Article by Guest Poster
This article was written by a guest contributor. The author's views below are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of WHSR.
Choosing web hosting can be daunting, especially if you’re new to running a website and don’t know much about hosting, or what kind of hosting you need. Selecting the wrong kind of hosting can be an expensive mistake – not only could you end up spending a lot of money on hosting features you don’t need, but you could also end up losing site visitors due to lack of uptime or website features.
I’ve compiled seven important factors you should consider when choosing hosting, so that you can make an informed decision and find the hosting solution that’s right for your website.
Whether you’re choosing hosting for an existing website, or looking to start from scratch, what you intend to use the site for will influence your hosting choice. For example, do you plan to make money from your website, or is it something you’re setting up for fun? If the website is personal, free hosting will usually serve your needs. Free hosting is usually supported by advertising, so if you’re running a business you should consider paid hosting. Most paid hosting companies also offer services that are specifically designed for people who are using their site for business.
Small businesses might want to consider domain hosting, colocation, or standard paid hosting. With domain hosting, you only pay for the domain name for your website, and can host it anywhere you like. This might be suitable if your business has a low budget and you already have, or are planning to create, a site using WordPress, Tumblr or similar. Colocation entails sharing server space and bandwidth with another organization. It’s similar to having your own IT department, and it gives you greater control over your web hosting. With colocation, you can usually get higher bandwidth speeds for a lower price than if you hosted the server yourself.
The most common hosting option for websites is standard paid shared hosting. Hosting is usually charged monthly or annually, and you pay for a certain amount of space. Paid hosting comes with a wealth of choices and options so you need to think carefully about which services will be helpful before committing to a certain package.
Web hosting packages differ wildly in price, ranging from a few to thousands of dollars per month.
If you’re just setting up your website or business, it might be tempting to choose the cheapest package to reduce the number of start-up costs you have. These packages might sound appealing, however you might not necessarily want to go for the cheapest type of hosting, as you could find yourself paying in other ways further down the line. Even if your package is only a few dollars per month, changing hosts can be expensive. It is possible to find good deals on hosting packages, but you need to know where to look.
As well as features like bandwidth and storage, you should look at the usability of the service. This will affect you if you are new to hosting and don’t have much coding or technical knowledge, or if you’d like more freedom to customize your website and hosting options.
The first usability feature to look for is whether the hosting provider has cPanel, Plesk, ispCP or ISPConfig. These programs allow you to set up and customize your website and hosting if you’re unfamiliar with the FTP (file transfer protocol), and is a must if you’re new to website hosting. Equally, if you plan to upload files from your computer to the website, such as header images and logos, you will need to ensure the hosting site provides FTP access.
Additional services might add extra to your monthly bill, but they’re worth it – especially if you are hosting a website for business purposes. Additional services your hosting company should offer include email services, for example the ability to create an email address that is yourname@yourdomianname, which will make your business look more professional. If you plan to run any kind of e-commerce site, you should also check whether the hosting company offers a secure server using https:// so that customers can carry out transactions on your website. Although these services might cost more in the short-term, leaving customers’ details unsecured could damage your reputation and income over time.
The other important service to look for in a hosting company is whether they provide website statistics. These are important if you are trying to make a profit, so a good host should be able to provide details and statistics of how many people have visited your website within a certain time frame.
No matter how good your web skills, or how reliable the hosting company, there will inevitably come a time when something will go wrong, or you’ll need to ask a question. When that time comes, you want to make sure you have a dedicated customer service team waiting to answer your queries. If no such team exists, you could be left without a functioning website until you manage to fix the issue yourself – or even move to another host.
When looking at a hosting company’s customer service, factors you should look out for include where they are based (if they are in a different country, contacting them could be problematic), whether they have a live chat customer service, and how you can contact them. Although you might never need to use your hosting company’s customer service department, you don’t want to discover that it’s non-existent during a website emergency.
The choice between shared, VPS, reseller, and dedicated hosting depends on the size of your website.
Small and medium-sized websites can function on shared hosting, which means you share the hosting space with other websites. If your site has more than 10,000 visitors per day or over 10GB of files, you should consider dedicated hosting. With this type of hosting, you are the only web site on the server, and therefore have more storage and bandwidth.
When choosing between shared and dedicated hosting, remember that video and audio files take up more space than text. Whatever type of hosting you choose, you should ensure that the plan you select offers 20% more space than you currently need. This allows for your website to grow without you having to change hosting plans and face any associated costs.
The last factor to consider, and potentially one of the most important, is the hosting company’s reputation. Websites should have testimonials or statistics that can demonstrate customer satisfaction, and it’s also helpful to look at hosting forums to see what people are saying.
As well as feedback and review from other customers, look for the company’s uptime statistics. An uptime percentage shows how often a company’s hosted sites were live over a certain period of time, and the higher the percentage, the better. If your hosting company has issues, visitors won’t be able to access your site and this will eventually damage your reputation; if visitors can’t access your website, they’re less likely to return. Therefore, it’s important to choose a hosting company with uptime percentages that are as close to 100% as possible.