Choosing a web hosting company is one of the most important decisions you have to make when setting up a website. There are lots of criteria to consider and plenty of questions to answer. Not to mention the hundreds of web hosting companies to choose from!
Should you host with a free web host or should you subscribe to a premium web hosting provider? If it’s the later, how much are you willing to pay? What about the features? Let’s not forget the reliability of the web host. Are they prone to downtime?
As you can see, finding a good and also the right web hosting company can be a daunting task. Nevertheless, you have to do it for to host your website. Today, we will show you the steps to find a good web hosting provider. You just need to put in a little effort in researching and doing comparison.
So before you go ahead and decide on a web hosting provider, why not go through the following and read about the different choices and how it will affect your website.
Free Vs Paid Web Hosting
It is very tempting to host with a free hosting provider because in the long run, you will be able to save quite a lot of money. However, there are a few things that you should know about free hosting.
In order to cover the cost of providing the hosting service, the web hosts generally:
- Practice forced advertisement where a banner or pop-up window will display advertisements on your website. These advertisements are not under your control.
I am aware of web hosts who do offer free web hosting without forced advertisements. While it does seem like an offer you can’t resist, do note that these web hosting providers may not be able to sustain their services and may be forced to shut down in the not too distant future.
- Very small disk space and bandwidth. You may not have any problem with disk space because most websites need less than 10MB of space, unless you have lots of images and audio video files.
You will also need to look at how much bandwidth you get in a month. If you exhaust your limit, then your visitors will not be able to see your website anymore.
Do also take into consideration the future need of your website. It’s quite troublesome to transfer your website to another web host later.
- Are not as reliable as premium web hosts. Downtime may be frequent and access can be slow.
If you have a business website or are generating money from your website, you risk losing much sales and money, not to mention reputation because of this.
- Limit the size of your uploaded file. Free web hosts are more than likely to restrict the size of the files you are uploading.
Does that mean that free web hosting should be avoided?
No. It really depends on your requirements. If you have a personal blog which you are updating for your family and close friends to read, then a free web host does sound like a good choice. However, if your website generates income weather directly or indirectly, then you should consider a good paid web hosting provider for the peace of mind it provides.
Say you have decided to find a premium web hosting service for your website. What will make you choose one web hosting provider over the rest? The most common factor that many attribute as the main reason why they chose a certain company is the price!
For my experience, price should be one of the reasons but definitely not the number 1 reason for selecting a hosting company’s service. It’s pretty easy to be drawn into a hosting plan with a too-good-to-be-true price. However, you should also take into consideration what are the features being offered. Do they offer you the minimum basic features that you need? They are businesses after all and they need to make profit to survive in the industry.
Remember, you get what you pay for… although I have to emphasize that expensive hosting plan doesn’t necessary mean it is better. Compare other features and narrow down to a few web hosts. Once that’s done then you compare the prices.
Most popular web hosting types
The next thing you need to be aware of is that there are few different types of hosting plans.
This is where many websites and domains share the same server, kind of like living in a high-rise apartment.
The benefit of shared hosting is that it is usually the cheapest among all hosting types, from $2 to $10 per month. The downside is that since you have to share resources with so many other users, there can be uptime and reliability issues.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
If your requirements are more specific, for example if you required faster network connection or if you need special applications to be installed on the server (which is always not allowed in shared web hosting), then you may want to consider the VPS plan.
Though more expensive than shared hosting, VPS lets you have your own partitioned server and you have control over installing applications and managing the server.
In this case, you rent the entire server. This is the most expensive of all 3 hosting types but it is also the most reliable, provided you maintain it properly. Normally, those who are experiencing high traffic or volume of transactions as well as those who consistently required high performance would use a dedicated server.
Of course, there are other hosting types such as reseller hosting and colocation, which are for those with more specialized needs. But generally, the shared, VPS and dedicated server types are the ones that web owners commonly subscribe to.
The other very important criteria is the web host’s support. Are they professional and competent? Will it be available for 24/7? How many ways will you be able to get through to support e.g. email (ticketing system), phone calls, and live chats?
Creating an impressive website and a long list of features while promising the sky can easily be achieved by any hosting company. But one way to gauge whether they are as good as they claim is to evaluate their technical support. Read reviews and customers feedback about their support. If there are too many negative reviews, then take note of these red flags and re-consider your choice. Better still, test the support out yourself! See how long they need to respond and you can assess the support staff’s knowledge level.
Having a dependable support team is essential regardless of whether you are a beginner or an experienced website owner. When facing problems that are beyond your ability to solve them, you will definitely want to get hold of customer or technical support to have it sorted out soonest possible in order to reduce any disruption to your website or business!
Disk Space and Bandwidth
You have probably noticed that many web hosts offer “unlimited” disk space and bandwidth. Great isn’t it? Now we can create as many websites as we like and while we are at it, we can even help our families and friends to create their own websites. All under one account. Right?
“Unlimited” here does not really mean unlimited per se. Like all resources in this world, it is limited. It is however, unlimited for most people with standard websites i.e. no huge files, huge videos or very high traffic.
Read the terms and conditions properly and inquire the customer service what is their limit of “unlimited” resources. While majority of people do not have problem with their disk space and bandwidth, exceeding these resources can have unwanted consequences – having your website suspended.
To give you an idea of what to expect, most websites use less than 10GB of bandwidth monthly and less than 100MB of disk space. This is assuming they do not upload audio-videos and heavy graphics.
Another crucial aspect to check is the hosting company’s reliability. Even if they provide you with unlimited resources and top-notch support, it won’t do you any good if their hosting service is always down! Your visitors will become frustrated with the frequent downtime and sooner or later, they will stop dropping by and turning to your competitors.
You may notice some web hosts have uptime guarantees of 99.9%. That is translated into approximately 43 minutes per month of downtime assuming a 30-day month. Some web hosts will offer a pro-rated credit if downtime is beyond the promised percentage. While it does sound good, you should realize that the credit is not much considering the fact that hosting services don’t cost that much to begin with and doesn’t cover your lost income.
More importantly, do a search on the downtime history for that web host. If they are notorious for downtime, you will be able to find lots of complaints online!
The other thing you could do is inquire if the web host has any emergency backup plan in place. Do they provide daily backups? What happens if disaster like fire, flood or earthquake struck?
We also need to look into the future of our website. It may be small now but where do you plan to take your website in 5 years’ time? If you have a business, I’m sure you will want your website to grow with your business.
You may have more visitors and higher traffic. Or perhaps you will want to add a blog to your website. Maybe you would like to create a second website or even your 20th website.
Business owners sometimes find themselves setting up an online store as an expansion to their website. Does your choice of web host offer these growth solutions?
What you would want to do is find a web hosting provider who will offer you different plans to match your requirements as you grow. You may start with shared hosting and then upgrade to VPS hosting later. Upgrading a plan will take less time and effort than transferring your website to another web host.
An easy-to-use and intuitive control panel can make your hosting experience stress-free. Test out the web host’s interface through their demo version, or take up a free trial if available.
Find out what hardware the web host is using. Are the servers use the latest technology? Are they reliable?
How many email accounts do you get? Do they have anti-spam software in place?
This article has covered more or less the many different questions a website owner should ask when choosing a web hosting company.
There are plenty of web hosting plans and even more web hosting providers in the market today and it can be quite confusing, especially for a beginner. What seemed like a great choice initially may turn out to have serious drawbacks. Therefore, it is essential that a website owner weigh the above options carefully in order to make the right decision for their website.