How to Choose the Right Web Hosting Provider
In an era when mobile technologies, blazing fast internet speeds, and clouds of unlimited content are shaping a new generation, consumers are quickly turning to the web to access everything – anytime and anywhere.
As such, it’s no longer feasible to run a business without a web presence – even a brick and mortar one.
Luckily, now more than ever, building a well-designed, high-performance, and responsive website is simple and straightforward thanks to the evolution of website design software that allows you to create a website without the need to code.
However, there is one prerequisite that most new website owners often tend to throw in the back seat. And that’s the choice for a web hosting provider.
In this post, I’ll share with you some useful tips and considerations that will help you choose the right web host for your needs. But before we dive in, here’s what you should know about web hosting.
Whenever we talk about a web host, we are referring to that company that provides the servers that store all your website’s files.
So, web hosting is the service and the infrastructure provided by a web hosting company that allows you to publish your site so that people can access it over the internet.
Typically, web hosting companies offer hosting services on a subscription-based business model. So, depending on the hosting plan you choose you’ll have to pay a particular amount of money either on a monthly or annual basis.
With that in mind, let’s see some of the key factors you need to consider when choosing a web host.
Web Hosting Basics
Web hosting is an interesting yet confusing subject. On top of a litany of terms, you’ll need to understand the different hosting plans, how they compare – and most importantly sift through hundreds of web hosting providers to choose the one that’s right for you.
Well, for the sake of this post I’ll not be defining the terms. Instead, I’ll help you understand what web hosting is and the different hosting plans that hosting providers offer.
How to Pick a Web Host
Landing a reliable web host takes time, research, and dedication. You have to scour through the internet for reviews, visit community forums, seek recommendations from experts, and so on.
But hey, it’s not as hard as it sounds when you know what you are looking for. Here are some key recommendations when picking a web host:
1. Know the Type of Hosting You Need
Before committing to a particular web host, it is important for you to first understand how the different hosting plans compare and the impact that each will have when it comes to the growth of your business.
The most popular categories that you’ll likely come across include:
- Shared Hosting
- VPS Hosting
- Dedicated Hosting
- Managed WordPress Hosting
While either of these plans will propel your website to the world, there exists a huge difference when it comes to storage, bandwidth, server speed, reliability, control, and price.
Now let’s see how each plan is tailored to cater to different kinds of websites.
Shared Hosting: Great for beginners and medium-sized businesses
Inarguably the cheapest and the most common, shared hosting is exactly as the name suggests. Your website, alongside a bunch of other websites, share a single server.
This means that resources such as the disk space, random access memory (RAM), and the Central Processing Unit (CPU) are split across all the domains hosted on that server. Note that some servers can host more than 1000 websites.
To put it into perspective, you can think of shared hosting as one huge family sharing a self-contained flat where they have to share everything including the kitchen and the restroom.
Chaotic, right? Well, shared hosting is a great choice if you are just getting started online and you don’t expect much traffic initially. But if you want to see growth and performance, you should upgrade to VPS (Virtual Private Server) or dedicated hosting.
That said, these two important tips should not be overlooked when choosing a shared hosting plan.
- Always check the number of domains hosted on the server. A smaller number – say 200 domains – should be okay but something close to or more than 1000 domains on a single server should be a deal-breaker. You can get this information from the support or visit https://viewdns.info/reverseip/.
- Ensure that there is strong account segregation in place. Keep in mind that websites hosted under shared plans are prone to malware infection.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting: Great option for fast-growing websites that need flexibility
VPS hosting is another version of shared hosting but a bit more advanced. It’s like shared hosting on steroids.
With VPS hosting, websites still share a server’s resources but in a virtually-isolated environment. Meaning that you have one main server (as in shared hosting) – but in this case, the server is split into several virtual machines that act as independent servers.
So here your website gets to enjoy its own RAM, disk space, and processing power that other websites on that server cannot use. Think of it as staying in an apartment building with many other neighbors but you do not rely on them for anything when you want to paint the walls or do some makeovers (customizations).
Basically, VPS hosting offers you more control when it comes to customization and storage space. Apart from that, some top VPS hosts will throw in security, monitoring, and CDN services.
Dedicated Hosting: Excellent choice for users who want to scale their business and need security
Dedicated hosting, on the other hand, is a complete opposite of shared hosting, and a full-upgrade of VPS. With shared hosting, you have the entire server earmarked just for your website.
This means that you have full admin control of the entire server space. You can control anything from the operating system to security. You also don’t have to get concerned about other user’s websites impacting your disk space or performance.
