. You need your hosting company to be able to walk through with you what the potential problems are, and not just say, 'it is a a software issue, we can't help you'.
A good way to see if the company supports joomla, is if they also financially support Joomla Day Events. By supporting joomla day events by sponsoring, they are 'investing in joomla', which is a good sign. To be a sponsor of joomla day isn't just a 'marketing ploy'. Having run JoomlaDay events myself, I find that the sponsors support Joomla all around, and are looking forward to attending these events to learn more about the technology, the developers and the users of the product. To find out about joomla day events, search the joomla.org website.
4. How is their support?
The best way to find this out, is to call their phone number. Can you understand the person that answers the phone? Can they answer these basic questions. Check out their online chat, is it helpful, easy to find, and do they respond quickly. Some respond better to trouble tickets, which sometimes works well too.
One company I found I had to give them so many different 'code numbers' for security sake, I couldn't even get the answer to my question, because I was on hold for so long, that my 'codes' were disabled by the time they picked up the phone, not fun.
5. How are their reviews?
Search for reviews about the hosting providers, keep in mind the person writing the review, and see if your background / needs are similar to theirs. Ask around locally, at user groups, forums, etc., everyone will have very specific opinions on all of this.
6. Storage, bandwidth, number of websites available?
Will you be building multiple sites for this website? Will you have multiple domains pointing to the same host, make sure whatever your requirements are the host can meet those requirements.
7. Do you get a private host or shared?
As all developers will say, you are never secure unless you have your computer server in your own basement...but I don't want a server in my basement, and I don't want to be responsible for that work. I have to decide do I want to pay $10 a month for a shared hosting site or $100 for private...if you have the money for private, then that road will always give you more support, more security, etc. If you can't spend that kind of money, or don't want to, then questions 1-6 become even more important. You have to assume that at some point your site could come down. If you have backups, you can work around it, but if you don't, you have lost your entire investment that you put towards your website, and would have to start over again.
8. Can my developer host my site?
Many of my clients ask me to host their websites, this always concerns me. Why? I could make money, but I feel very strongly that each business should always OWN their website, OWN their own DOMAIN, their CONTENT, etc, and be ultimately responsible. A developer can be paid for assistance / maintenance, but I wouldn't want that line crossed to have more than a maintenance relationship, but an ownership... a good developer can assist you in finding the right host, and you may even give your developer all of the logins, etc, but you as the business owner should always have more access then anyone else, afterall this is YOUR business, and YOUR investment, so hold on to it!