When preparing your website, you may get caught up in the design and development of things, but what is easily forgotten is the importance of a good web hosting service. It is easy to identify the bad hosts–the ones that have a history of websites going down, being slow, or getting hacked–but finding one that is the perfect match for you takes a bit of thought and research. To make things easier, here are 10 steps to help you choose the best hosting for your website.
1. Decide on Your Website’s Purpose
Before you can make any real decisions about your needs, you first need to define your site. Is it a blog that anyone can contribute to? Is it an ecommerce site? Is it a simple portfolio site? Give yourself a realistic idea of how many people you expect to use your site, and how often you will need to transfer files on your site. This will help you determine and prioritize your needs, rather than just picking a host that ‘sounds nice’.
2. Copy What Others Are Doing
If you aren’t sure what to look for in a web hosting company, a good way to get started is by looking at websites that are similar to yours and seeing who their hosts are. There are a few ways that you can find out who is hosting a website:
● You can ask. Send an email to the site owner and ask about their experience with their web host.
● Check the footer. With cheaper plans, web hosting providers will often require their branding to be in the footer of the website.
● Go on whoishostingthis.com. You just enter the website’s URL into the search bar and their hosting information should come up.
When going through this process, avoid looking at amateur websites, they may know even less than you about hosting. Look for websites that you aspire to be like.
3. Determine Your Bandwidth Needs
Nothing is worse than waiting for a website to load. If you are anticipating a lot of website visitors or a lot of uploads and downloads, then you should purchase a hosting plan with a large amount of bandwidth. If you are not anticipating many visitors to begin with, but plan to grow, then you should look at plans that allow you to purchase more bandwidth as you grow. As a baseline, a website generally needs 5GB of bandwidth/month when it has an average page size of 50KB, 20,000 users/month, and 5 pages/user, you can use these numbers to determine how much bandwidth you will need and rule out plans that don’t meet your minimum.
4. Look at Plans That Support Your Website Builder
Website building tools are great. They make the process of creating websites a lot easier and require no coding knowledge. If you are using, or are planning to use, a website builder like WordPress, you should look for a web host that is compatible with and can support it.
If you already have a live website and are looking for a new web host, you need to look for one that offers site migration. You don’t want to get stuck in website purgatory with a lengthy migration process, so make sure to ask potential web hosts (or rather, their customer service representatives) about the process and what you need to have ready before switching over.
5. Pick a Priority
Now that you have the basic requirements for your website figured out, it’s time to start customizing your preferences. To begin narrowing things down, you need to pick a priority for yourself and what works best for you. If you care mostly about affordability, determine a price range for yourself. If it’s all about security for you, then look for the most secure web hosting providers that also meet your other requirements.
You might be thinking, “Well, I want the best of everything,” but unfortunately that’s not realistic (unless you plan on paying a significant amount). If you are creating something small like a portfolio site, you may just be focused on affordability and ease of use rather than top-of-the-line security.
6. Decide on What Type of Hosting You Want
Not all hosting packages are created equal. There are generally four different kinds of hosting: Shared, Virtual Private Server (VPS), Cloud, and Dedicated servers.
● Shared Hosting. This is the most popular form of hosting, particularly for new website owners. Your site will be put on a server with hundreds of other sites, and will share space and resources which can lead to slower loading times and difficulty scaling. These conditions lead to it being the most affordable hosting option, making it popular among beginners. This option is also very hands-off as the hosting company should be handling most aspects for you (i.e. security), which is another reason that it is popular among people who are just getting started. GoDaddy and SiteGround are affordable and reliable options for shared hosting, with plans starting at £3.99 /mo.
● Virtual Private Server (VPS). Like shared hosting, VPS hosting shares a server with other websites. The difference between the two is that with VPS hosting there are fewer websites sharing the server’s space, so you are guaranteed a
certain amount of resources as well as opportunities to scale those resources if there are spikes in visitors. The better site performance leads to a higher price than shared hosting. Leading companies like UKBSS and VPS.net have plans
starting at £9/mo. Also keep in mind that not all VPS packages are managed by the hosting provider, so this may require more work.
● Cloud Hosting. Cloud hosting, like VPS hosting, involves sharing resources with other websites. However, there are more resources available in cloud hosting as it is pulling them from different servers that work together to act as one system. Cloud hosting is seen to be more reliable than VPS hosting because if a resource fails on one server, it will just replace it with the resources from another server. It is also extremely flexible and scalable with its resources, so if you are expecting sudden spikes and growth, cloud hosting may be for you. You can purchase resources as you need them from companies like UKBSS and Krystal with plans starting at £9.99/month.
● Dedicated Hosting. While dedicated hosting is the most expensive, it is the best performing option. Your website will be stored on a single server that is 100% yours, all of the available resources belong to you. While you can customize the server to meet your needs, you will also be responsible for maintaining your server (or you will have to hire a team to do it for you). This option is mostly recommended for corporations that are expecting a huge audience (500,000+) every month. br-servers.co.uk offers a great value for dedicated server plans starting at £71.90/month.
It is important to be realistic with your needs when picking which type of server you want. If you are overly optimistic, you will pay a hefty amount of money. If you are overly pessimistic, you will not have enough resources to support your website. If you are truly unsure, we recommend starting with cloud hosting as it is the most flexible option.
7. Pay Attention to Security Features
Though in a previous step we mentioned that best-in-class security shouldn’t always be a top priority, there should still be some basic security measures in place. You don’t want hackers taking your website hostage or collecting data from your users to use in phishing scams. There are 4 basic things that should be included in a web host’s security features:
● RAID. A good web hosting company will have RAID pre-installed, or at least offer it, to protect your data and files from hackers and spammers.
● Uptime. Uptime simply means that your website is online. If that number is not at least 99% on a web hosting site, then that is a red flag.
● Backups. Every web host should offer backups, automated and manual. No matter how small your website is, it is incredibly frustrating to lose any work you may have put into it because your data wasn’t backed up.
● Secure Data Centres. Don’t forget about the importance of physical security. If the server on which your site is being hosted is compromised or otherwise harmed, it affects your website. Pay attention to the location of the data centres and do your research on whether or not that area has natural disasters or a history of insecure data centres.
8. Outline Your Budget
If affordability wasn’t your top priority, then it’s time to set a budget for yourself. Most web host providers offer monthly and annual billing options, so if you have an irregular earning schedule and prefer to pay in one lump sum annually, that is important to take into consideration.
Do not make the mistake of purchasing something too cheap. By picking a bare-boned plan you may end up spending more in security, adding resources, or otherwise fixing any problems this plan has caused for your website.
Take into consideration the value of what you receive in a plan, and determine if the investment is worth it.
9. Check Reviews
Companies love to talk about why they’re the best, but the only real way to confirm their claims pre-purchase is by reading reviews. Look for reviews from people who have similar needs to your own, and pay attention to the details. Are the reviews recent? Are there many reviews with the same complaint? Has the web hosting provider responded to any negative reviews to rectify or explain the situation? Is the site that the review is on reliable and unbiased? Try and look for the truth in these reviews, as it is easy to try and justify your original impression (whether it is positive or negative) by only accepting certain information.
10. Look for Differentiators That Match Your Needs
You’re getting to the end of choosing your perfect web host. Now that you have your list narrowed down to hosts that meet your website’s requirements and budget, it’s time to decide on what differentiators are important to you. These companies know that they need something to set them aside from their competitors, that could be anything from great customer service to
email domains included in your purchase. Look through reviews to see what people liked about their experience with your potential web host, and see if it aligns with your needs and wants.
We hope that these steps are helpful, and wish you the best of luck on your hunt for the perfect web hosting provider!