When you decide to establish your presence online, regardless of whether you are a blogger, an e-commerce business owner or part of the team in charge of creating your corporation’s website, you would definitely require a web host.
But which should you choose? Would it meet your requirements? Should price be the number one criteria in your decision? Are they all the same? Which is the best web hosting company?
Well, you would be forgiven if you think that all the web host providers offer similar services. I mean, don’t they all claim that they are the best providers in the industry and provide top-notch services eg 99.9% uptime, award-winning support and unlimited bandwidth and disk space?
Truth be told, there are different types of hosting providers which offer different plans. The trick is to find one that meets most of your requirements if not all. But what are the things that you should look for? Here are 10 factors that you should consider before deciding on which web host to go for.
Hosting Plans Price
Web hosting price is usually the first thing that most people look for when deciding on a web host. Should you really go for the cheapest plan? Or perhaps free hosting? Well, while I don’t have anything against free hosting, there are certain things you should know about them.
For one, there is low or no security measures taken. They don’t offer much support. Plus you generally don’t have any control over advertisements and where they are placed. So unless you don’t mind much about these features, do opt for premium hosting. After all, they don’t cost you much these days.
On average, shared hosting services costs around $6 per month and is able to host low to medium traffic websites. If your website is expecting heavier traffic, then you may wish to consider dedicated servers (which cost around $100 per month) or pay-as-you-use Cloud hosting.
I recommend you to read further on this, how to save on web hosting.
It is important to determine if a web host’s customer support is as good as they claim. The last thing you want is to get stranded in the middle of the night when your website crashes and your files lost. There are a few things you should look for eg how support is being provided.
Does the hosting provider offer live chats, phone support and ticket system (email) for all plans? Are these support services 24 hours? This is essential especially if you live in a different time zone from the hosting provider’s. Does the hosting provider commit themselves to revert to you within a certain period eg within 24 hours? You can look for these information up in their Terms of Service (TOS) page.
What Are Others Saying?
Another source of information is from web hosting reviews. It’s one thing what a hosting provider can claim on their website. And it’s another what customers are saying about them. Granted there are bound to be unhappy customers who are pretty vocal, you should also read reviews about what people like and dislike about a certain web hosting. Use your judgment here.
Hard disk space, bandwidth limit and numbers of domains allowed are some basic features that you need to check out prior to signing up.
Hard disk space is your website’s storage space. These days, most shared hosting providers offer “unlimited” hard disk space. Take note that this is actually limited. What they meant is that you would get more space that an ordinary website would need. If yours is an e-commerce site or a forum, then you may need more space. So, refer to the TOS. Make sure you have more than enough to accommodate future growth. And you would need some space for back-ups.
Unlimited bandwidth is another popular marketing terms for hosting providers. And yes, it is limited. Do your homework. Bandwidth determines the speed of downloads and how much data can be downloaded; thus, affects your visitors surfing experience.
Unless you expect high traffic or have lots of music and video files for download, a shared hosting plan is pretty adequate.
In today’s world, data security is very much of concern. Every now and then you read about websites being hacked and data being stolen. These are not just your average websites. Big corporations like Sony and CIA are just some of the victims!
But don’t just depend on your hosting provider. You should take action to perform back-ups as well as ensuring security measures like firewall are in place.
User-Friendly Control Panel
The web hosting control panel is where you execute most of your website configurations and customizations. Therefore, do look for a hosting provider which provides a control panel that you are able to use without causing you much confusion.
cPanel is the most popular web hosting control panel because it’s user-friendly and features-rich. Thus, I highly recommend you to find web hosts which offer cPanel, for example BlueHost and HostGator.
A hosting provider’s hardware determines hosting performance which in turn affects your website loading speed. So a quick check on the hosting provider’s hardware background is pretty important too.
What kind of hosting hardware does the hosting provider you have in mind uses? Are the servers brand new and tested and do they build their own data centers with state-of-the-art technology? Or is it a one-man-show garage-based setup with 2 servers? Nothing wrong with the later provided you have researched them and are sure they are not one of those fly-by-night types.
Web Host’s Focus
Some hosting providers offer a variety of products from hosting and domains registrations to web design and other business solutions. Find out which product does the hosting provider focus on. Usually, it would be the product that is both affordable and is reliable.
As mentioned above, some hosting providers have different products and hosting plans. This can come in handy when your website is experiencing higher traffic that requires you to upgrade to a different hosting plan eg from shared hosting to VPS, or dedicated server. If your hosting provider does not offer such plans, you would incur the hassle of moving your website to another provider which provides you this upgrade should the need arises.
It would be best if you go with a web hosting company which allows you to scale easily in the future when your website grows. I highly recommend you to check out HostGator since they provide a complete range of web hosting plans with different users and different requirements in mind.
There are some features that you may want to consider and it depends on what are your website’s purposes. For example, if you plan to have more than one domain then you should look for a web host that offers multiple or unlimited addon domains.
Another feature that you should look at is whether the web host offers free trial or money back guarantee. Though not a rule but most often than not, those who offer such features are web hosts who also provides reliable services.
An extra feature that is equally important is whether you want a Linux or Windows server, which is determined by your choice of software and applications, eg if you want to use ASP scripts, then you would require Windows servers. If you want to run WordPress, then it is best to get a Linux server.
My final advice is to spend some time and effort researching about the web hosting providers before subscribing. A little extra work now would save you lots of trouble later, like when you found out a year down the road that your chosen web host is not able to offer you the features that you needed to upgrade.