But all this pleasantness comes at a price – and you’ll have to break open the piggy bank to enjoy all this pleasantries. Typically, dedicated hosting plans are used by website owners who receive massive amounts of traffic and need full-control of their servers.
So, if you are just getting started, going for dedicated hosting would pretty much be an overkill. Also, you’d need to have an impressively high level of technical expertise for you to be able to manage a dedicated server.
Managed WordPress Hosting: Best for WordPress-specific websites and easy maintenance
Managed WordPress hosting is a new trend in web-hosting geared towards WordPress-specific websites. In other words, it’s a type of web hosting that has been optimized for websites that use the WordPress Content Management System (CMS).
Your hosting provider will offer all the technical services such as software set up & configuration, technical support, updates, security monitoring, patching, maintenance, etc. – to ensure that your site keeps running smoothly.
While most people might confuse it to be a hosting plan the same as a VPS or dedicated hosting – it actually isn’t. It’s offered as either shared, VPS, or dedicated hosting.
As you can see, you have a multitude of options when it comes to choosing a web hosting plan that best suits your website’s needs.
2. What Type of Website Do You Want to Build?
Now that you know the different hosting categories, the next step is to identify the type of website you want to build and how you want to build it.
- Are you creating a blog, an online portfolio, or a business website?
- Will you use a website builder or a content management system such as WordPress?
Answering this questions will help you narrow down your choice for a hosting service as well as determine which features are worth having. For example, if you are creating an online portfolio, the type of website you’ll create will be a lot different than when you are creating an eCommerce store or a business website.
For an online portfolio, you’d be best placed with a hosting provider that offers a website builder. A website builder makes it fast and easy to create a stunning website without having to go through the motions of website development.
Most website builders will offer set up wizards, customization tools, SEO & Marketing tools, built-in analytics, mobile editing tools, and eCommerce functionality for those who want to sell stuff online.
A handful of top hosting providers in the market incorporate website builders in their cPanel. A good example is Bluehost which partners with Weebly – a user-friendly, drag-and-drop website building program that allows you to build your site in a jiffy.
However, one problem with website builders is that they are fairly limited when it comes to customization options thanks to the limited number of templates. So, don’t be surprised when you find your website looking similar to that of your competitor. Also, many website builders tack on extra costs for things like eCommerce and email.
On the other hand, creating a business website will require you’ll be well placed with a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress. But why WordPress?
For one, WordPress is offered for free as open-source software. Another great aspect of WordPress is the diversity of its extensive ecosystem. There are thousands of themes for different niches and plugins suited for different tasks such as eCommerce, SEO, calendar, events, etc.
Also, WordPress is offered by almost all hosting providers so chances of you landing a good web host at a cheaper cost are high. It also has a huge online community that is willing to assist whenever you have a question.
3. What Features and Resources Do You Require?
Every web hosting provider offers some features that dictate its capability in ensuring that your site is safe and accessible all year round.
While most of these technical features might be overwhelmingly confusing to most newbies – knowing which ones to consider first can help prevent you from getting stuck with a horrific hosting provider with poor service and high fees.
Something else you need to watch out for is that most web hosts will use perplexing technical jargon such as “unlimited bandwidth” to lure you into their plans. There is nothing like unlimited bandwidth. So, be sure to read their Terms of Service (TOS) when you encounter such features.
With that in mind, here are the most important features you need to consider when choosing a web host.
Reliability and Uptime
Your website's performance and uptime can positively or negatively impact all your efforts – regardless of how stunning your website looks.
For example, if your web host’s servers are weak, you will most likely experience a lot of downtimes which could ruin the page load speeds, SEO ranking on Google, or worse still push your website offline. This would in turn cause a massive bounce rate – meaning lost revenue.
Unfortunately, in the field of web hosting or anything tech-related, nothing works with a 100% guarantee. In any case, when was the last time you had a problem with your smartphone, computer, or one of those favorite websites that you frequent? Last week? Yesterday? Today?
Well, if it hasn’t happened it will happen soon. That’s just the nature of technology.
Now, back to web hosting – and the same applies. No host can guarantee a 100% uptime. However, you should consider hosting companies that offer an uptime guarantee of 99.9%. Along with that, be sure to check out what performance-related features your host offers such as CDN (content delivery service), built-in caching, and solid-state drive (SSD).
That said, it’s a no brainer that regardless of the type of website you want to set up – one critical factor that you need to be certain about is the web host’s server speed and reliability.
When we talk about Bandwidth, we are referring to the amount of data your website can transfer to and from your web server over a certain period – usually a month.
