What’s more important when choosing a web host? Support or reliability? Is there even a difference? Website hosting support and reliability differ in significant ways. As you compare one web host to another, you may see various reviews praising the reliability of one and the support team of another. Before deciding to sacrifice one or the other in order to stay within your budget, here’s what you need to know:
Benefits of a Reliable Web Host
A reliable web host will provide quality service, which encompasses more than you might think. Here’s what to look for when checking customer reviews:
1. Network Uptime
The one thing you can count on a reliable host to provide is network uptime. Most web hosts guarantee at least 99.5% network uptime, which seems like more than enough at first glance. But even apparently small differences in uptime ranging from 99.5% to 100% are significant when it comes to network uptime. The difference between 99.5% and 100% is hours not seconds. A 99.9% uptime guarantee means your site could experience 8 to 9 hours of downtime a year whereas 99.999% uptime is only about 5 minutes of downtime a year.
You can check the service level agreement (SLA) of your prospective hosts packages for their network uptime reliability. A 100% uptime guarantee requires technology, experience, and infrastructure that many hosts don’t have. Fortunately, there’s always a diamond in the rough if you know where to look.
2. Quality Hardware
It’s easy to assume every web host has access to and uses the same technology and hardware, but that’s not a safe assumption. Some hosts will opt for cheap custom servers and low-end processors, which won’t save you any money in the future even if the initial price tag is low. These cheap servers are more likely to fail, which could cause downtime, lost data, and slow performance.
More expensive and high quality custom-built servers are much more reliable, especially if you can trust your host to fix any problems that arise.
Other hardware options include pre-built tower servers and pre-built rack server units. These options are pretty reliable, but not as flexible as custom-built machines. Limited scalability and OS-specific servers may cause problems down the road.
3. Quality Software
Reliable web hosts also have quality software with recent updates and effective malware prevention. If your host’s software isn’t up-to-date, it could slow down your site’s performance or even leave it susceptible to malware and hacking.
4. Transparent Pricing
If you can trust your web host to deliver quality hardware and network uptime, you should be able to trust them with billing. Some web hosts will add unexpected charges and fees to your bill. Make sure you check for billing issues when browsing reviews and always read the fine print. A trustworthy web host will be transparent about price changes and additional fees.
5. Flexible Service
While one type of hosting works for you now, your needs may change in the future. A reliable host will work with you as your hosting requirements change. Here are a couple questions to ask before deciding on a web host and plan:
- What kind of operating system do you want your server to use? Different operating systems have different requirements. Make sure your server can handle your OS.
- How much storage and bandwidth do you need? A personal blog won’t need as much database storage as a business website or ecommerce site. Your blog may need the same amount of bandwidth as a business to handle all of your traffic. Check to see how much storage and bandwidth your server can process.
What happens when you sacrifice reliability?
When you sacrifice reliability in your web host, your website and your reputation may suffer. Here are a few symptoms you may notice if you choose an unreliable host:
- Lost Revenue – In the event your site experiences downtime, you could lose profits and experience revenue loss. Especially for ecommerce and business sites, this also hurts your reputation. Customers will see your inaccessible website and try one of your competitors instead.
- Lost Visitors – An unreliable host could also slow down your website. You may lose visitor loyalty if your site visitors don’t want to wait for your pages to load.
- Malware Attacks – A host with outdated software and little security leaves your site vulnerable to malware attacks and cyber hacks. Customers won’t trust your site with their private information like credit card numbers.
- Hidden Fees – If you choose a dishonest web host, you could find unexpected fees and additional charges on your bill.
- High Cost – You may have decided on an unreliable host to save money now, but in the future it could end up costing you more. Lost revenue, poor performance, inflexibility, and hidden fees will add up.
Benefits of a Good Support Team
If you decide to sacrifice reliability, you’re definitely going to want a good support team. When that cheap server crashes or gets hacked, your support team will help you get things up and running again. Here are four things to look for in a good support team:
An experienced and knowledgeable support team won’t waste time looking up how to solve your problem. They’ll already have a few ideas on what went wrong and possible solutions. Other than checking customer reviews, look at your web hosts employee turnover rate. A high turnover rate means their support staff has less time working with your server.
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of a friendly support staff. A good support team will express a willingness to help you get the issue resolved quickly.
3. Customer-Positive Solutions
A great support staff will help you find the best solution for you and not for the company. If you’re constantly being upselled by your support team every time you need help, they may not have your best interests in mind.
4. Teachable Moments
You don’t want to spend the rest of your life on the phone with tech support every time you have a question. A good support team doesn’t want to waste your time either! A good tech will help you learn something new and teach you how to do something with your account.
What happens when you sacrifice support?
Poor tech support is a common complaint among web hosting customers. Here are a few signs that your tech support isn’t as great as you once thought:
- Poor tech support may not have a solution for you when you experience a problem. You will eventually have a problem, even with a reliable host, and you’ll need help. An inexperienced support team will take longer to resolve your issue. They may need check with another resource a little too often like a manager, online phorum, or manual.
- If your tech support doubles as a kind of sales team where they only suggest solutions that cost extra, you may want to upgrade. Not every question or problem you experience should require an additional monthly fee.
- A bad support staff might be evasive if your account is inoperable, but you’re still actively being charged for it.
Both Is Better (Duh)
You want to use a web host who can provide both reliability and quality support. Without a reliable web hosting service, your account is susceptible to hacking and malware attacks. Now that you know how reliability and support differ in the web hosting industry, you should have an easier time weighing your options.
While finding a web host capable of providing both reliability and good support is preferable, what if those all-around high quality hosts are outside your budget at the moment?
When it really comes down to it, even with great reliability, you’ll want good support. They can give you tips and shortcuts to make your life easier. Good support will also help you set up new software or various features for the first time. For all of the day-to-day server and account maintenance, not to mention software upgrades and downgrades, you’ll want to have a great support team available, 24/7.