It is a good idea to sit down and create a list of your hosting needs and wants before you go shopping for a web hosting service. The first thing you should do is establish what you consider to be a reasonable number of visitors, and what they’re likely to do when they visit. For example, are they just going to browse a simple HTML catalog, or are a large percentage of them going to be using a PHP-based e-commerce package? It is probably best to overestimate your needs here so that you’re well prepared.
How much data will each visitor be transferring each visit? That’s important as almost all hosting packages factor this into the price. You’ll also want to a have reasonable (if not overestimated) idea of what kind of computing resources will be needed to ensure the site is 100% functional during peak traffic.
Once you have these figures in hand it’s time to go shopping. One thing to look for is how easy it is to upgrade or downgrade your package once you’ve selected your initial hosting solution. If your site starts to receive a lot more traffic than you thought it would, you don’t want to be locked into a package that won’t support the volume of visitors you’re receiving. On the other hand, if you find that you’re not getting the amount of visitors you had expected, it’d be nice to be able to downgrade and save money until you can figure out how to drive more traffic to your site.
Don’t overlook the importance of customer service or automated backups! This mistake has led to more than a few blunders and cost companies visitors (which customers in some cases) as well as advertising revenue. Be sure that your host has technical support personnel on staff at all hours, and that the person who picks up the phone at two in the morning isn’t just an answering service who will leave a message for the morning tech support crew when they arrive.