Web hosting is an essential part of any website. First-time website builders often ask the question of how to choose the best web hosting provider. There are several factors to consider when choosing a web hosting provider. The most important factors that will determine which web host is right are your needs and budget.
Not all web hosts are created equal. There are 1000’s of web hosting providers across the Internet, so choosing a web host that’s right for you and your website can take time and careful consideration, especially if you are building a website for the first time.
In this article, the goal is to help anyone interested in web hosting or creating a website for the first time understand how to choose the best web hosting provider for your website by outlining what to look for when choosing a web host.
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What is Web Hosting and Why You Need It
Regardless of your level of experience with websites, whether it’s your first or 100th, it’s essential to understand exactly what a web host is and what you’re getting when choosing a web host to purchase a hosting plan through.
For simplicity, a web host is a place to store all the files and data that make up your website. Your web host is where all your website files live. It is also responsible for delivering that data to people who visit your website.
Websites are a collection of files that include text, images, HTML, CSS, and other elements. If you think of your domain name or site’s web address as a street address, you can picture the web host as the house or business.
Therefore, when someone visits your website, they are connected to the computer(aka Server) where your website files are located and can be accessed. A web host and domain name are the two main components to have a website on the Internet.
Not only is web hosting a vital part of launching a website it can also have a significant impact on Search Engine Optimization(SEO). This is because your web host plays a significant role in your website’s speed and security. The point being made is that your web host matters, so be patient, do research, and choose wisely.
How to Choose the Best Web Hosting Provider for Your Website
Now that you have a general understanding of what a web host is, we’ll point out what to look for with a list of criteria when searching for the best web hosting provider for you and your website.
1. Determine What Type of Site You’re Building and Its Needs
Every website has different needs such as storage, performance, features, and price. So before you start shopping for a web host and looking at plans, you’ll want to determine what your website’s hosting requirements are.
When first starting, it’s a good idea to grab some paper and make a list of your needs; yours and your website’s. Then you can prioritize them as you compare your list to each potential hosting provider.
By knowing ahead of time what your website needs are, you can more easily narrow down your choices and avoid costly mistakes when choosing a web host.
For instance, if your website has a specific niche, you’ll need to take that into consideration. An example would be if your building a photography website, you may need to prioritize speed and storage features because images take up a lot of space.
Furthermore, if you are building an e-commerce website you may want to focus on security and bandwidth. Many web hosts offer plans that are specific to e-commerce.
Finally, think about the technology or content management system(CMS) you’ll use to build your website. The most popular CMS is the free and open-source WordPress.org software which boasts a 65% CMS market share. Many web hosting providers offer tailored solutions called Managed Hosting specifically for WordPress.
For example, DreamHost offers DreamPress to WordPress users. DreamPress is an optimized hosting solution with professional staging, daily backups, custom website caching, and email.
How to Identify Your Website’s Needs?
- How large is your website and how much storage will it need?
- On average, how much web traffic do you expect to receive each month?
- What is your hosting budget? How much can you afford to pay each month?
- What is your current level of website management skills? Are you going to need help?
- Apart from hosting your website, are there any other services you might need from your hosting provider? Example, will you need SSL, email, or payment processing?
- What technology or software are you using to create your website? Are you using WordPress or something else?
Your answers to these questions will immediately eliminate some web hosts. Then you can use the checklist to help determine which hosting options are a potential match for your website.
2. Know Which Type of Web Hosting You’ll Need
Once you’ve identified your website’s needs, you’ll be in a better position to understand the type of web hosting you’ll need. Down below, we’ve listed the most popular web hosting types with a brief description of what they are.
Types of Web Hosting
- Shared Hosting: This is where you share a web server with other websites. So, one machine with multiple websites running. This option is beginner recommended and best suited to smaller websites with moderate traffic that want the most affordable option.
- VPS Hosting: This is a split between shared and dedicated hosting. So, one web server that functions as multiple separate servers. This option is best for large website with a high traffic volume.
