Choosing a Web Host, Get What You Need - Reliability
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Of those factors we need to consider, letís first look at reliability. No web host can have 100% uptime, and itís impossible to guarantee. Avoid any hosts promising more than they can deliver. Any number of factors can take the system offline, including routine maintenance or server upgrades. The ideal is to reduce the amount of downtime so your site can be minimally impacted. Also, hosts can be slow during peak times, which may frustrate and turn away visitors, but this can be a harder thing to determine than uptime.
The importance of reliability goes back to how you answered the question concerning how devastating downtime can be. Consider that a search engine can be crawling sites any time. If your site is down, it will not be indexed. Search engines often make a few attempts to spider a page that existed before, but if your server is unreliable, your search engine ranking may be as well.
More seriously, if your website is any form of business, downtime can kill it. If for instance you sell bikes on the page, visitors coming to shop or research bikes on your site are all lost when the site is down. With so many sites selling bikes online that are only a click away, itís very easy to lose a sale. There are not many things about a website that can truly indicate the professionalism of a company, but an unreliable website will definitely warn people of an unreliable businesses.
Also, if your site relies on advertising to make money, downtime means that you have no money coming in. Visitors mean ad impressions and click-throughs. Without them, your income will dry up as well as your advertisers.
So, for any online business, uptime is critical. You absolutely cannot go with a host that has an uptime of less than 95%. Some people recommend staying with hosts promising at least 99% uptime. Often hosts will offer a guaranteed uptime and will refund all or part of your monthly fee if they fall below it. You will often pay more for a host with this promise, but it can be worth the extra money you may spend. Those hosts have a vested interest in keeping your site online and profitable.
For organizations, like non-profit groups, reliability depends on what the website is designed to do for your visitors. It is not as critical to be online all the time as it is for ecommerce, but certainly you donít want to be stuck with an unreliable host making your organization look bad or keeping visitors away.
If your site is of a personal nature, reliability is as important as you make it. You could deal with a cheap host that is slow during peak times or even is offline now and then. Your livelihood is not dependant on it, so try to weigh reliability a little less than other factors.
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