Considering that a website is a necessity nowadays for any business, but also for bloggers and anyone who wants to share their thoughts online, finding the right web hosting provider is essential.
At least if you want to have one less thing to worry about.
Choosing the right web host isn’t always easy, especially if you’re new and have little understanding of what to look for.
You’ll find plenty of reviews online, and even comparisons between hosting providers. But how will comparisons like Siteground or Bluehost, or Hostgator versus GoDaddy, help you if you don’t know what you need?
After you read this article, though, you’ll have a much better understanding of what to look for. Then, you’ll be able to read all those comparisons and it won’t feel like you’re trying to decipher an alien language.
So, read on for our six essential tips to remember when choosing a hosting provider.
Decide on the Type of Hosting You Need
The first thing you have to do is decide on the type of web hosting you need. Just like you wouldn’t go to Pizza Hut if you’re craving a burger, you can’t sign up with any old host if they don’t offer what you need.
Different web hosts offer different types of hosting and while most will generally have a similar offering, the features and benefits do vary from one to the next. However, to make an effective comparison, you’ll need to identify what you need.
The type of hosting most suitable for your needs will depend on the size of your site, the number of sites you want to establish, and how much traffic you expect to get.
For example, a freelancer won’t need to sign up for a dedicated server just to host their portfolio online when shared hosting will do.
Similarly, a large online store with tons of traffic shouldn’t risk relying on shared hosting. At least not if they want their site failing every five minutes.
Below you’ll find a quick overview of the different types of hosting and what they’re suitable for.
Shared hosting means that your site will live on a server with many other sites. So, a larger number of customers will share the same server resources.
The advantage of shared hosting is that it’s cheap and simple. It’s also what most people first sign up for. And that’s great because it’s an excellent option for a small site.
A freelancer or a blogger with a very limited audience, shared hosting is all they’ll probably ever need.
However, if you expect your site to grow and get lots of traffic, you should plan to switch to a VPS or a dedicated server.
When choosing a shared hosting plan, there are additional factors to consider, including:
- ecommerce solutions
- number of sites you can host
- free domains
- advertising credits
- website builders
Virtual Private Servers
A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a step up from shared hosting, but a step below a dedicated server. It’s similar to shared hosting in that a physical server hosts more than one customer.
However, it is similar to a dedicated server because the physical unit is split virtually into multiple machines.
It’s like having your own server. This means that the resources you are allocated are yours alone, regardless of how much traffic someone else’s site gets.
While you do get significant resources, they aren’t quite as impressive as those offered on a dedicated server plan. Despite this, this plan is still pretty good for a medium to large site with a medium to large amount of traffic.
When choosing a VPS plan, consider the following additional factors:
- managed services for updates and patches,
- free cPanel license
- CDN services
If shared hosting is the singer, and VPS is a band, then dedicated hosting is the equivalent of a full orchestra. With dedicated hosting, you get an entire physical server to yourself, which makes it the ideal option for big sites with heavy traffic loads.
The advantage of dedicated hosting isn’t just that you get a ton of resources capable of carrying a large site, but also flexibility.
Since you’re the only one using the server, you usually have a lot of freedom in terms of customizing it. Thus, you can tailor things like the security and the operating system, among others.
Of course, dedicated hosting plans are the most expensive out of the lot, but you do get plenty of services included. Managed services, 24/7 priority support and excellent hardware are just some of the things you can expect.
Other factors to consider when choosing a dedicated hosting plan include:
- Automatic migration
- Automatic backups
- Dedicated IP address
- Selection of operating systems
Figure Out the Type of Site You Need
The type of site you want will also impact which web hosting provider you choose.
Some hosts are set up to appeal mainly to bloggers, while others cater mainly to ecommerce websites, for example. They may not come out and say it, but you can figure it out based on the features and services they offer.
So, if your site will be a:
- Blog: consider a web host that specializes in WordPress. While most web hosting providers offer WordPress, the specialized ones will also offer better hardware, unlimited bandwidth and storage, as well as dedicated support and assistance for WordPress.
- Store: you will need to look for a web host that offers a wide range of ecommerce options, as well as templates, shopping cart software, and options to integrate with various marketing tools and payment processors.
- Portfolio or Resume: a static site for freelancers or people looking for jobs only really requires a good website builder. Look for a provider that has their own proprietary solution as well as themes and services you can use to help you land more clients or find that dream job.
- Personal site: if you just want to shoot the breeze, then you want to look for a hosting provider who makes it easy to build an attractive site without charging a fortune. Just because the price is low, it doesn’t mean the services are poor.
- Business site: you need to look for a host that will allow you to grow. Building a long-term relationship with your hosting provider is essential to the health of your website. So, look for a provider that has the resources to support the growth of your business.