- Dedicated Hosting: This is where you get a web server all to yourself. So, one machine with just your website. This option is best for large websites with a high traffic volume that requires lots of resources.
- Cloud Hosting: This is where you get a virtual server that runs in a cloud computing environment that stores data across a network of computers. This option is best for small to medium sized websites that require more resources that shared hosting.
- Managed Hosting: This is where the web hosting provider handles the set-up, administration, and support of the server. This option is more of a service than a type of hosting, that web hosting providers offer to customers.
- E-commerce Hosting: This is web hosting specifically designed and optimized to run online store websites, including payment processing, shopping carts, and inventory management.
3. Is the Web Host’s Website Easy to Navigate?
A good web hosting provider will have a clean, modern, user-friendly website. Good hosting companies will always have their user’s in mind when developing their websites and services to keep users coming back. But be aware that there are companies that will do the exact opposite to confuse and mislead users.
When you are on a hosting provider’s website, it should be easy to navigate, organized, and not look designed in the 1980s. All information should be transparent and not hidden.
The best thing to do is research the hosting provider you’re interested in purchasing a hosting plan through. You can find out about the hosting provider’s reputation by reading reviews and testimonials of previous customers. When you’re looking through reviews, pay close attention and read them thoroughly. You’re going to want a web host that’s easy to use, a host that’s right for you and your website.
4. Review the Subscription Period for Hosting Contracts
When it comes to contract lengths, many web hosting providers offer a flexible set of options. You’ll typically find monthly and yearly hosting plans, along with discounted rates for multiple-year contracts.
So you’ll need to think about the length of time you’re willing to commit to upfront. The best and smartest way will be to try out a new host for a couple of months to get a firsthand experience. But signing up for a longer term will usually save you money.
Before signing up, you’ll want to be sure to double-check a plan’s terms. Some hosting providers will allow you to move between contracts, but you’ll want to ask about any fees or penalties.
5. Check for Uptime Rates and Server Reliability Guarantees
Investigate what the hosting provider offers in terms of uptime guarantees, which means how reliable is the hosting service.
The term “Uptime” refers to the percentage of time your website is online and available to users without issues. You’ll definitely want your website to be available as much as possible, and the hosting provider should guarantee something close to 100% uptime, at least a minimum of 99.5% uptime.
Uptime is a crucial factor because downtime will negatively impact your business with a loss of traffic, which results in a loss of sales and income. Having your website frequently unavailable can be very frustrating when you’re trying to build an online presence.
So be sure to check the hosting provider’s policy carefully to see what it actually guarantees. When reading reviews of the hosting provider, look for ones that indicate how reliable the host has historically been.
6. Look for Refund Policy and Guarantees
Sometimes unexpected things happen. With that said, it’s a wise choice to review the hosting provider’s refund policy. If you need to cancel your hosting plan because you changed your mind or not happy with the service, having options is always a good plan.
Start by reading the terms of service and looking around the provider’s website for any refund policies or guarantees. Remember, if the information seems hidden or the website is hard to navigate, it should throw up a red flag. You want to know, hopefully, before you purchase a hosting contract, what the host takes responsibility for and what guarantees are there.
Whether you find yourself not needing a website anymore or don’t like your new web host, having the ability to get a refund is essential. Also, make sure you know ahead of time what the deadline for the refund is.
7. Review the Web Host’s Flexibility and Expansion Policies
When choosing a web host, you’ll want to think ahead about the growth of your website. With any luck, your website will grow, which will lead to an increase in traffic and conversion rates. When this happens, you’ll need to upgrade your web hosting plan to accommodate its needs.
Most beginners and new websites will start on a shared, low-cost hosting plan. As your website and online presence grow, you’ll need to maintain it by expanding its resources, bandwidth, and disk space. So you’ll want a hosting provider that makes it a smooth process to upgrade to a Virtual Private Server, Managed Hosting, or Dedicated Hosting plan.
