Support is very important when something goes wrong or you need help with something regarding your web hosting account. Good support is really worth a few extra $'s. Unfortunately, it is one of those things that are hard to find out about without experiencing it personally. Here are some features that can be used as indicators of the web hosting providers support.

Support systems

Web hosting providers can have different systems for support. They all have their strengths and weaknesses as anything else, and different problems can best be solved with different forms of support.

User forums

Some web hosts have their own forums where all aspects of their web hosting services and other webmaster issues are discussed. This is a great place to get in contact with other customers, and get help from both customers and employees of the web hosting company.

If the web host take their forum seriously, they will have one or more employees who frequently reads and posts in the forum. A forum is also a great place for the web host to meet their customers and receive feedback on their services, so active employees is a sign that ha web host takes their customers seriously.

Live support

If you need immediate help, you also need immediate support. If you live near your web host (or at least not in a time zone far away), a phone call is a good solution. Those who prefer phone support should look for a web host near their home. If your web host is far away, phone support can be expensive, and maybe not available when you are awake because of time zone differences.

The other solution to live support is chat. You just need internet access and maybe a java-enabled web browser, and hopefully some employee have the time to assist you. 24 hour support is nice, but check if support is available so it at least fits in with your working schedule.

Send an email

A good test is to send an email to a web hosting provider asking some questions regarding their services. If they don't reply to emails from potential customers, don't expect that they answer email from their customers at all.

Good answers to your questions in an indication of good support to their customers, but it is no guarantee. However, this is one of the few tests you can do regarding a web hosting providers support.

There are always some unclear point in their account details or in their terms of service, so you should be able to make some good questions for your potential web hosting provider.

External sources

When you are examining a web host, look beyond its web site. There are other web sites where you can find information about that web host. And because it is not written by the web host, it can be more trustable.

Web hosting forums

A good source of information is the web's many web hosting forums. These are forums where all aspects of web hosting are discussed, and many experienced web hosting customers are posting in these forums. Try a search for your potential web hosting provider, and you can find many postings about the web host you are looking at.

Web host reviews

Some websites (mainly web hosting directories) offer reviews of web hosts. When you are reading reviews, notice how long the reviewer has been a customer at the web hosting provider (if provided).

Reviews by long time customers are more trustworthy because they have more experience with the web host. On the other hand, if you are unhappy with your web host, you are not likely to stay there for a long time.

Be aware that a big web host almost certainly has a few unhappy customers, and those few can make a lot of noise on the internet. If the web host has 100.000 customers, 10 unhappy customers is still a good number.

Many web hosts have an affiliate program, which means that they pay webmasters to send them customers. This gives affiliates an incentive to write positive reviews, so if a 100% positive review ends with an affiliate link, maybe it's not an honest review.