No question about it, choosing a good hosting partner is one of the most important decisions a CTO / CIO can make, especially in a .com company. I recently had to choose a hosting partner for the new Since the space changes so rapidly the last provider you used may no longer be the best fit for you now. Here’s 10 criteria you need to evaluate when analyzing a hosting partner.

1. Service Level Agreements

SLA’s are discussions of nines, 3 nines (99.9%), 4 nines, (99.99%), 5 nines (99.999%). How many nines is important, but more important is the recourse when they fail to meet that level. No matter what hosting company, at one point or another something will happen and they will be down longer than the guaranteed uptime. What does it mean to you?

2. Availability

How accessible are they? When you are stuck with a challenging problem do they have resources available to help? Do you have a dedicated account manager? Are they overloaded with too many accounts so you can’t receive the attention you need?

3. Security (PCI compliance / certification)

While the PCI standard has been developed by the credit card industry, nearly all of the requirements are what would be considered best practices. Even if your not running an ecommerce website you’re going to want a host that takes security seriously and that means PCI compliance.

4. Failsafe (Redundancy)

What measures do they have in place for when failure occurs? There are X different kinds of failures, Data, Hardware, Network, Power, Catrastophy which can occur on small scale (your server) or large scale ( the entire facility, city, state, etc). What services can they offer you to prevent loss and downtime.

5. Scalability

How easy is it to add resources? Can they offer you the support and infrastructure you’ll need when your site hits 100,000 members? How about 1 million? 100 million?

6. Cost

Cost is an obvious factor. When comparing hosts it’s important to compare apples to apples. Some hosts itemize every service, others provide additional services included in the hosting package.

7. Support

The 3 am test is worthwhile here. Call the support line at 3am. How long do you have to wait to speak to someone? How much longer do you have to wait until you speak to a qualified tech?

Does the support staff seem knowledgeable. Do they have people on staff that can help you with non standard requests? Which OS / Distribution do they support?

8. Infrastructure?

Where is their facility located? How many Tier 1 pipelines are running into it? What is the latency?

9. Reputation

Having a great marketing team and a great product aren’t all that common for the same company. Don’t assume credibility because a given company mentions “hosted by …”. They are getting premium service for this co-op marketing.  Ignore the marketing, what are others really saying about them? Real customers not partners or paid references.

10. Extra

Do they offer any value adds? Companies are doing a lot these days to differentiate themselves, some of which is considerable. Are they offering free offsite backup? Managing your servers?