If you choose a web host that makes it difficult to upgrade and change your plan, you may find yourself looking for a new host a few months after you’ve launched your website.
Remember to read the fine print before signing up to any web hosting provider. You’ll want to make sure you’re not going to get penalized for upgrading your hosting plan.
8. What Type of Control Panel Will You Have Access To?
Web hosting is one of the more technical things about owning a website. Most web hosting providers will offer some type of user-friendly control panel or dashboard to manage your website and account. The control panel is where you will control different parts of your website and account.
The most common control panel is called cPanel. However, some hosting providers will offer custom dashboards that are sometimes even more user-friendly than cPanel, like DreamHost.
You’ll be spending a lot of time in the control panel, so you’ll want to make sure you understand it and can navigate around your account smoothly. It should have clear navigation menus to quickly find the information you’re looking for like, contacting support and editing account information. A good control panel will make managing your website much less challenging over time.
9. Review Available Add-on Products and Services
Once you have your website up and running, you may run into a situation where you want to add a new feature. Before signing up to a hosting provider, you’ll want to review what the host has to offer in terms of extras.
Most new websites will start small and gradually grow over time. So, you’ll need to make sure you can add new functionality with ease and not have to go through a bunch of obstacles or move your entire website to a new hosting provider. You’ll want a web host that allows you to pick and add features in an “à la carte” style, which means you can create a plan that has everything you need and nothing else.
Creating a good plan for your website and understanding your website’s needs upfront will help you find the best web hosting provider and help you avoid future headaches and unwanted surprises.
10. Is It Possible to Add a Domain?
It’s not possible to have a website without a domain name and web hosting. When choosing a web host, verify what it takes to add a domain to your account. As your brand grows, you may want to expand your website or start a new one. You’ll want a web host that makes it easy to acquire and manage them.
For beginners, this means looking for a web hosting provider that offers domains with their hosting. It will make things easier since you’ll have everything under one account. Many hosting providers will offer a free domain with a qualified hosting package for the first year.
If you choose a hosting provider that doesn’t offer domain names, you’ll have to go to two separate companies. You’ll use a company for hosting and one for your domain name and then need to point your domain name to your web host.
11. Are SSL Certificates Included?
SSL Certificates are crucial for keeping your website and its users safe. This is especially true when dealing with sensitive information such as login information, personal information, and credit card details.
If you plan on creating a website that has people create an account or an e-commerce site that sells products you will definitely need an SSL certificate. Without an SSL certificate, your website will be marked as unsafe, which will result in a loss of traffic and a loss of revenue.
Many hosting providers offer SSL certificates at an additional price on top of your hosting plan. However, some providers will include SSL in a hosting plan at no additional cost, like the hosting provider TarttWeb uses DreamHost.
Choosing a hosting provider that includes SSL in a hosting plan can help save you a little extra money while helping to keep your website secure.
12. Is Email Hosting Included with Your Account?
When it comes to email, most people are used to having their email handled by a service such as Yahoo, Google, or another. Because of this, email often becomes an afterthought when it comes to your business and website. So, you’ll want to think of this early on while shopping for a hosting provider.
It’s a smart move to have your business email match your brand and website name. For instance, if you plan on email marketing and having a way for customers to get in touch, this is especially important. Unfortunately, you’ll need hosting for your email service too.
Many web hosting providers offer email hosting as an add-on service for an extra fee. Other providers might include one with limited usage, while some offer unlimited email bundled into a qualified hosting plan.
There are a few pros and cons of having your email host and web host combined. The biggest con would be that if by chance your web host goes down or crashes, then so does your email host, basically an “if one goes out, they all go out” scenario.
On the other hand, the biggest pro would be that having everything together in one place can simplify your life. A reliable hosting provider should be able to avoid any potential downtime problems. If you are a beginner at building a website, this would be the best option.
