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Choosing your web hosting company is a crucial decision. There is no perfect web hosting company. The most important is you choose a web hosting company that works best with you.

It is very hard to find good hosting advice these days. Forums and blogs are filled with paid reviews. Reading reviews on forums doesn’t help much for 2 reasons:

  1. People who have negative experience with the company tend to post way more than people who had a positive experience. It’s a natural inclination, some psychologists call it the ‘negativity bias’ and estimate the impact of a negative experience is 5 times greater than the impact of a positive one. So going by this logic, you are 5 times more likely to tell others (online or offline) if you’ve had a negative experience with a hosting company than a positive one.
  2. Companies pay people to go and post positive reviews on forums. Trust me, I’ve been fooled a lot by unreliable companies who incentivized established users on forums to post positive reviews on them.

Fortunately, there are some good ways to check whether a web hosting company is reliable or not. 3 ways to be exact. The first way will help you quickly get rid of companies who haven’t been long enough on the market (we want to deal with hosting companies that are operating more than 2-3 years and are popular enough). The second tip should help you see the reliability of a hosting company in terms of server uptime. The third tip will help you see how good that company is business-wise (handling customer complains etc.). Let’s get started!

Use Alexa.com ranking to see how popular the website is

Alexa

You can install a free Firefox plugin called SearchStatus to see the Alexa rank for every website you visit.

See the company’s website Alexa rank to get a feel for its popularity. If the website is ranked below 200.000 that mean it isn’t visited a lot. If you asked me, I would avoid these types of site. If a hosting site has a ranking above 10.000 that means it’s really popular on the internet. That’s the type of host you should consider.

The Alexa ranking of a hosting website is far from enough though. There are a lot of popular but unreliable hosting services. We need to dig deeper.

See how reliable a hosting company is using NetCraft

NetCraft

Netcraft is a company that provides web hosting reliability and market-share analysis. Netcraft is the most reliable source I know of to examine how good a particular hosting company is (it was founded in 1994).

Netcraft can help you choose a reliable web hosting service because it provides monthly reports on companies that had the best uptime. They measure things like outage, failed requests, response time and so on.

The latest report for September 2010 features the top 10 most reliable companies for the month.

Upon further analysis I discovered that most of the sites are in Alexa top 100.000.

One trick: if you want to discover a good hosting company, see previous Netcraft reports and see which companies have been consistently in the top 10.

NetCraft reports seem to have some cons, though. I haven’t seen Rackspace and ThePlanet in their top 10 services for a while, probably because these are some of the biggest hosting companies and managing all servers without experiencing a small downtime. So there’s a big probability small companies are given an advantage over big ones in NetCraft reports because of this reason.

Check the BBB ranking for the hosting company

Better Business Bureau

You can search for a company on Better Business Bureau and check its ‘grade’ which is determined by several factors. Some of the factors are: how many complains does the company receive from unsatisfied customers and most importantly, how it handles these complains. You’ll be surprised at the amount of popular web hosting companies that have an extremely bad grade. I don’t recommend dealing with them.

BBB is limited to only US and Canada though, don’t expect to find European hosting companies there. I assume you’ll need a company with the servers in US though, most people primary audience are visitors from US/Canada.

I hope you liked this article. These 3 metrics are not perfect for checking the reliability of a hosting company, but they’re far better from listening to contradicting experiences on forums.