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Guidelines for choosing the best web host for your needs

After figuring out the goals of your business, you know that you’re going to have a bespoke website. Perhaps you’ve already chosen a web developer and the last piece of the puzzle is to find the best web hosting service for your needs.

It may sound dramatic, but learning how to choose a web hosting provider can be likened to searching for Mr Right and has a similar far-reaching impact. If you find the right hoster, you can enjoy a reliable, high-performing service that grows with you and your needs. A hoster, that will hold your hand and help you via chat, email, or phone, even 24/7.

On the other hand, choosing an unsuitable service can leave you feeling misunderstood, unsupported, feeling trapped, or swindled. Such a relationship often ends with headaches and expensive divorce (in terms of effort and money). And, you’re back at square 1, having to find a new web hoster.

Selecting a web hosting provider comes down to the 3 “S”:

  • Speed
  • Security
  • Support

And of course costs.

Figure out your website needs

There’s no such thing as the perfect web hoster. Every website and business has different needs in terms of storage, speed, and reliability. So, you can never the right hoster without knowing what you need. Before you look at any pricing plans, think about what you need. The following questions can help you figure out what kind of service you want:

  • What kind of a website are you creating?
  • Do you want a blog?
  • Do you want something that’s often used (maybe something like WordPress)?
  • Do you want a visual panel (eg cPanel) to install software and updates?
  • Do you need special software?
  • Do you need Windows applications?
  • Do you need support for a specific language (eg PHP, Python, Ruby, etc)?
  • How large is your website, what are its storage needs, and will it grow?
  • How much traffic do you expect each month? And in the future?
  • Will you be setting up more than one website?
  • What’s your hosting budget?
  • What services do you want from your hoster apart from web hosting (eg email hosting)?
  • How much support do you want and in what form?

Learn the different types of web hosting

When you hop on a web hosting sales page, you’ll often see 4 kinds of servers on offer.

Shared hosting

Generally, shared hosting is a good place to start especially for personal websites, bloggers, and small businesses. The commonality is that these kinds of sites don’t use and expect high levels of traffic. With shared hosting, you’re sharing the server resources with other hosting customers, which is reflected in the price.

As a rule of thumb, if you’re getting less than 5000 visitors per month, shared hosting is a good place to start. Once your site gets more visitors, you’d want to upgrade.

Virtual private server

A virtual private server (VPS) is similar to a shared server because you’re sharing the physical hardware with other hosting customers. It’s also similar to the next category the dedicated server in that you can have your own operating system and manage all aspects of your server’s backend tools.

Consider a VPS a step up from shared hosting in regards to power and speed, but it’s still cheaper than having a dedicated server. A VPS is a good choice for those who need more customisation or support for a special programming language (eg Ruby) but don’t need the storage or bandwidth that a dedicated server provides.

Dedicated server

When an entire physical server plays host to a single website, that is dedicated to just one website, that’s a dedicated server. With a dedicated server, you control every aspect of your website, including all the applications and databases. You’ll in charge of securing and updating your server, in short doing all the maintenance.

This type of server is ideal for businesses that have the resources and 1ams to administrate and manage it. It’s great for high traffic and resource-intensive websites.

Managed WordPress Hosting

You’ll probably also encounter a fourth type: WordPress hosting or managed hosting. When looking at the hardware, a managed WordPress server can be hosted by any of the three previously mentioned categories. The main difference is that a managed server is designed from the ground up and optimised specifically to host WordPress sites.

With the first 3 types of servers, a certain degree of maintenance is required from your side. Even if a server administrator will take care of updating and securing the server, you still have to take care of your own site management.

A managed host will only focus on a specific type of site, that is WordPress as already mentioned. But there are also WooCommerce, Ghost, and others.

Check hosting reliability, speed, and security

Of course, you want your site to run continuously if possible. So, one of the most important things to look into is how reliable the hoster is. No web hosting provider can guaranty 100% uptime, but some will boast 99.5% uptime. Try to avoid any service that has an uptime of below 99%.

Speed or performance gets more important when your site grows. Think of it like this: A visitor will leave your site when it’s slow to load. It should come as no surprise that speed is a ranking factor for Google.

Security is paramount for hosting. Imagine how it reflects on the reputation of your business, when your website is down, or when hackers gain access to your site and install malware. Not only will it infect your audience’s computers but Google will also show an embarrassing message warning of the threat. Especially, if you’re planning to run an ecommerce store, you need to take security seriously. Look into the levels of security the hoster provides, do they also offer backups and SSL?

Look at the customer service and support

While customer support is not a “hard fact”, it still plays an important role. You know Murphy’s Law. Things will always go wrong at the worst times and you want a competent and dependable customer support team that will have your back.

Look for a service that provides 24/7 support, at least via email and chat. Does the company also provide proactive support? This is when it proactively monitors and fixes everything in the background without you noticing or telling them to.

Plan for growth

As your website grows, you’ll want to upgrade your server with more storage, performance, and other resources. You’ll want to be able to upgrade to a higher hosting plan without any downtime. It’s also good to know if the hoster will handle the upgrade process for you.

Research and compare prices

Choosing the cheapest provider shouldn’t be the priority, even if it’s clear that you need a hosting plan that suits your budget. Don’t be seduced by extremely low first-year prices that suddenly jump up in price at renewal time. Make sure you understand the costs and what really included.

Your choice

Finding your hoster starts with knowing what you really need. The success of your websites can be influenced by the hosting service. A good hoster will run reliably and be there for you when you need support.

If you’ve got any question about finding a hoster, feel free to leave a comment below.

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