Choosing a web hosting service
In today’s fast-paced digital world of social media and online shopping, your website is one of your most crucial business assets.
If it becomes unavailable, you risk losing money, business and your reputation.
Selecting a suitable webhost can go a long way towards mitigating that risk.
Here are some guidelines to consider when selecting a web host for your site.
Determine your website needs
Before you start looking at hosting plans, you’ll need a good idea of your basic needs. Use this list of questions as a guide for determining the type of service that will best suit your website:
- Do you need your own domain name?
- Need a blog? Do you need a specific blogging platform (e.g., WordPress)?
- Intend to migrate an existing website to a new host? If so, does your site require specific tools to run?
- Require to sell products or services online and take payments?
Size and potential growth
Web hosts often charge different rates depending on how much traffic your site gets and how much space your content takes up. Is your business expanding? Do you foresee a significant increase in visitors? There’s a chance that what works for you now will need to be scaled up in the near future. When choosing a web host, keep the future in mind and plan accordingly.
Types of web hosting
There are three general types of plans offered by web hosts:
- Shared hosting: Shared hosting is great for personal websites, bloggers whose sites are mostly text-based, and small businesses who use external ecommerce sites like Shopify or Etsy to handle their sales. Your website will be hosted on a server that also hosts other peoples’ websites, which means you’ll be sharing resources, such as bandwidth, hard-drive space, CPU power, and RAM.
- Dedicated hosting: Dedicated hosting is ideal for large businesses with server administrators, as well as high-traffic/resource-intensive websites with lots of customization needs. With this type of hosting, you’ll have an entire server dedicated to your website.
- Virtual Private Servers: This plan is recommended for businesses whose sites rely on more customization than what’s available on a shared server, but don’t require as much bandwidth or storage space as what comes with a dedicated server.
Tools & Services
Ensure that the web host you choose has the services necessary for running your website, such as cPanel, WordPress or other blog integration, FTP access, analytics, email support, and a variety of other back-end tools.
- Some services allow you to choose an operating system (usually Linux or Windows). The industry standard is Linux, but if your site uses custom tools written with Microsoft .NET, you’ll want to choose Windows.
- Make sure the service offers acceptable security tools. Security is especially important if your site is commerce-related or collects user data.
Storage is the amount of hard-drive space allotted for your web-pages, images, videos, databases, and other data.
- Many plans offer claims of unlimited space, but this is usually not necessary for simple websites. In fact, this claim should be a red flag—unlimited space is a technical impossibility. The host’s servers could be overcrowded, thus decreasing server performance.
- Make sure that you have room to expand and grow. Examine the different storage upgrade options—some companies offer more space as your needs expand.
Bandwidth is the amount of data allowed to transfer between your site and your visitors. Some services offer unlimited bandwidth, while others implement limits.
- The amount of bandwidth you use will be determined by the amount of traffic you receive as well as the amount and size of content you host. A heavily-visited site with lots of pictures will take a lot more bandwidth than a heavily-visited site with mostly text.
- “Unlimited bandwidth” is rarely unlimited, and the trade-offs for services like these are often very noticeable. These hosts will typically be much slower than a host that applies bandwidth limits.
- Make sure you know what happens if you go over your bandwidth allotment. Depending on the company, you may be charged a fee, or your site may be taken offline until the next billing period.
If you don’t have your own support team, you’ll want to make sure someone’s available if something goes wrong.
- Do you need support to be available 24/7? Is email and chat support acceptable, or will you need to be able to talk to someone on the phone? Do you have to pay extra for support or is it included in the plan?
- Some hosts don’t provide any support (just a support forum for users to help one-another). These services tend to be cheaper, but may be frustrating if you’re not tech-savvy.
Once you’ve found a plan that meets all of your needs, make sure you fully understand the cost, payment options, and the fine print.
- Most services advertise two different rates (monthly and yearly) per plan. The yearly rate is often displayed as a cheaper per-month amount, but you’ll have to pay for a year up front. If you choose to pay for a year in advance, make sure the service offers a pro-rated refund should the service not meet your needs.
- Many services offer a low promotional rate when you first sign up—these rates may double or triple after you’re a customer for a certain amount of time. Find out how long the rate you agree to remains available, and what the rate will be after the promotion ends
There are a lot of cheap web hosts out there, but spending a little more money can mean the difference between a consistently available website and weeks of downtime.
Your website is important to your business so it should run flawlessly to allow you to focus on what you do best. Consider these guidelines when selecting a host and you will be rewarded for it.
If you are still unsure which web hosting service is best for your business, please don’t hesitate to contact us.