Choosing a web hosting service for a small or big business can seem like a daunting task at first. It really doesn’t have to be, though. There are a multitude of factors that go into choosing the right web host for each specific person, but luckily there are ways to whittle down your options until you find something perfect for you and your business.
Web hosting companies of today come in all shapes and sizes. With hundreds of different web hosting providers to choose from, it’s now more difficult than ever to find a web host that best suits the needs of your website and because of the advancements in technology over the recent years, setting up a basic web server to host other people’s websites can be done at a relatively low price and in most cases the process only takes a couple of hours if you know what you’re doing.
While this is generally a good thing and the competition has helped bring down the overall prices of web hosting, it also means that unfortunately there’s a high chance of having your website end up being hosted literally in someone’s basement on a low end web server or worse, on an old laptop.
In order to avoid the headache of losing valuable data like customer details, written content, media and other important files because of an incompetent web hosting company was unable to recover from a hard drive failure, it’s vital that you know how to choose a hosting provider who can guarantee the safety of your files and website as a whole at all times.
Avoid making the most common mistake
One of the most common mistakes people make when trying to find a suitable host is comparing only the different web hosting prices. While it’s understandable that nobody wants to pay more than they have to, web hosting price comparison is just one of many variables you will have to consider.
For example, it’s true that you can find a hosting plan for as cheap as two dollars per month, but you’ll soon realize that you are limited to uploading no more than 1GB worth of files, not to mention the bandwidth and content limitations. Heck, the server might not even be able to handle multiple PHP scripts running at the same time.
To avoid running into these problems before you whip out your wallet, let’s go over some of the main key features you should look out for when choosing the best website hosting for a small business.
Where is the server physically located?
If you have a local business and don’t plan on expanding onto the global scene any time soon, you might want to pick a web hosting provider near you or at least on the same continent as your business. This way your website will load much faster for your everyday customer and that alone can have a tremendous positive impact on your overall sales.
Shared or dedicated hosting plan?
A shared hosting plan means that your website will share web space on a single server with multiple other websites and depending on your host, you may be limited to how much memory, bandwidth and disk space you can use.
In most cases a shared hosting plan is perfectly fine for small to medium sized businesses and a dedicated server is not necessary. However if you are planning to host content on your website that doesn’t fit the interests of the general public or is not safe for work (ie. adult material) then your only option is to choose a dedicated server.
How many domains can you host?
As your business grows, you might find yourself in a position where you need to launch another website so in order to avoid having to purchase additional hosting packages for each of your domains, you might want to figure out how many domains you are allowed to host with a single plan beforehand.
Note: many common shared hosting plans don’t have the option of adding additional domains.
Which scripting languages are supported?
Most modern websites require PHP5+ and SQL scripting languages to function, therefore you need to make sure your host can handle them. If you’re not sure, you can ask your web developer to check this for you.
Best hosting provider for WordPress
WordPress is the world’s number one free Content Management System favored by almost all small businesses who are looking for the most cost effective way of having a powerful online presence.
In order to find the best web hosting for a WordPress website, you have to make sure your host meets the following system requirements:
PHP 5.6 or greater
MySQL 5.6 or greater
The mod_rewrite Apache module
Again, if you’re not sure what all of this means, you should consult with a web developer or an unbiased third party in order to avoid nasty surprises later on.
Important Things to Check Before Choosing a Web Host
Choosing a web host is not an easy task – especially for beginners, who are about to set up their very first website. With so many hosting companies available, various types of web hosting and different needs that need to be satisfied, the available hosting offers can overwhelm someone who’s just starting. In addition a good web host has a critical influence on your online business – its speed and reliability are essential in providing your customers with great user-experience on your website. How do you make a good decision, especially when it’s your first one? Check out the below 8 tips on choosing the right web hosting.
1. Start with checking customer reviews and recommendations
Though some people may disagree that this is the first thing to start with, if you are inexperienced, it will be hard for you to choose a proper company without relying on the opinions of others. Use Google Search to find the web hosting provider that suits your needs by searching popular forums or blogs. Keep in mind, though, that not all of the reviews are genuine. When checking the reputation of a web hosting company on a blog, test the blog against your common sense. If it looks unprofessional and the articles published on it consist solely of ‘salesy’ stuff, you’d better leave and find something genuine. You may even ask some questions on your own – in the comments below a blog post (even below this one – start with writing what you need the web hosting for).
