How do you pick the right web host?
Many people simply go with the cheapest or easiest to use. This may seem like the right choice, but often times it is not. Typically, there is a reason the hosting is cheap and on the flips side, more expensive hosts don’t always offer better services. We have weeded through a lot of web hosts and compiled a summary of the most popular, as well as some web hosts you likely never heard of before.
First off, you will need to understand what your plans are as well as your limitations, like:
- Your plans for the site
- Your technical knowledge and abilities
- The size of your site (storage, now and future)
- How many websites or sub domains will you need to host
What are you planning to do with your website?
If you are planning a simple blog with mostly text and minimal traffic, then plans with limited bandwidth and storage will be fine. I refer to these plans as bare bones starter plans. If you are planning on having a large number of images and several photo galleries you will definitely need an unlimited bandwidth and storage plan.
If you are planning a very large eCommerce site, video or photo sharing site or you know that you will have huge traffic numbers, then shared hosting isn’t the rights choice for you. You will want dedicated hosting like a VPS, which I will be covering in a future post.
How Tech savvy are you?
Most first time webmasters will be using the WordPress content management system (CMS). WordPress is simple to use and is used by many professionals. By the way, this website is built on WordPress. So you will want a host that offers WordPress.
You should look for a provider that offers cPanel. cPanel is the control panel where you can install your CMS, add domains and sub domains, SSL certificates and many other useful things you need access to. There are other control panels but cPanel is the industry standard and is the easiest to use.
How big will your website be?
What this means is how much storage is needed to store your website. Most websites will be under 1G and most will be less than 500MB. To get an optimized website over a gig you will need several thousand pages with thousands of images. But if you are poorly optimized with several large image files and videos, your website will be very large. I highly recommend you optimize your images and use video embeds. It is easy to store your video on video hosting sites like YouTube or Vimeo. Storing video offsite and optimizing images will not only reduce your storage requirements, but it will also help with page load times.
How many domains do you need to host?
There are various packages out there and some will allow only one website and some will offer unlimited. If you plan to host multiple websites on the same host. then you will need to take that into consideration. Hosting multiple domains on one host will save you a lot of money.
What web hosting features should I look for?
A quality host should offer the following:
- Free SSL or ability to install a Lets Encrypt SSL
- Fast server response times
- Great up-time
- Great customer service
cPanel a brand name of the control panel that has become the industry standard. you will need to access and use this control panel to set up domains, install CMS’s, optimizing code in PHP and .htaccess. You may not know what all that stuff is but any SEO expert or person that you hire to help you optimize your website will. cPanel is the industry standard and it has been adopted by almost all web hosting providers. It will be a lot easier cheaper finding someone to tweak your site if you have cPanel.
Google has announced that it will use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) as a ranking factor. This means that every web host should be offering free SSL certificates or at least the ability to install Lets Encrypt free certificates. These certificates will help your SEO as well as ad a bit of security and trust for your website visitors.
Fast servers and great up time
OK, I will be pretty blunt when it comes to server speed on a shared server. They are all going to have periods where they are fairly fast and times when they are not. The issue with shared web hosting is that the server you are on is shared. When other websites on your server are using up a large number of resources, your website is going to response slower than normal. When fewer shared resources are being used the website will respond quickly. Any testing that you do will be all over the map with shared hosting. So don’t put much weight into advertised or affiliate advertised load times, the data is cherry picked.
When it comes to uptime, you will see almost every web host advertising 99.99% uptime. This may be true when you look at total up time. But this can be a bit deceptive and not what you will really experience.
What I consider as great up time are the occasional downtime or outages. Say the host is down for a straight 1-2 hour period in a given month. That hour is two is terrible but you and your customers may not even notice. The providers that I consider to be bad are the ones that are down hundreds or even thousands of times each month but only for a few seconds or minutes at a time. This makes for an awful user experience because almost every time you are on the site you will get inconsistent page loading and many times you can not reach the host when surfing the website. This makes for a terrible experience as a user and even worse when you are trying to build a site. I occasionally experience this as a user on other websites and when I do I leave out of frustration, as will your users.
Ayman has been building websites and performing SEO since he was 15 years old. The past several years he has been blogging and speaking for various tech companies and blogs. We are lucky to have him as a regular contributor at W.P. Solutions.