Selecting the proper web hosting provider is the first step to establishing a reliably accessible website. There are many websites hosting providers that offer a plethora of hosting plans at varying prices. Though some appear to be very cheap, it isn’t always a good idea to use a hosting provider simply because of the low price. As you will see in this article, there are many factors that should be considered when selecting a web hosting provider.
The goal is to secure a reliable platform for your website and to have a company that will provide the required resources and support for your site. In this article, I will provide some tips for choosing an appropriate web hosting provider.
Know Your Website
The first step to selecting a web hosting provider is to assess the website you want to be hosted. Will it be a high traffic site or a site requiring lots of storage space? What technology will the website use, e.g., WordPress, .NET, Joomla, Drupal)? Will you sell products on the site or will it be a blogging platform?
Knowing your site is extremely important in selecting a hosting provider because the hosting provider that you choose must provide the resources and support your site will require now and later as it grows.
Research hosting providers by searching online for them and examining reviews, Facebook groups, and website forums where people talk about hosting providers. The goal here is to learn more about the providers, their offerings, and their reputation to help you make an informed decision.
A website that I frequently use is webhostingtalk.com. There are many forums for a plethora of website-related topics, including recommendations and reviews of hosting provider. Search for reviews for the hosting providers that you discover during your research and be sure to notice the date of the review. A provider that was great years ago, may not be so good today. Therefore, try to give a higher weight to reviews and related posts that have a recent date (within the past 2 years or less).
Do not use one source for determining the viability of a hosting provider. I’ve found that some online review sites tend to favor certain providers. However, if you examine several reviews from different sources, then you are more likely to get a better picture of which ones are good and those that are not so good.
Of course, you can always contact Reggie’s PC Resources for insight on hosting providers. I can help you select an appropriate hosting provider, or you can opt to use one of the providers that I have relationships with. Reggie’s PC Resources is not a web hosting provider, but we do provide hosting services through companies that I work with.
Technical support is extremely important when considering a hosting provider. Regardless of how good a company is, a situation will usually arise where you need technical assistance to configure something or solve a problem. Do not compromise on choosing a company that has a record of good technical support.
Therefore, try to determine the level of technical support that a hosting provider offers. Some things that are important are how responsive they are, the knowledge of the technical support staff, and the accessibility of technical support. Try reaching out to their technical support staff to ask a question before purchasing their hosting services. This will give you an idea of what to expect regarding technical support.
Hosting providers offer technical support through several methods: online chat, ticketing system, email, phone, and knowledgebase articles. You should determine the level of technical support that you require for your website. Getting technical with some providers is almost immediate when you reach out to them. Others may take a few minutes, and some may take hours or days. I have found that the level of technical support is inversely proportionate to the hosting fee. It is basically, “You get what you pay for.”
This does not mean that you should not select a hosting provider that has cheap prices as long as they provide reliable service. However, if you are not sufficiently knowledgeable about website technologies (e.g., FTP, SSL/TLS, cPanel, databases, etc.) and are not sufficiently capable of solving problems that may arise on your own, then you may want to select a hosting provider with good technical support. However, keep in mind, regardless of how proficient you are with web technologies, there will come a time when you will need technical support.
I do not recommend using a hosting provider with a poor technical support reputation or that does not offer a quick response to support requests for critical websites (e.g., a website for your e-commerce business, a primary website for your business that needs to be up as close to 100% of the time as possible).
Determine how reliable the hosting provider’s products are. This means that your website will not have much downtime. Good hosting providers provide an SLA. For example, if you host a website with a provider, then will your website have a lot of downtime? Good hosting providers typically give a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that guarantees a specified uptime for your site. For example, a hosting provider may advertise 99.99% uptime.
Also consider the speed that the providers’ infrastructure will give to your website, i.e., page load speed. Some providers have better infrastructure than others regarding site speed.
The goal is to select a hosting provider that has reliable service for hosting your website.
Determine what type of hosting plan is right for your website. There are several types of hosting plans offered by hosting providers. Here are some hosting plan types that you should be aware of.
