Choosing a web host for your website seems like a big decision to make – and it is. You may have had a negative experience with a previous host, or perhaps the process is new to you. It’s important that this decision isn’t rushed and that you reflect upon a number of factors. Taking each of these questions into consideration will help you to make an informed and confident decision about who should host your website.
1) What type of hosting do I need?
With a number of types of hosting services available, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here four types of hosting services that are good for various businesses:
With shared hosting, you’ll be allocated part of a server that other customers will also use. This means that if you’ve got a generic amount of traffic coming to your site, you shouldn’t have issues with volume that could otherwise result in your website going down. But if another website on your server has an sharp increase in traffic, you may find that this has a bearing on your site’s speed. The security of your site is also at higher risk if you opt for shared hosting.
Although expensive in comparison to shared hosting, dedicated hosting means that your site will able to handle high amounts of traffic. This type of hosting also allows for a more customised experience, as different types of software can be installed.
This is a more secure option, so if you’re an e-commerce company, this may be a better option for you and your customers.
Virtual Private Server
This option sits between shared and dedicated hosting and is more affordable than the latter. It’s essentially a server that is virtually split, so is also more secure than a shared server.
Finally, cloud hosting is a popular option that uses virtual servers. The hosting is enabled through numerous physical servers within a network. This can mean that your site is unlikely to go down as a result of server issues.
Although there are other types of hosting, this provides a good place to start. These options are likely to suit a variety of businesses within different verticals and of different sizes.
You’ll get a domain name with all of these services – Rand Fishkin wrote a superb guide to choosing domain names that will help you choose something effective for your business.
2) How much disk space and bandwidth do I need?
Both hard disk space and bandwidth should be taken into consideration. As Robin Good points out, if you’re going to be posting videos or other large files regularly, it’s a good idea to have plenty of disk space. In terms of bandwidth, consider traffic. If you’re a new start-up, you won’t be getting as many visitors as an established online business, so you aren’t likely to need as much bandwidth.
3) How Much Should I Pay?
Just because a service is more expensive does not always mean it’s better, however, sometimes this is a good indicator. Consider what is affordable in conjunction with what you are looking for in your web host. Then, find a site that shows hosting services comparably so you can get an idea of prices.
You can then begin researching what customers make of these hosts’ services and you’ll be on your way to finding a good web host you can afford and that addresses your needs.
4) What are other users saying?
Looking at web hosting reviews can give you a great insight into what different web hosts do well and their downfalls. Customer reviews will give you a truer picture and should give an indication as to which particular hosts might not be worth your consideration.
5) What downsides can I / we cope with (if any)?
If, for example, through your research you’ve found a host that is more expensive, yet seems to provide a better service according to reviews, think about what is more important to you. The likelihood is that you’ll be happy to spend a little more money for the better service.
Remember though, if you’ve got a developer their thoughts are key. You may think a host is adequate, but your developer may know otherwise. After all, they are likely to have experience of different hosts, their downsides and personal preferences.
6) What kind of support am I looking for?
It’s likely that an online chat service will be helpful. But a helpline can also prove useful if for some reason you can’t access the internet. Customer reviews may also provide assistance in determining how useful a host’s support department is.
7) What will I need in the future?
Going with a plan that suits your needs right now is a good idea to avoid paying for a advanced plan that you don’t really need. You could get tied into a long contract on a specific plan, which isn’t great if you need to change your plan or if the host doesn’t live up to expectations.
8) How user friendly is the host’s interface?
Consider how user friendly your host’s interface is. Again, this might be an aspect that you want your developers advice on. Look out for cPanel as it’s a recognised interface that will make controlling your site and settings far easier.
9) What backup is in place?
A host should backup your website’s data frequently – the more often, the better. Imagine losing a whole day’s worth of orders. Ensure to check that your data will be backedup at least once a day, or more.
10) What other essentials should I be looking for?
You might get some additional features with your hosting plan. Many will offer email addresses ending in your domain name. If you’ve got employees that will need firstname.lastname@example.org, make sure you’ll get enough of these emails in your package.
Uptime percentages can be useful for indicating how good a host is, but it’s best not to rely upon these alone. Again, look through customer reviews for a truer insight.
Technical aspects such as the ability to use particular scripts through a web host are worth asking your developer about. You may also want to consider a secure server for an https:// domain if you own an e-commerce site.
Choosing a web host might take some time, but considering each of these questions will help you through the process and it will be worth it in the long run. It is absolutely essential to look at customer reviews to inform your decision and to ensure you’ll be getting what you’re paying for.
Opting for a service that suits your businesses needs is the best way to go, but avoid getting into any contracts that might limit your ability to upgrade your hosting plan. The aim of every business is to grow, so don’t let your host hinder you. Find the one that will enable you to better your business.
Image credit: Beraldo Leal