When looking for a suitable web hosting company for your needs, there are several factors you should take into consideration. These may be different for different people according to the type and size of website they have, so it is not always wise to simply take advice from a friend. You should carry out your own research to find which is best for you.
There are many cheap or even free hosting services available. Each has its strengths and weaknesses – some more of the latter than others. Here are some tips on what to look for in a hosting company before you come to a decision. These are not presented in any specific order, since each is dependent on your individual needs.
We mention price first, not because it is important, but because you usually get what you pay for. If you are running a non-profit site or perhaps a hobby site that earns no or very little money, then price is important. If you are running a busy professional blog, then price might be less of a consideration.
The only important factor to consider with price is that you should know exactly what you are paying for and the price of going beyond that. Free web hosting might involve adverts on your site over which you have no control and the potential for the hosting service to disappear overnight.
If you do not get unlimited storage space and bandwidth, make sure you understand the price of extra when your site grows. Even if it is unlimited that may not be the good deal you think it is. Most ‘free’ and ‘unlimited’ services come with a price somewhere down the road. So do not compare services only on price, but on what you what you may need next year – or even next month!
2. Space and Bandwidth
Mentioned briefly above, web hosting services will quote the available server storage space available and also the bandwidth – meaning the amount of data that can be transferred to and from your website. If you intend using your website or blog to transfer lots of images and videos back and forth, then you will need enough storage and bandwidth to handle it all. The same is true if you run a professional blog.
If you are offered unlimited storage and bandwidth make sure it is genuinely unlimited, and not dependent on the traffic on a shared server. Larger professional websites and blogs prefer to use VPS (virtual private server) hosting, or even dedicated hosting where they have their own server.
3. Reliability and Uptime
As touched on above, the average web hosting services will involve you sharing a server with many others. It is possible for the server to be unavailable to you during certain periods of peak usage. Check the forums or comparison sites for the uptime of the popular hosting services before you come to any decision.
If your blog is important to you or you need guaranteed uptime on your website, then you may consider VPS or dedicated hosting. It is more expensive, but you are much less likely to be shut down due to excessive usage of the server. 99.9% uptime is not as good as it looks.
If your site goes down you want it up and running again right away – not tomorrow or the day after! Make sure that your hosting service offers its own support. Is it available 24/7 and how is it provided – telephone, email or ticket? Live chat 24/7 is also good, and offers you the opportunity of an immediate answer to your problem. If email is the only option, then be prepared to wait for an answer, and if telephone support is offered it should be toll-free.
Some companies might charge extra for technical support, or cover the cost through a premium phone line. Others may provide support through a third party, the cost of which will likely be recovered in the price of hosting. If you are at all unsure about the quality of support, check out review sites or forums for what they say about it.
5. What Are They Good At?
Not all web hosts specialize in the same type of service. If you have a professional WordPress blog, for example, you might prefer it to be hosted by WPEngine, a hosting service that specializes in WP hosting. Others are great for hobby or recipe sites, but not so good for commercial sites with a thousand or more pages.
Take a close look at the strengths of a web host before making a final decision. A growing business might start small, but will nevertheless need the option of expanding the number of domains hosted, meaning more storage space and bandwidth. Is this possible with your choice of service?
6. Ease of Use
Many web hosting services offer cPanel, a very easy-to-use control panel that is suitable for amateur and professional websites and blogs. It comes with a file management system, text/HTML editors and traffic analysis software. It offers a simple installation system for software and scripts such as WordPress, MySQL databases, CMS systems such as Drupal and Joomla, and e-commerce and billing scripts. Some also offer website design software to help you build your first website.
In fact, cPanel is ideal if this is your first website, although many professional users are quite happy without it. This is another reason why you should consider everything available to you before coming to a decision. It’s not all price and reliability; your experience in web hosting, design and blogging will all have a bearing on the type of service suitable for you.
7. Email Services
Although not essential, it is useful to have an email service provided with your hosting. Many web hosting services do not offer email with their service, leaving you having to find you own. It looks better to your prospective customers if your email address is attached to your domain rather than running with a generic service such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo.
Check out the email services offered, including the number of email addresses permitted. Many are unlimited, enabling you to create addresses for each department or even each individual, each with its own user name and password.
Also check out the POP3 and IMAP4 features offered. POP3 emails are stored on your computer while IMAP emails are stored on the server. IMAP therefore enables you to access your emails from any computer in any location, including mobile devices. It is also important to make sure your web host proffers support for the email system offered.
8. Room for Expansion
Finally, if you have big ideas, make sure your web hosting service can accommodate them! Unlimited domains and subdomains is an important aspect of any growing site where you may want to run multiple websites and blogs from the one hosted account. Hard disk storage and bandwidth are also important features here.
Do they offer VPS and Dedicated Server options? If you outgrow a shared sever account, you will want to upgrade seamlessly without having to find another web host. That can be a lengthy and difficult task – and also expensive if your site is already outgrowing your current host. So when do you research make sure you take expansion into consideration, or you might hit a brick wall somewhere down the road.
There are other aspects of web hosting to take into consideration, such as the hardware used and the geographical location of the servers. However, if you focus on those above, you should be able to settle for a web hosting company to meet the vast bulk of your needs.
If there was only one tip to give you, it would be to not allow price to overly influence your judgment. Too many people choose the cheapest host and then regret it. Do your homework, research what is on offer, and make sure that you fully understand what you are paying for. Free hosting might suit you or you may require dedicate hosting. It’s your choice, so make it well and make it work!
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