- Shared hosting – This is probably the most popular hosting plans. With shared hosting, your website will be hosted on a web server along with many other websites, and therefore share resources (disk space, memory, etc.) with other sites. The resources on a shared hosting account is limited and typically not customizable. It is also possible that issues with another website on the server could impact your website. Shared hosting tends to be the least expensive of the hosting plan types.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) – In this hosting plan type, your website will be hosted on a virtual server. A virtual server will have its own operating system (Linux or Windows), and have dedicated resources for its use. However, like the shared hosting plan, there may be several virtual servers on one physical server, all with a dedicated amount of that physical server’s resources.VPS hosting is ideal for small businesses or more mission-critical websites that require specialized resources that is not provided in a shared hosting plan. VPS hosting plans varies in pricing depending on the resources of the virtual server (e.g., amount of memory, number of CPUs, disk space, etc.).
- Dedicated Server Hosting – With this type of hosting, the provider reserves an entire physical server for your website or application. Actually, you can do whatever you want with the server. The provider will manage the hardware and the operating system (if you hae managed services included).Dedicated server hosting plans tend to be the most expensive of the hosting types depending on the resources it has (e.g., memory, CPUs, etc.).
- WordPress hosting – This is hosting services optimized to run WordPress websites. This, however, does not mean that you need to select a provider that advertised WordPress hosting. In some cases, “WordPress hosting” is a marketing term to lure those who need to host WordPress websites. WordPress and the underlying infrastructure can be optimized for performance.
- Managed Hosting – Managed hosting means that the hosting provider will manage the server (e.g., apply updates, check security, etc.) or your website (e.g., apply updates to plugins and update the content management system like WordPress). This offloads the task of managing the server (virtual or physical) or a content management system like WordPress or Drupal to the provider. That’s less work that you will have to do to maintain your website.
- Cloud Hosting – This is a type of hosting platform where your website is hosted on a highly customizable platform. it could also mean that your website is hosted on multiple servers in the cloud (i.e., the internet). Cloud hosting provides scalability because you can adjust the amount of memory, storage, and CPU resources, among other things. The cost of cloud hosting is directly dependent on the resources used and how much they are used. Cloud hosting is a good choice for a website that requires scalability, more security, and high availability. It is also good for creating testing environments for web applications.
Determine if the hosting provider can provide the resources that your site will need. Web hosting providers offer hosting packages in several ways. However, ultimately it comes down to the amount of disk space, memory, monthly bandwidth, number of CPUs, etc. The web hosting provider will publish the resources for each of their hosting plans, whether it is shared or VPS. The resources will include the following.
- Disk space (e.g., 60 GB)
- Number of CPUs (e.g., 2 CPUs)
- Number of CPU cores per CPU (e.g., 2 per CPU)
- Amount of memory (e.g., 4 GB)
- Bandwidth/traffic (2 TB/month)
- Visits (e.g., 10,000 visits per month)
- Number of domains (some hosting plans will accommodate multiple domains, i.e., websites)
- Free SSL
- Backups – Some hosting providers provide automatic backups of your websites/accounts. SiteGround, for example, makes daily backups of your website, including databases.
- Maximum number of databases
Trial or Moneyback Guarantee
Being diligent about selecting a hosting provider is a good thing. However, the truth is that you never really know how good (or how bad) a provider is until you start using their services. Therefore, it is helpful if the provider offers a moneyback guarantee or trial. This means that you can get experience with the hosting provider and discontinue using their services if you are not happy with them.
Thousands of websites are hacked each year, so security should be a major concern when selecting a web hosting provider. Security mostly depends on the maintenance of the site, strong passwords, and other security best practices. However, you should look for security measures offered by hosting providers to make your site that much more secure.
Some security measures that may be offered is malware scans of your entire site and daily backups, Also, review any security features that are published by the web hosting provider. Some web hosting providers may advertise that they have staff that is dedicated to security at the infrastructure and website levels, respectively.
