With a background in data science and statistics, I like to number-crunch all of the data that I can get my hands on, and then slice and dice different parameters to see how one set of variables affects another, and where bottlenecks and things of that sort come up with different hosts.
Although I look at things such as uptime, customer satisfaction ratings, and pricing competitiveness, one of the first things that I do is a general speed test. There are a number of reliable speed tests out in the market, and they check the various hosts and plans that we're reviewing for all of the things that are of prime importance with fast hosts: speed, response time, and loading issues.
If I give a certain host or a certain plan a green light, I then pass that on to Pete to do some extra digging to see what he can find.
Beyond the three very important statistics that Sally is responsible for, I look for numbers on site reliability, customer care, pricing tiers, and other important add-ons such as package upgrading options, the availability of plugins, templates, and themes, and security/encryption. All of the web hosting services that we recommend have to be not just fast but reliably so, and not just feature-rich but competitively so, and not just helpful and knowledgeable but approachably so.
What we look for are customer-friendly options that offer customizations and features that make dealing with them not just fun but beneficial to our clients as well.
To illustrate with an example, this might mean looking for:
- A managed WordPress plan that is not only optimized for WP performance, but is pre-configured for quick and easy maintenance
- Domain name registration that comes with free privacy protection guarantees
- Hardware offerings such as SSD storage, or add-ons such as email hosting
- Dedicated plans that offer 100% uptime guarantees and platinum-level support
Once Sally and Pete have their recommendations, I look into niche providers, corner cases, and plans, packages, or hosts that have something that no one else does. For example, high-performance web hosting tailored for WordPress sites is a great option for photography studios or galleries, WP designers or developers, and for general blogs, but what if you're a small player but want a managed plan with zero downtime? Does such a plan exist? Or, if you're starting small or have a niche idea and want a great, visually attractive site for it, but don't want to use WordPress, which hosts and which plans can you choose from?
The same challenge exists with other CMS options such as Magento. Although it offers responsive designs, rich data and analytics, customizable interfaces, numerous schemes and templates, and additional features such as product comparisons and checkout solutions, is Magento right for a small boutique antiques website? What kinds of delivery options might a small operation like that need?
Depending on client goals and objectives, what I try to do is identify gaps in the market, and then try to see who might be able to fill those gaps, or which plan is best positioned to cover as many use cases as possible. Sally, Pete and I then bring all of our findings together and we sift through social media sentiment, popularity ratings, news reports on different web hosts (with our eyes peeled for things like security breaches or other customer-side issues), and business positioning to select the best hosts, the best plans, and the best packages for our customers, across the various hosting verticals that we cover.