13. Will You Have Easy SFTP Access?
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) are tools that allow you to connect to your web host and make changes to the files that make up your website. At some point in your website endeavor, you will likely have to use one or the other to make changes to your website, perform maintenance, and other tasks.
Your host should provide you with a set of credentials that allows you to connect via an FTP client, such as the free FileZilla software. As mentioned before about user-friendliness, this information should be easy to locate and available to access anytime. Additionally, some hosting providers will have their own FTP clients built into the dashboard, sometimes providing a more secure environment for transferring files than other third-party FTP clients.
14. Does the Hosting Provider Offer a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?
As your website grows, it will require more resources to host and load it. The more content you add, like text, images, and videos, the slower your website will become and take up more space.
A content delivery network (CDN) can speed up load times by helping to load the resources of your website. A CDN refers to a group of web servers, distributed geographically, that work together to deliver fast internet content. content delivery networks allow for the quick transfer of website assets such as files that make up your website, images, and videos. A CDN can even help guard your website against malicious attacks.
When you’re reviewing possible web hosting providers, check their addon services for an option to add a CDN. You may need it in the future if you plan on growing your website. If they don’t offer a CDN through their website, you’ll need to find a separate company to purchase one through.
15. Review the Web Host’s Website Backup Options
There are many things to consider when deciding to become a website owner. And making a plan to back up your website will be a crucial step to avoid problematic issues in the future.
Sometimes some of us can think that “nothing bad is going to happen” or “the worst will never happen.” But let’s be realistic, accidents do happen, hackers do exist, and cyberattacks happen all the time, so better to be safe than sorry. Backing up your website will ensure that if your website is attacked or destroyed, you’ll have a plan in place to restore it.
Backing up your website is an important safeguard that will help ensure your site stays up and running and should not be overlooked. For example, say your website crashes for some unexpected reason that you can’t fix on your own. So you hire a developer, the developer says your going to need to restore it, but you never backed up your website. Now, think of losing everything you worked so hard to create, only to start from the beginning again. Backing up your website will ensure you have a way to bring your site back if lost.
The easiest way to get backups for your website is to go through your hosting provider. Many providers will have this as an add-on feature and offer daily automated backups along with one-click on-demand backups. Going through your hosting provider can be an excellent choice for anyone just getting started.
If you are building a WordPress website, there are plenty of great plugin options to help keep your website safe. For example, you can look through the WordPress Plugin Directory, which offers plenty of free-to-get-started plugins and a more hands-on approach.
One of the top rated and most popular backup solutions for WordPress is UpdraftPlus
At the time of this article, UpdraftPlus has over 3 million active installations with over 4,000 five-star reviews. With this plugin you’ll have the ability to easily and quickly restore backups of your website. This plugin offers multiple options to securely back up to cloud storage platforms such as Dropbox, Google Drive, FTP, OneDrive, and many others.
When you’re surveying potential web hosting providers, be sure to evaluate what backup services there are. Look for information regarding how often backups get created and how long your backups are stored. Additionally, understand how to access your backups if needed.
If your website does get hacked and all your website files corrupted. You’ll be thankful you chose to back it up. It would even be wise to consider multiple backup options for your website.
16. Does the Web Host Offer a One-Click Installer?
Nowadays, people are using CMS (Content Management Software) platforms to create and manage their websites. Many hosting providers offer one-click installers for the most popular CMS platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, Zen Cart, Drupal, and more. One-click installers can prove to be very useful if your building your website with one of these platforms.
The most popular CMS on the web, WordPress, often receives additional support from providers such as WordPress Managed hosting, one-click installers, and WordPress migration. Some hosting providers will even pre-install WordPress for you, which can save you a lot of time when you’re just starting the initial setup process.
17. Verify the Web Host Supports E-commerce
If the website you’re building will sell products, you’ll want to verify and review the hosting provider’s e-commerce services. Running a successful online store will require some unique features.
