When looking for a hosting company, there are some important aspects to consider when signing up. Most of the companies we reviewed are transparent with their service offering, but there may be some fees or other aspects to their services that are hidden around corners. As we researched, we found that it's important to ask questions about fees, future pricing, and the level of storage and bandwidth provided.
Unlimited service offerings: Every company we reviewed claimed to offer unlimited services of some kind, most commonly storage and bandwidth. The web hosting industry is competitive, so companies will use this language to attract new customers. Know that unlimited never means infinite. Instead, each company has a predefined range of storage and bandwidth based on your plan. If you use more than your allotted amount, you may be required to upgrade your plan, or the company might suspend your account until usage decreases and the issues is addressed. Each company handles this differently, so it's important to look at the terms of service agreement before signing up.
It's also a good idea to ask each company's sales team about what their defined range is and what their process is for handling customers who go over their pre-defined amount. If they try and convince you it's truly unlimited or a range that's wide enough for all businesses to operate comfortably within, press them for defined answers. It's important to be clear on what you're paying for and what you're getting as a business owner.
Promotional pricing: Another common tactic web hosting companies use is providing promotional pricing on their website. They often depict the current prices as slashed amounts – sometimes at rates up to 50 percent off. Usually this promotional pricing comes with some conditions. Some companies will only give you the rate if you commit to a long-term contract of three years, for example. Others will provide you with the promotional pricing for the first year only.
It's important to understand that at some point, the company is going to raise your prices. Ask the sales team when this will occur – it could be after the first month, year or the next time you try and renew your contract. If you're happy with your services, it may be worth it to pay the higher rates. If you're not satisfied, however, it's a good idea to have an exit plan as well.
Additional fees: As with any service offering, there are always fees. We tried to analyze each company's protocol around domain registration fees. Many companies provide a free domain name for an allotted amount of time – generally one year. After this allotted time, you will be charged a yearly fee to keep your domain name registered to your business. If you cancel your services at any point (even during the moneyback guarantee period), many companies will keep a fee for domain registration, even if they offered the domain name to you for free for the first year. It's a good idea to ask the company's sales team about domain fees, set up fees, early cancellation fees and any other additional fees. Again, it's important to have a clear understanding of exactly what you're paying for.
Auto-renewal: Many companies will automatically renew your service at the end of your contract term. You may need to provide written notice 30 days in advance to cancel your service at the end of your contract term. This isn't something we directly analyzed in our reviews or best picks, but it's an important practice to be aware of. The renewal process is usually outlined in the terms of service agreement of each company. If you're worried about getting poked with a refreshed contract, make sure you understand the renewal and cancellation process before you sign up. Talking to a sales representative may be your best bet.