Before you buy into a hosting package, whether you’re looking to host your website on a shared server or something more private – the key is finding a provider that puts their customers’ needs first. Unfortunately, there are many web hosting platforms that don’t deliver on their promises; as a result, their servers go down all too frequently causing havoc for small businesses working to establish a strong online presence.

Sometimes the online resources these hosting entities offer are also limited, stifling business growth. If you’re looking to host a website for the first time, or even switch out of your current plan in search of better service, how do you know who to go with? When doing your research keep the following questions in mind.

Is the web host reliable?

Does the web host monitor their server activity carefully? Are they able to guarantee uptimes? Only partner with a web host that ensures your site will stay online at least 99.9% of the time, as this will give you peace of mind and help your site to maintain peak optimization when users search you or your keywords through Google. Something else to consider is how dependable the host will be in the event of a crisis. Ask yourself how reputable their customer service is likely to be? Are you able to connect with representatives and IT specialists 24/7 by phone, e-mail, and chat?

Does the host offer options for upgrading?

It’s not hard to get the best hosting plans for your needs — as even the smallest companies can anticipate growth when they’re backed by strong service, and the best companies will ensure that upgrading your business won’t be a hassle or cause a lag in service. Whether you’re on a shared server or VPS (Virtual Private Server), consider how many tiers of service the host offers. Can you also add on specific features without completely revamping your plan? HostPapa, for example, is one web host that only asks you to pay for the features you actually use.

What features are included in each plan?

Ask yourself whether a given plan will meet your currently foreseeable needs. Does the plan you’re looking at include a professional website builder, or give you the ability to add on domains? If you require a specific platform or other special apps, how easy are they to install? It’s also important to consider your site’s protection, and whether the host offers security features to keep your business safe from hackers.

Do they offer affordable packages?

There are web hosts out there that price their plans high and oversell on their shared servers for the sake of accumulating profit. It pays instead to go with a host that runs on local, low-density servers; you end up being charged less but receive peace of mind knowing you’ll always have the resources you need. You can even sign up for shared hosting for as little as $3.95 for your first month and still receive unlimited bandwidth, 100GBs of disk space, up to two websites. and free domain registration. With reliable service priced this affordable, it’s worth doing the research.