For instance, you’ll want an SSL Certificate for encryption, a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for your images, more frequent backups, and the ability to get extra security measures for online transactions.
If you choose a hosting provider that doesn’t offer SSL certificates, you’ll need to purchase one; that meets the standards of the payment processors you plan to use.
Depending on which e-commerce platform you plan to use to sell products. Many hosting providers offer one-click installs and even pre-installed software to help you get up and running.
18. Verify Any Differences in Sign-up vs. Renewal Prices
Often web hosting providers will run special deals on hosting packages to onboard new customers. But before you purchase a hosting plan, be sure to verify what your bill will be when it comes time to renew.
Many web hosting providers will even offer deals for whether you pay monthly or annually and sometimes several years in advance to get an increased discount. Typically when signing up to a new web hosting provider, you’ll pay your bill on a monthly or yearly basis.
But, be aware of the difference between the initial sign-up and what your renewal cost will be for your budget. Understand what the contract terms are before you agree to any web hosting plan. Nobody likes unexpected fees.
19. Understand and Be aware of Any Account Limitations
When starting a new website project, it’s tough to predict what level of traffic you’ll encounter. For that reason, we recommend investigating whether or not your potential hosting provider will place any limits on your account. This means you should have a basic understanding of how bandwidth works.
Bandwidth is a term used to define how much data and traffic are flowing through a server. For example, if you were to build a website that hosts lots of videos, your bandwidth will deplete faster when multiple users watch them at once.
Even when hosting providers offer plans with unlimited traffic, you should still review their policies. It’s essential to be aware that sometimes unlimited plans will still have some restrictions.
20. Review the Company’s Approach to Environmental Friendliness
Nowadays, we live in a world where we need to be more mindful of the planet and its environment. Not just people but companies should also be conscious and held accountable for the carbon footprint they’re leaving behind.
Businesses should be thinking of this and in the process of actively trying to reduce their footprints. We need to all work together to protect the planet and future generations.
Review what the hosting provider is doing to reduce its carbon footprint. Some companies only work in remote offices, while others obtain energy-efficient appliances and eco-friendly supplies.
For example, TarttWeb’s hosting provider DreamHost is a green company powered by grids that obtain electricity from many renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.
21. What Type of Support Will You Get With Your Account?
There are many things to consider when it comes to effectively running a successful website. The last on this list and one of the most important things will be choosing a web host with an excellent customer support rating. So, when you’re reading reviews of a potential web hosting provider, be sure to pay attention to any information regarding customer support.
Let’s face it, sometimes stuff happens, which is also true with running a website. If something breaks, you will need to fix it or get in touch with someone who can.
Choosing a web hosting provider that offers exceptional customer support will play a vital part in your website’s success. Some hosting providers offer different levels of support based on your hosting contract or what hosting plan you’re on.
Most of the time, with cheaper plans, support will be limited whereas, more expensive plans will offer premium support. However, sometimes the limitation of support is just a phone call vs. chat.
But most importantly, you’ll want to look for hosting providers that offer 24/7 expert support. If your website goes down, you’ll want to get it fixed as soon as possible; lost traffic is lost revenue.
The Best Web Hosting For WordPress
Now that you know what to look for when choosing a web host, here is a shortlist of some of the best WordPress hosting providers. Remember to take your time and be patient. Look through each web host and see how they stack up against your website’s needs. Choosing a good web hosting company is a crucial part of your website’s health and overall success.
Note: DreamHost, BlueHost, and SiteGround are all recommended WordPress Hosts.
Web hosting is a crucial part of owning a website. When it comes to choosing a web host, there are multiple factors to consider which can ultimately determine your website’s success.
However, when you start searching for web hosts, be sure to have all your needs clearly outlined. Take careful time and consideration, and ask questions about the quality of the hosting provider’s services, addon features offered, and the pricing, which will help steer you in the right direction.
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