Be Suspicious About “Unlimited” Offers
You will encounter web hosting providers that may advertise unlimited websites or unlimited bandwidth with some of their web hosting plans. Do not buy into that. There is usually a limit stated in the fine print (terms and agreements) that you may not be aware of. For example, a web hosting provider may throttle your website’s bandwidth if a certain bandwidth threshold is reached. A provider may also disable access to your website if certain resource limits have been reached (I’ve seen this happen).
Even if the hosting provider does not limit resources, there is always a practical or real limit to what you can have. For example, a provider may advertise unlimited websites for the hosting plan. However, there is a practical limit based on the amount of memory or disk space that you have. They may not limit the number of sites, but the available resources will determine how many sites can be included in that hosting plan. Do not be lured into the trap of unlimited resources. There is always a limit somewhere.
Be Careful About Being Locked In
Being locked in means that you are tied down to a particular hosting provider’s platform, (e.g., Wix or Shopify). You will not be able to move your website to another web-hosting provider because you are locked down to a proprietary hosting system. This does not mean that proprietary platforms such as Wix are bad. Just be aware that the website cannot be easily transferred to another hosting provider if you need to scale it up for example.
A Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress, or a website built using ASP.NET or PHP, is transferrable. You can move any .NET website to any hosting provider that has Windows hosting with .NET. You can move any website built with custom PHP code to any hosting provider with plans that include PHP support. The bottom line is that you are not locked in to a proprietary platform, which makes your site more scalable and easier to move if issues with the hosting provider should arise.
I’ve worked with many hosting providers since the late 1990s when I first started hosting websites for businesses and entrepreneurs. There are some that stand out as very reliable, great technical support, and a very good platform to use for simple to enterprise websites. Here are the providers that I use right now (at the time of this writing).
- SiteGround – This is one of my favorite hosting providers because they offer a plethora of hosting plans, but only for the Linux operating system. They do not offer Windows hosting. Their technical support is great and very responsive. They have an abundance of resources that you can use to create, customize/optimize, and manage your website. This is my go-to web hosting provider for sites that do not need the Windows operating system. I use SiteGround to host all of my client websites that use WordPress. Click here for my affiliate link to SiteGround.
- InfoQuest (infoquest.com) – This is one hosting provider that I’ve had a relationship with for over 15 years. I even used their domain name registration services in the past. They provide several hosting options and domain name registrar services. Their infrastructure is very reliable and their tech support is very responsive. I use Infoquest for all of my client websites that use Windows technologies such as ASP.NET.
- LiquidWeb (liquidweb.com) – This is a hosting provider that I use for websites that have very specific requirements or web applications. I only use their virtual private server (VPS) plan, though they have others. Their technical support is the best that I’ve ever experienced and I highly recommend them.
- Microsoft Azure (azure.microsoft.com) – I don’t use this for hosting clients’ websites, but rather for testing applications and the like in addition to just playing with new technologies. The great thing about Azure is that it is completely scalable. I can add services to my heart’s content.
Register Your Own Domain Name
Many web hosting providers offer domain registration services. That sounds quite convenient, but it can become a problem if for some reason you want to switch to another web-hosting provider in the future. You may be able to move your website, but your domain name may be tied to the web hosting provider’s system, and transferring it may not be as easy. So, I recommend that you do not register your domain name with your web hosting provider.
Instead, register your domain name with a domain name registrar such as opensrs.com, domain.com, namecheap.com or godaddy.com.
I can tell you from over 25 years of working with hosting providers that it is not a simple task. It requires due diligence to select an appropriate and cost-effective hosting provider for your website. There are plenty of good hosting providers and ones that you should stay clear of. I have had great experiences with some and poor experiences with others.
Also, keep in mind that hosting providers change over time. It could be new management or that they are bought out by another company. Many things can affect the performance of a hosting company. I have used providers in the past that were very good but eventually cut certain plans, raised their prices, or became very unreliable. There were several times in the past where I had to switch providers for some websites.
Use the tips presented in this article to help you select a good hosting provider for your website. Another option is to contact Reggie’s PC Resources and allow us to do all of that for you. I already have a few hosting providers that I use for the websites that I host for my clients and even my own websites.
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