Your website’s bandwidth amount dictates how fast visitors can retrieve your website’s pages. The more the bandwidth, the more the number of visitors who can access your website simultaneously.
Typically, good web hosts will offer you with sufficient bandwidth for a month. However, as your site starts to grow and receive more visitors, the bandwidth requirement increases.
Most hosting providers will claim to offer “unlimited” bandwidth and storage. But don’t fall for this marketing gimmick. In most cases, “unlimited” accounts have restrictions on the amount of processing power you can use.
Violating these restrictions can trigger restrictions or worse still – your website could be suspended. Be sure to check the TOS of your host. Note that these restrictions can be hard to understand and are normally buried in the “fair use” policy.
Areas of Specialization
Typically, web hosting providers will generalize their services. However, there are a handful of companies that excel in offering certain types of hosting.
For instance, some hosts will consecrate most of their resources and infrastructure to cloud hosting while some will commit to WordPress hosting.
So, if you are looking to build your website on WordPress, you’d be better off with one that offers WordPress hosting. Similarly, if you want to host your business applications, for example, you’d more likely go with a host that specializes in cloud hosting. As such, think carefully about the kind of service you want.
Cyber threats have become a big deal. According to one study conducted by the University of Maryland, it was found that hacker attacks occur every 39 seconds on average.
These attacks can range from DDoS attacks, malware attacks, blacklisting, vulnerability exploits, and defacement. While there are other cyber-attack methods, the bottom line is that these attacks can cause a costly clean-up and worse still – damage your website’s reputation, which could deter customers from coming back.
You are probably wondering, what does web hosting get to do with my website’s security? Well, by definition website security is any action taken to ensure that no information about your website gets into the rascal hands of cybercriminals.
That said, it’s obvious that your web host provides the foundation on which your entire business is built –and that’s the server. This means that for your website to sit safely on that server, your web hosting provider must equip it (the server) with adequate security solutions. Along with that, it must be able to respond to new threats and eliminate them promptly.
Different web hosts offer various security features, and as a customer, it’s up to you to choose one that takes security seriously. When shopping, look for features such as SSL/TLS certificates, automatic backups, built-in firewalls, security logs, malware removal, security scans, and vulnerability monitoring.
In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have to go through all the trouble of choosing a web host – or even have to migrate your website to a different provider. Ideally, your website would sit happily with the first web host you identify.
But since the world is not ideal, this scenario is just but a dream. And with hundreds of web hosts in the market – all luring you into their plans with a promise to deliver, only a handful keep their word.
So, if you get caught up with a “bad one” you might be forced to shift to a different one. While most hosts will make the entire process easy and painless, some hosts can make it a hurdle.
As such, make sure that the host you choose offers hassle-free site migration. You can read reviews and see how other users have dealt with them in the past or contact their support team.
As aforementioned, nothing works with a 100% guarantee when it comes to technology. For instance, you might have issues with your website security or need help with certain installations.
During such times you’ll require all the support you can get. While most web hosts will have resources such as how-to articles, videos, and FAQs, some issues will need real human support.
For this reason, you’ll need a fast-response, friendly, and knowledgeable customer support team to help you there and then. You, therefore, need to find out how prepared your host’s support team is before committing to any of their plans.
You might want to check the internet for reviews, but the best way is to try the customer support methods they have by yourself. For instance, you could initiate a live chat with support, make a phone call, or send them an email and see how responsive and knowledgeable they are.
Price reigns supreme. As such, it’s very easy to get baited into purchasing a low-cost hosting plan that promises some juicy features only to sacrifice on performance and support.
While this is not to say that cheap hosting plans offer poor services, the idea here is to make sure that you are not sacrificing what you need most and in the long run for a few bucks.
What’s more, hosting follows a subscription-based model. This means that the prices are advertised either monthly or annually.
The annual rate is often cheaper (discounted) if you choose to pay upfront compared to paying monthly. However, ensure that the company offers a money-back guarantee should the service not meet your expectations.
Something else you need to be cautious about is the promotional rate offered on first sign up. These rates may increase twofold after the first year. To be safe, be sure to check the renewal charges.
Like they say “the internet never sleeps.” It thus goes without saying that for you to build a stellar online presence and establish an identity for your brand you need a reliable web hosting provider.
While most people would be tempted to start a “relationship” with hosting providers who advertise global sales and offer unlimited everything for a few dollars, it all comes down to getting clear on what your business needs are – and then making sure that your “to-be” host understands them.
But as you can see, adopting an all-inclusive approach can come in handy when choosing a web hosting provider. Remember that your web host is the lifeblood of your website. So make the right choice.