Understand What Resources Are Important for Your Site
Your first instinct might be to run to the web hosting provider who offers the most features for very little money. Or, you might decide on a slightly more expensive plan just because it has a few extra options.
That’s not the best way to go about things.
Instead, you need to understand which resources really are important and how they will affect your site. This way you can make a more informed and better decision.
- Storage: most hosts offer unlimited storage, and while technically it’s not possible, most small sites will never grow to the point where they exceed limits. With VPS and dedicated hosting, you can configure disk space as you grow. What is important is to make sure that you find a web host that offers SSD (solid-state drive) storage. SSDs are more reliable and faster, though they do cost more.
- RAM: the more RAM the better because it will mean faster writing and reading of data, which leads to a faster site. Due to the fact that RAM is one of the main factors that impacts page loading times, many feel it is one of the most critical variables in choosing a host.
- Bandwidth: the higher the bandwidth, the more people can check out your site at the same time without negatively affecting page load speeds. Generally, hosts offer more bandwidth than most small sites need. However, increasing bandwidth means your site will be able to grow easily without negatively affecting performance.
- Security: over 40% of sites end up hacked because of a problem with the web host, so you want to make sure to find one that has a good security system. Firewalls and monitoring services are the bare minimum. In fact, the more security features, the better.
- Support: while most hosting providers offer around the clock support, when the rubber meets the road, things aren’t always as advertised. You need to be able to get through to support at all times. And that support needs to be capable of helping you out. Unfortunately, you can only really tell how good they are once you’ve joined. Before you do sign up, though, try doing a little research to see what other people are saying.
Understand the Importance of a Web Host’s Reliability
Reliability for a web host means uptime. In other words, how long your site is available.
Generally, the importance of uptime is referred to in abstract terms. You want your site up all the time because you’ll lose revenues and traffic, of course.
However, to give you an idea of the losses you can potentially incur, consider that at the start of 2017, Amazon Web Services had an outage that lasted around three hours. Said outage led to companies losing approximately $150 million.
While your losses are likely not even in the same universe as the aforementioned amount, it’s still a good indicator of how important reliability is.
Of course, you should want your site to be available 100% of the time, but not all hosts guarantee quite that much.
And if they do, it will cost you a pretty penny.
Why? Well, because the host usually has to cover lost earnings if they have outages that exceed what they promise in their service agreement.
Generally, though, you will find guarantees of 99.9%. And for every extra 9 on the end of that, you will end up paying more. So, if you want 99.99% uptime, expect to pay a little more.
Of course, if you’re building the next Amazon, then the more uptime you can get your web host to guarantee, the better off you’ll be.
Understand How Pricing Works
For most people, pricing is one of the most important factors when choosing a web host.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the best approach.
Sometimes, cheaper really does mean poorer service, and you should never sacrifice performance and support for a few dollars every month.
You also should take into account that certain services will cost you extra, such as:
- Domain name registration
- Extra security
Hosting itself can cost as little as a few dollars per month. It can be even less when you sign up for a year or more. However, all the little extras do add up, and sometimes those extras aren’t just luxury options you can do without.
Free hosting options are also available, but you really don’t get much. And you shouldn’t expect to.
Free might be good for a small family website. But even then, if you want decent security, a dedicated domain, and other features, this isn’t a good option.
For a business, or a freelancer, or even someone looking for a job, free is definitely not the way to go because it sends the wrong message. Whoever visits your site will wonder at your commitment considering that you wouldn’t spare a few dollars for a dedicated site.
There are plenty of options that are decently priced, and you’ll often find great deals. However, just make sure to check the fine print, because once the deal is over, the full price might be a little more than you can stomach.
Do Your Due Diligence
Nowadays, it’s very difficult for companies to exaggerate, because of social media and customer reviews. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t try to make themselves look better than they are.
So, if you want to find a good web hosting provider and avoid a ton of hassle, make sure to do your research.
Yes, there are plenty of online reviews, but don’t read just one and take it as gospel. Instead, look for reviews written by people who can prove they’ve actually tested the service.
Then, move on to social media, where you can find customer reviews. You could even consider getting in touch with existing customers to make sure the reviews are legitimate.
And don’t forget to check the customer support feeds. Lots of companies are now providing customer service via social media. Reading those feeds will give you a great idea of how they deal with their customers and will eliminate any unpleasant surprises in the future.
The key to picking a great web hosting provider is to understand what’s important in terms of hosting and determining what you need. Then you need to do your due diligence to make sure the host you chose really delivers on their promises. However, don’t forget to pick a provider with an eye to the future when your site expands.