how to choose a web host

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How to Choose a Web Host

Ensuring you know how to choose a web host that caters to your needs can be critical to your site’s success and the overall success of your business. It’s not something to be taken lightly. Whether you’re creating a site for personal reasons (to blog, market yourself, create a portfolio) or you’re launching a business website, it’s important to remember the important role your web host plays in how well your site performs online. Oftentimes we overthink things like content generation, SEO and graphic design when planning for a website’s success, and fail to take notice of how critical web hosts can be. Think about it this way: does your content generation, SEO and graphic design mean anything if you’re constantly experiencing downtime, batting horrendously slow speeds, and troubleshooting other technical issues on your website?

The answer is “No". But there’s an easy solution: ensure you know how to choose a web host that will provide you with quality service. Do your research. Be well informed. Don’t skimp financially on a web host that won’t provide you with the resources you need. But also don’t waste money on something you totally don’t need, either.

The first step to choosing a web host is is figuring out what’s most important for you (the top important features to research are outlined below).  Next, explore all of your options and, only once you've gathered all of the relevant information, make an informed decision on which web host will be the best fit for you. 

What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting is a type of service that allows individuals and companies to make their websites accessible to anyone on the internet by renting space and storage on a server.  If you want to launch a website that will be viewable to the world wide web, you'll need web hosting.

Types of Web Hosting

Shared Hosting​

Think of hosting as renting a space in a server for your website to live. Shared hosting services offer you server space for rent at an affordable price, but you share it with a bunch of other websites. The same resources that are allocated to your site will similarly be allocated to other sites that share the same server as you. The upside of shared hosting is that it’s a great cost savings for websites that don’t need a ton of storage and resources. The downside is that you have to share your space and resources with other sites, which could potentially be cause for downtime and speed issues. Shared hosting is a great option for brand new sites (small businesses, and blogs).

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated servers are servers that, you guessed it, are entirely dedicated to you and your website’s traffic. Instead of sharing the space and resources with many other sites like you would in a shared hosting environment, your dedicated server only hosts your website. This solution is ideal for websites that experience high traffic on a monthly basis. Typically, dedicated servers will cost you the most out of your three hosting options. The plus side is that they’ll offer you the best service with the least risk of downtime.

​Virtual Private Servers

The VPS option is the balance between a dedicated server and a shared host, offering you more reliability and stability but at a much higher price per month. If you have a lot of traffic, but not enough to justify a fully dedicated server, you might consider looking into a virtual server. VPS hosting customers are provided a certain amount of resources that are not shared between anyone else on the server. If you’ve outgrown your shared hosting environment, VPS hosting could be your best solution.

How to choose a web host model that's best for you?​

If you’re a new website owner (or soon-to-be), chances are shared hosting will be your best bet. They are affordable, reliable, and they will satisfy your basic needs for your new website. The good thing about shared web hosting is that chances are you won’t be paying for anything you don’t need. Plus, you’ll always have the opportunity to increase your package or move to a new host if your needs change in the future.  For extremely popular websites that have high traffic each month and require a lot of space, you're better off deciding between a VPS and Dedicated Server. 

What to Consider When Choosing a Web Host:

Pricing (Yearly/Monthly Cost)

Make sure your web host doesn’t break the bank. While it is certainly important to choose a reputable server with quality service and exceptional support, it’s also important to make sure you have the funds necessary to finance your hosting. Even though you may be planning a move to a more expensive hosting service down the line, that doesn’t mean you need to pay for one right now. Remember, you can always jump ship and hop to a more suitable hosting service as you grow and expand. Pay only for what you need and what you plan to use. Cost should be affordable and justifiable.

​Customer Reviews

Before choosing a web host, you should spend a bit of time exploring what other people have to say about their service. Make sure the murmurings about your prospective host are strong and positive before you definitively decide to purchase their services.

​Uptime Stats

Make sure the web host you're looking into has high uptime stats. There’s no point to utilize a web host if they can’t guarantee that your website will function as it should. Ideally, your uptime stats should be close to, if not equal to, 100%. Web hosts that have around 99.98% or 99.99% are ideal hosts that you can trust.

​Storage and Bandwidth

More and more web hosts are opting to provide customers with unlimited disk space and bandwidth. But are they really unlimited? It’s recommended to always read a web host’s terms of use to be sure you understand whether unlimited is really unlimited. Many times web hosts will advertise “unlimited” services, with a cap. That said, most services will allow you to upgrade to a higher level plan, granting yourself more storage and greater bandwidth. Keeping that in mind, it’s okay to purchase only what you need upfront, and expand your package as you grow.

​cPanel

Does your web host prospect have the industry standard cPanel to allow for easy installation of CMS softwares and easy management of your account? If they don’t have cPanel, are their dashboard functionalities up to par?

Customer Service​

It’s a truly frustrating thing to troubleshoot technical issues when you aren’t a technical person. Before signing up for a web host, make sure they have reliable technical support on staff to help you if you ever need them. Typically, great web hosts will offer you live chat, phone and email support. Never accept anything less than two out of those three options.

​Money-back Guarantee

Web hosts should have a return policy just like anything else. Take their service for a test drive before committing (or at least look into whether or not they offer one). If, for some reason, you decide you don’t like their service, your money-back guarantee will save you a few dollars. As with any guarantee, though, make sure you read their terms and conditions policy to ensure you're always in compliance and will actually get your money back.

Renewal Costs​

You might easily be lured into those flash cheap prices that web hosts often advertise. But don’t be distracted. Those low monthly fees might have a fairly heft string attached. Many times web hosts offer cheap monthly fees for the first year and then skyrocket your renewal costs for all subsequent years. Do your homework to make sure you aren’t falsely lured into a plan that’s more expensive than the web host is letting on.

Reputability & Company Stability​

Are you looking into a web host that just surfaced in the past few years? Might be time to change your direction. It’s likely in your best interest to choose a host that’s been around for quite some time. Figuring out how to choose a web host can be challenging enough, but adding in factors like dealing with a poorly operated startup web hosting service could just add more fuel to the already burning fire. Limit the amount of hoops you have to jump through by sticking to the established hosting providers within the industry.

Conclusion

Navigating how to choose a web host should be a process you take seriously, but not one that causes you immense stress, or takes you a long time.  Use the outlined parameters above to make sure you are in good hands, that you get your money's worth and that you aren't being scammed by a web host provider.  Good luck!

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Eden Fried
 

Freelance writer, blogger, WordPress web designer.

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