The key to finding a virtual or shared Web host that will fit one's needs is pure and simple and it can be achieved through personal investigation and assessment. This is not something that is hard to accomplish, given the fact that there are many tools available online to help the shared hosting finder. The harder task lies in actually making the choice: there are thousands of shared hosting service providers to choose from, and not all of these providers are what one could say to be "above board". The chances are good that one can find a shared or virtual Web host that can give the client quality services at an affordable price, but there are still some that would not try as hard to give the client their money's worth. Telling one from the other, in the end, will depend on the client's judgment.
The primary concern of anyone looking to procure shared web hosting services should be the technical capacity of the web host, and their troubleshooting protocols. There are ways to test whether or not a shared web host can handle the traffic to and from a client's website or if the infrastructure that they will be providing as well as their connectivity will be enough to address the needs of a client's website. The accessibility of a client's site depends almost entirely on these two hosting aspects, and online visibility is directly related to the latter's reliability. If something is THAT important, it really is prudent to look before you leap.
Think of it as a taste test, if the product tastes bad, at least the consumer will already know before spending money on it. The testing tools that evaluate the web host's vital stats themselves are available online. These tests will tell the prospective client how reliable the host's services are (i.e. how often they go offline and the reasons for it) because the main selling point of hosting companies is that they have an almost perfect uptime. Although it is ideal to have a web hosting server that it on almost all the time, it is well nigh impossible to find a web hosting server that really is, so find one that can give the best rate of uptime along with responsiveness and good technical support that you can find.
There are indiscriminate hosting companies that will promise the moon and the stars and unfortunately, these promises blind many consumers or the client just 'flatlines' when it comes to the technical aspects. Play it smart and do not rely on the words of sales people who are really just in it to make a sale.
There are ways to check server responses without resorting to the use of sophisticated online tools. The easiest way is to go ahead and check the websites that the potential server is already hosting during both peak hours and non-peak hours. Choose websites that are the host's self-proclaimed "specialties" or the websites that are closest to the ones that the client is thinking of putting up. This can be done through the operating system's line prompt, whether it is the MS-DOS or the UNIX operating system.
The test will also be more impartial if this is done without the knowledge of the potential host, and if the would be client chooses the ordinary accounts, not the premier ones. The latter accounts would certainly have a degree of preference and service that is not afforded to the typical hosting packages.
To search for the ordinary client base of a service provider, one will need a tool or application called the "whois" that can be accessed at the UNIX line prompt. This application can look up most of the critical information about the website, such as who owns it, the physical or virtual location of the host, and of course, the block of network numbers related to it. That means that the searcher can find the hosts list of clients, from general to specific. Since one cannot compare apples to bananas, look up a site hosted by the server that is similar to the content of the website that will be put up. To test whether or not the server has the acceptable response time, "ping" it or do a "traceroute" command from the prompt of UNIX or DOS operating system. If these applications are not satisfactory, try looking up freeware or shareware tools online that will do the job. These are called "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" (WYSIWYG) applications, and read up on those before downloading or using them.
A "ping" attempt is like sending a scout out to look at the virtual roads built by the server for the information traffic. This tool can tell the one sending out the "ping" if it has reached its destination, report on the condition of the roads, the travel time and the reasons for any delays.
A "traceroute" on the other hand is like hiring a cartographer. This application allows one to make a map of the direction that the data is traveling. It can tell the prospective client if the information requested from or sent to the server has taken a direct or indirect path. And if the shortest way to travel between points is a straight line, the less redirection that one can find the better the service will be.
The main reason to perform these tests is to see whether or not the potential traffic to the website that is going to be built will get there at the soonest possible time. It is in the new business sites best interest that more people should be able to access the information that they put up, and in the least possible time. Personal knowledge of the facts will always beat the best reviews and write ups, and with the tools and applications available and easy to use, there is very little excuse for people not to do so.