Choosing a web hosting company is a big decision having many consequences. The hosting company greatly influences your website’s speed and reliability, causing your visitors to leave with either a good or bad impression.
Whether you’re looking to host your very first site or want to move an existing site to a new provider, taking the time to think through each of the following items can help you feel confident that you have made the best decision that will meet your needs long into the future.
Physical Hardware—Physical hardware running your site being one of the most important considerations, take the time to research the server types of a hosting company is using. Is high-speed SSD storage included? Does it use redundant devices, such as RAID-configured hard drives? What is its response time when replacing failed hardware and are backups onsite?
Technical Support Team—No matter how good a host may be, it’s likely you’ll need to work with its support team at some point. Discover your comfort level when communicating with them upfront, as this may very well impact how quickly you arrive at issue resolution.
Response Times & Contact Options—Some web hosts require that you work through their ticketing system. Others have a phone-in option, use live web chat, or want you to reach them via email. So what is the best way to get in touch with them? Is the team available 24/7 or only during certain hours?
Reputation—In evaluating host contenders, reading reviews can help you make a more informed decision. A company I worked for (Hostadvice.com) is one of the resources you can use here—it’s a community of webmasters who share their experiences with different hosting providers to help find the most suitable option.
Hosting Features—Beyond providing you a server(s) where you can load your site contents, some hosts include many features, others make them available as add-ons, and still others don’t offer any of them. These include:
- Disk storage and bandwidth limitations
- Software installation script library
- SSL certificates
- Website design tools and themes
- Daily backups and fee for restores (if any)
- Site migration
- SPAM protection
- Domain registration and privacy protection
Acquaint yourself with each host’s feature list in determining those that best match your specific needs.
Price of Hosting—Web host pricing is nowhere near uniform. Only by taking the time to comparatively shop will you finding a company that offers high quality hosting at a reasonable price. Determine accepted payment methods and look for discounts if you’re able to pay for service a year in advance.
Control Panel —A control panel or portal is the interface you’ll use to manage your website once it’s live. Here you can do such tasks as perform a manual backup, reset your server (if allowed), or configure additional domains. Two of most popular control panel options are cPanel and Plesk. Choosing a host that offers one of these helps make site maintenance easier.
Datacenter Geolocation—Having your site hosted at a datacenter that is geographically close to your target audience helps maximize site load speed experienced by your visitors.Having said that, organizations catering to a global audience should disregard this and consider using a content delivery network instead (see below), as it will replicate their website in multiple geolocations to improve performance.
Content Delivery Network—If your site is likely to have high bandwidth requirements, serve large files, or have other significant demands, you’ll want a content delivery network (CDN) to serve up at least a portion of your content. A CDN enables your site to quickly and efficiently serve a very high number of customers—performance that isn’t always possible using traditional hosting options. The host should also make CDN integration easy for you.
Website Security —In addition to other threats, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are a frequent cyberattack form, with millions of sites being hit every day at a rate of tens, or even hundreds of gigs per second. Protection is a critical component for any website. Most web hosts offer basic security/firewall and DDoS protection, but the most effective threat mitigation available today involves routing all of your site traffic through a service that scrubs out nefarious traffic before it has an opportunity to wreak havoc with your content.
Room for Growth—In starting a new website, perhaps you only need a simple, shared hosting account. But once it becomes a success, your hosting needs will likely grow commensurately. In looking ahead, then, you may want to use a hosting company that provides such expansion options as virtual private servers (VPSs), dedicated servers, cloud hosting, and more.