In our article, "Top 10 Tips Before Choosing a Web Host," Tip #8 was to send your prospective host a test email as one of the final steps to take before committing to, and placing and order with, your new web hosting partner.
The sample letter below is meant to serve as a template, or guide, for your email to the Web Hosts in your final short list of prospective Web Hosts. There are scores and scores of questions that you could ask them in order to assess their levels of competence and service, so we strongly suggest that you pick only the most relevant questions according to your needs and delete the questions that you already know the answer to, or those that are answered on the respective Web Hosts` websites.
You are much more likely to get a proper response if it appears that your questions are genuine and you have already taken the time to look for the answers yourself.
So, take a few minutes and modify the letter below, or pick and choose the questions as necessary and appropriate for each host you are emailing. You will probably have a few other questions of your own as well. Be sure to note their response times and level of interest in having you as a client, then, weigh all your research and information, and make your decision. Good luck.
Dear [Name of Web Host],
Hello. I am writing to inquire further into some questions I still have after reviewing your informative website. I am looking for a web hosting solution for [describe your website or company here]. I am particularly concerned about having a Web Host that can handle [list your specific needs here] and hope your company will be able to meet my needs. I am about to make a decision on which Web Host to go with and sincerely hope it will be you.
Given the requirements and site description I mentioned above, I would appreciate your answers to the following questions:
- Could you please spell out all initial fees I must pay to setup my site? What are the different term lengths I can sign up for, and what discounts do you offer for longer time periods?
- Can you please inform me of any guarantees or trial periods you have? Exactly what is your refund policy in these cases; i.e., partial or total refund of all or selected payments?
- I would like to visit and contact several websites currently hosted by you. Could you please kindly send me the names of a few of these?
- Could you please give me an idea of how long it will take from the time of my order until the site is ready to go?
- Please tell me about your Customer Service and Technical Support departments; specifically the hours they can be reached, if they are available 24/7; if there is a limit to support requests; and what the average response time is that I can expect from them?
- Can I call and talk with someone there? If yes, is it a toll-free or local call? [Toll-free calls are relatively rare for low-cost Web Hosting companies, so you may end up having to use a long-distance number, but that`s better than nothing. By the way, some companies will charge you for phone support. This may influence some of your decisions to go with a Web Host near you, if possible.]
- I am not sure what kind of Domain (or Admin) Control Panel you provide to your clients to administer their sites? Can you please point me towards a demo of this and tell me exactly what I can and cannot administer myself?
- Can I change my account passwords and emails myself or must I go through you every time?
- How much does it cost to host multiple domain names? [If you have more than one domain name, you can have them all point to the same website. For instance, you might have one domain name for your company and other domain names that you are using to promote some products. There are different ways to organize this. All the domains can point to the same directory, or you can have separate directories for each domain. There are different ways to charge, too. You may be allowed two domains for free, for example, with an additional fee for any extra domains. Or, maybe you`ll pay an additional fee for all extra domains. If you need this feature, ask.]
- I notice that some sites work without "http://www." having to be typed into the browser before the domain name. Do your sites function this way?
- The site must absolutely be registered in my name. Do you have any problem with this? What is your policy and procedures on domain registrations and transfers? Do you handle them, and if so, how long do they typically take?
- Do you have any requirements for me to place anything on my pages in addition to my own content? If so, what are they?
- Can you please tell me about the server I will be on? What type of hardware is it, and what Operating System and version are you running on it?
- Do you have Microsoft FrontPage server extensions? [For those using Microsoft FrontPage.]
- Will I have 24 hour FTP and Telnet access? Will I have anonymous FTP?
- Will the IP number assigned to my website be mine alone, or is it shared with someone else?
- How many other sites will I be sharing a server with, roughly? How do you decide the maximum carrying capacity of any given server?
- What are your limits for traffic, bandwidth, or number of hits; and what are the penalties, if any, for exceeding these? [Some companies charge you for the number of hits - the number of times someone transfers one of your pages to their browser. Others charge according to the amount of data transferred from your website. Either way, the busier your site, the more you`ll be charged under these pricing schedules, if applicable. Other Web Hosts have no limit.]
- Do you host any adult sites? Can I be sure that I will not be sharing a server with an adult site? [Adult sites tend to require substantial resources that would affect the performance of the server and your website.]
- What are your policies regarding mailing lists? How many can I have with how many addresses per mailing list?
- Regarding email accounts, I notice that you provide [X] email accounts. What would it cost to get more? Does this apply to Aliases or Forwardings as well?
- What about SMTP? Can I use my domain as my own SMTP server or must I go through another ISP to do this? I travel a lot and need my own SMTP server, if possible. [For those who do travel regularly.]
- Do you offer a "catch-all" account so that when people email me incorrectly @ my domain name.com, I will still get it?
- What are your policies and procedures regarding SPAM and junk mail? Are you aggressively protecting your clients against this unwanted intrusion?
- Can you please send me a copy of your Terms of Service?
- What statistics packages do you offer your clients free of charge? Are other packages available? Can I view some samples of them? Can I access my raw log files?
- What e-commerce options do you offer, and at what cost? Can I upgrade later, and at what cost?
- Is there a limit to the number of CGI scripts I can install? Can I run them outside the CGI directory? Can I debug any CGIs on the server? What version of Perl do you use and does it contain a full set of modules?
- I would like to know a bit more about your company if you don`t mind. For example, where are you located? How long have you been in business? Approximately how many clients do you have? What are your future plans? Any other information you can provide about yourself would be greatly appreciated.
I am just about to make what is to me a very important decision: Which Web Host should I choose? I`d like to know what you feel is special about your company, and why I would be better off going with you than one of your competitors? Any comments in this regard would be very helpful for me in making my final decision.
I appreciate your time and consideration with respect to the questions above and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Many thanks and best regards,
[Your name, position, signature, etc.]