2. Go through different products offered
Once you’ve found something that’s reputable and recommended for the type of venture you are interested in, check the different types of plans the company has to offer. Typically, there are a few different plans, which may have slightly different names, but overall they are most of the time quite similar:
Individual plans (shared hosting): They start for as little as $2-$5. The most basic packages support one domain, and limited server resources (on a server shared with many other users). In many cases, bandwidth and storage are advertised as unlimited, but if you try to push too much traffic to the server, you will be asked to make an upgrade, or your site will be deleted. Perfect for beginners, who are still experimenting with their site.
Virtual Private Servers and Dedicated Server – the first one is often still on a shared machine with a portion of resources dedicated solely to you while in the latter case you are paying for a whole machine. These often come unmanaged and require technical knowledge or a budget for someone who could manage that for you but are much more powerful and offer a lot of customization options.
Reseller hosting – it’s an offer in between individual plans and dedicated server/VPS – these allow you to set multiple sub-accounts within your own one and rent it to others. Perfect for those who take care of sites owned by different small business clients.
3. See the available upgrade options
Most of the time each of the types of services can be upgraded. You should check different levels of shared hosting/VPS available, and make sure you can easily go from one level to another (or from one product to another, for example from a shared hosting to a VPS), without having to waste your time on website migration.
4. Make sure technical specifications suit your needs
Each of the hosting packages usually have detailed information about RAM, storage space and transfer available. Make sure that you choose an option giving you enough resources for your operation. If you are building an e-commerce website, with all of the product images your transfer may dry up much quicker than on a typical blog. Similarly, if your website is based on scripts which require a lot of server RAM, make sure that the current server tech specs won’t slow down the way your site operates. Look also at other features, such as the number of domains available or the maximum number and sizes of the databases available. Cheap hosting is great to start with but later it’s inevitable that you will have to upgrade it to keep growing your online business. The best way to make sure that the chosen hosting package is enough for your needs is to call the company support and ask them. You’ll learn about the tech specs and also see what support you can count on.
5. See for yourself what the Tech Support is like
As said in #4, calling the company to see what their responsiveness is like, is a great way to test whom you will be dealing with in the future – should you experience any technical problems. Can you count on experienced, kind people on the other side of the phone? Send an email to tech support as well, and see what kind of response you get. Also, read opinions of others in that matter. A good technical support service will do everything to fix your issues as quickly as possible, and will save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars as a result.
6. Check server uptime and reliability
Despite being number six on the list, this one is critical. Occasional short breaks in server operation which don’t pull down the uptime score below 99.5% are acceptable. You should avoid anything that scores below 99%. Although at first you may think that there’s no difference between 99% and 99.5% or 99.9% as it’s so little, think of it this way – you never know when your clients may come to your site, so you don’t want to lose any of them. 0.5% in a year equals almost 44 hours. For big websites, that’s thousands of dollars in losses.
7. See if the hosting control panel is easy to use
A good hosting control panel allows you to do the most basic tasks – such as installing WordPress, adding databases, FTP accounts or setting up email – in a few clicks, without having to call technical support. The most popular one is cPanel, which is an excellent choice thanks to thousands of guides available online which are using it most of the time. It’s also secure and frequently updated, so you don’t have to worry about having a buggy or unsafe control panel.
8. Check the price and calculate the costs
I’m sure that for many people, especially beginners, this is no. 1 – that’s how I chose my first web host, which happened to be a flop as even the basic WordPress plugins extremely slowed down my site. That’s why, in this guide, I’ve decided to put it last, as you have to consider many factors before choosing the right hosting. If you are just starting out, most shared hosting packages will be enough for you. Keep in mind, though, that since they usually cost between $2 and $10, it’s worth checking what it is that you get for the price. In-house support and quality, fast hardware will cost more than three or four bucks, but sometimes it pays off the very first time you need help with your website.